‘Nairobi Half Life’ is the most successful Kenyan film ever

A scene from ‘‘Nairobi Half Life’’ where the lead character boards a bus to pursue his acting dreams in Nairobi. Movie is shown in 46 theatres across the US and eyes top prize in Africa movie awards

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  • Movie is shown in 46 theatres across the US and eyes top prize in Africa movie awards

The curtain is far from coming down on Kenya’s most theatrically successful film, Nairobi Half Life. The month of March has come bearing more accolades and tours for the widely acclaimed film. Two things in particular have set the movie up another notch.

The first is a feat that no other Kenyan film has achieved. On March 21, Nairobi Half Life showed in 46 theatres across the United States. After showing, viewers were then asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

If they voted ‘yes,’ the respective theatres will show the movie for a week in a new innovative way aimed at giving independent films increased awareness and revenue.

The second reason is that Nairobi Half Life received an outstanding nine nominations at the African Movie Academy Awards on March 15.

Welcoming the nominations, the film’s Kenyan producer, Ginger Wilson, applauded all who contributed to its making. “We welcome any exposure that may stimulate the showing of our film and other Kenyan productions here and abroad. We hope it inspires people to make more movies,” she said.

Speaking to Saturday Nation on phone, the film’s director, Tosh Gitonga, also expressed joy: “I am very happy with the nominations because the awards bring together the best filmmakers from across Africa. When we are nominated at such a level, it’s a plus to the direction we want to go.”

The African Movie Academy Awards, Africa’s most important film event, is held annually to award African filmmakers. Run through African Film Academy, it was founded by Peace Anyiam Osigwe who received Unesco’s African Vision Award for Innovation at the 60th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in France.

Nairobi Half Life was nominated for best film, achievement in soundtrack, achievement in sound, achievement in cinematography, achievement in editing and best film in an African language.

Gitonga was nominated for the best director award while the movie’s lead actor, Joseph Wairimu, was nominated for best promising actor. Olwenya Maina, also a main star in the film, was nominated for best actor in a supporting role.

“I am humbly overwhelmed by the news; clearly Nairobi Half Life is Kenya’s Sarafina. Nine nominations is the start of a great dream. I am now scared of my abilities. Many thanks to our fans, they have made us,” said an excited Maina.

The nominees were named in Lilongwe, Malawi, and were hosted by Malawi president Joyce Banda. The ninth edition of the awards will be held in the Nigerian state of Bayelsa on April 25.

Nairobi Half Life came in second in terms of number of categories. Elelwani, a South African film about a dutiful college graduate, who has to consider giving up graduate school and a love life for her parent’s arrangement for her to marry a king got 11 nominations.

The awards this year received 671 films for consideration, including from America, Canada, France, Italy, Jamaica and the UK. Of those, 328 entries came from across Africa. These included 134 feature films, 88 short films, 57 documentaries and six animations.

Other Kenyan films that were also nominated for the awards are Burnt Forest and Yellow Fever, which were both nominated for the best short film category.

Yellow Fever is a short animated film by Ng’endo Mukii that tackles the topic of skin bleaching. Mukii is a recent Master’s graduate from the Royal College of Art in London who also won an award at the recent inaugural Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards

Burnt Forest is a 23 minute film directed by Zippy Kimundu that tackles tribalism through a young girl’s eyes.

Gun to Tape, which was nominated for best documentary, is a 30-minute documentary on David Rudisha and Edna Kiplagat’s preparations for the 2012 Olympics. The film was produced by Jackie Lebo and directed by David Forbes.

Give me Back my Home, which was also nominated for the best documentary category, is directed by independent filmmaker Zippy Kimundu. The film is about the director’s journey back to Burnt Forest after 19 years.

Her home had been burnt during the 1992 tribal clashes.