I wasn’t going to watch this movie. I’d seen the trailer, and while the production quality looked promising, I had a feeling it would be too dark and gritty for me. Plus, the title reminded me of my Physics teacher. I didn’t really like my Physics teacher. So while people hyped it up and got excited all around me, I twiddled my thumbs and hid inside my headphones.
But today was a rough day for me, and I needed some cheering up. Plus, I read this review and it made me think a few times. So I treated myself to a movie. I got to Westgate a whole hour early and killed time window-shopping at Nakumatt and having my first tiramisu. Yes, if anyone noticed a girl at Art Café who was giggling at her Ideos while swooning over a bowl, that was me.
A good story suspends time, at least it does for me, and when the movie started, I tried really, really hard not to like it. For the first ten minutes. And then the next thing I knew, it was over. I remember vague moments of shaking myself, wondering where I was, and wondering where the time had gone. That’s how gripping this movie is.
The storyline seems pretty basic. Shagzmodo goes to the big city to seek his fortune. As an actor. Yes, an actor. Lame. But the story is so much more than that, and the fact that two completely polar members of this crew both loved it, is saying a lot.
I took several lessons from that movie. Don’t drive a Toyota. Don’t answer phone calls near The Stanley. And don’t lie to yourself that you know a word of Sheng, because apparently, I am old, and odinari just doesn’t mean what it used to.
Leaving the cinema, I was distracted by this old Chinese-looking couple. I saw them at the cinema hall, they got into the same matatu that I did, and I couldn’t help thinking I would like a love like that. They were adorable.
But once I was done ooh-ing and aah-ing, I noticed that my senses were a lot more alert. I was tweeting about the movie in the mathree, but jumped every time the slightest shadow approached the window. I saw a lot more people in town, digging around in trash bags, and I was grateful that I wasn’t driving home, especially not in a Toyota.
I tried to look at the faces of the people I saw lying on the streets, even though I had no idea what I expected to find there. And I was immensely grateful that I had a baby, a house, and a nice warm bed to get to.
That train of thought got me worrying about my baby. I wondered what kind of a world I’d brought her into, and whether there was any hope, whether there was any point to it all. Several hours later, I still don’t have an answer for that one.
I think everyone should watch Nairobi Half Life. I could go on about the amazing shots – shots I’ve never seen on a Kenyan film, shots that made me wonder, “How [and when] the hell did they do that?”
I could talk about the soundtrack that was so smooth and unobtrusive that I only noticed it when I was singing along. I could talk about the characters that were so real they could be you or me. I could talk about the storyline that was anything but cliché.
But what I loved most about this movie is also what scared me about it. The people in the movie are real. So real that I might think twice before yelling mwizi the next time someone grabs my phone. Might.
iCon talks about getting so involved in the story that he became afraid of the police. I’ve lived in Lang’ata my whole life, and was first affronted by cops when I was 14. My brothers are routinely arrested while making the ten minute walk from my flat to their house. So for me, fearing cops more than robbers is nothing new.
But after watching this movie, I was angry, because I had so much … understanding for the thugs that I felt cheated. I felt the movie had somehow made it okay to steal, and found myself getting irate at the matatu crew that overloaded and bullied us all the way home. I felt like they were worse crooks than the hardcore gangsters in the movie, and that made me sad. I felt confused about a movie had somehow left me rationalizing crime.
But there’s a line in the movie – Mwas talks about choice. Every character in that movie – just like every character in real life – made a choice, and the film doesn’t romanticize those choices. It just shows all sides of the coin, and makes everything real in a way I’ve never even considered.
At some point, I was worried about how the story would end. I mean, there are only so many ways you can resolve a tale like that. But I can confidently say that it ended at exactly the right scene, and as a
fussy snobby writer, that’s saying a lot.
So, I know it’s been said a million times already, but if you do one thing this year, watch Nairobi Half Life. Shows are at 3.20 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. Weekday tickets cost 350/=, weekend tickets cost 450/=, and I swear, it’s worth every cent.
♫ Ha he ♫ Just a Band ♫