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‘Nairobi Half Life’ is Kenya’s Best Foreign Language Oscar-Level Film

Nairobi Half Life

I still haven’t seen the Kenyan crime drama Nairobi Half Life, from director David Tosh Gitonga, which was Kenya’s selection for the best foreign language Oscar category, making it just the second film from Kenya to be entered into the race; the first was 2008’s Heart of Fire, a Kenyan/German co-production about civil war in Eritrea. However, despite the entry, the film didn’t make the short list of final nominations by the Academy for the 2009 awards, and neither did Gitonga’s much-buzzed-about film.

It hasn’t screened in NYC yet, where I live, which is why I haven’t seen it.

But it looks like that might change, when the film will screen theatrically in 100 cinemas in the USA.

The following was posted on the film’s Facebook page a little bit ago:

***coming to 100 cinemas in the United States on MARCH 21st 2013 only*** We need your vote ::: for all information, visit

So, on March 21st, 2013, the film will screen in 100 cinemas across the USA, and audiences at each venue will vote, after seeing the film, on whether the film should receive a one-week theatrical release at their theater. If the majority vote “yes” then the film will return to that cinema for a week’s theatrical release. If “no,” then, well, it won’t.

This is all courtesy of The Feature Film Project initiative. I actually think it’s a cool idea, especially for those indie films that screen at film festivals, and end up without distribution. Filmmakers can submit their films to be considered for this voting process.

Gitonga’s Nairobi Half Life centers on an aspiring actor from upcountry Kenya, who dreams of becoming a success. In pursuit of this, he makes his way to Nairobi, supposedly the city of opportunity, and faces a different reality when he arrives, and instead falls into a life of crime.

The film is a co-production project between One Fine Day Films (founded by German filmmaker Tom Tykwer (Run Lola, RunPerfume) with his girlfriend/partner, Marie Steinmann, with the goal being to promote and support filmmaking for aspiring filmmakers in Kenya, and Nairobi-based production house Ginger Ink.

It stars Joseph K. Wairimu, Olwenya Maina, and Nancy Wanjiku Karanja.

Nairobi Half Life is director Gitonga’s feature film debut; previously, he served as assistant director on the Naomie Harris drama, The First Grader, as well as on a few short films, and a TV movie…

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