A young man, Mwas (Joseph Wairimu) still lives with his parents in their rural home in Kenya. He makes a living by selling western action films, he dramatically acts and portrays most of the action figures in his films in order to entice his customers. He is an aspiring actor, and when he comes across a group of actors from Nairobi performing in his town, he asks one of them to help him jump start his acting career. But, in return, he is asked to give ksh1000 (approximately US$10) in order for him to be cast in one of the plays. He can only afford ksh500 and is told to take the other 500 with him to the National theatre in Nairobi. He is very excited, and, after receiving some money from his mother, he embarks on his journey to Nairobi with a brief stop over in his town to bade his friends goodbye. He meets his cousin (a gang leader) who gives Mwas an expensive radio system and some money to take to Khanji electronic shop in downtown Nairobi.

After making his way to Nairobi, he quickly learns that there is more to Nairobi than just opportunities and glamour. On the first day, Mwas loses everything he has to Nairobi thugs and is left stranded and confused especially because he knows no one. He gets arrested and even spends a day in jail. In a twist of events, he meets a Nairobi crook Oti (Olwenya Maina) who becomes a close friend and takes him into his criminal gang. The gang itself specializes in snatch and grab thievery with vehicle parts being their main targets. During this time, Mwas auditions and successfully lands a part in a local play set up by Phoenix Players. He finds himself struggling and juggling the two separate worlds. Mwas finally meets his cousin again who ends up forcing him to steal a car in order to clear his debt. He convinces the gang to move up from stealing parts to stealing cars in order to earn more. During that time, he falls in love with Oti's onscreen love interest Amina, coming to see her at the lodgings at which she receives customers and even taking her out to the films.

Nairobi Half Life was Kenya's first ever Oscar submission in 2012. 

Subjects: Africana and African Studies, African Cinema, World Cinema

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Additional Film Info:

Director: David 'Tosh' Gitonga
Writers: Serah Mwihaki, Charles Potash Matathia, Samuel Munene
Producers: Sarika Hemi Lakhani, Tom Tykwer, Siobhain “Ginger” Wilson
Co-Producers: Marie Steinmann-Tykwer, Guy Wilson
Cast: Joseph Wairimu, Olwenya Maina, Nancy Wanjiku Karanja, Mugambi Nthiga, Paul Ogola
Run time:96 minutes
Genre: Narrative Drama
Type: Color
Year: 2012
Language: Swahili, Kikuyu with English subtitles