Soon thereafter, US streaming behemoth Netflix followed suit causing excitement in the local film industry, and sparking conversation that maybe Kenyan actors would finally get the pay they deserve.
Netflix went ahead and upped the tempo further when they appointed Dorothy Ghettuba, a renowned Kenyan film and TV entrepreneur, as its director for international originals for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
It was now just a matter of ‘when’ – not ‘if’ – Kenyan films would finally be available for the entire world to watch. Showmax and Netflix bridged the gap that had been left by DStv’s Maisha Magic, which was perceived as being a little too expensive and complex to acquire.
The two platforms gradually began rolling out Kenyan content, much to public applause. If you have been living under a rock the past couple of years, don’t worry – we got you. Here are a few top Kenyan movies and series to check out on Showmax and Netflix; they are absolutely worth every second of your time.
A personal favourite, Single Kiasi follows the lives of three relatively young women – Sintamei (Gathoni Mutua), Mariah (Gathoni Mutua) and Rebecca (Faith Kibathi) – as they go through the ups and downs of marriage, relationships, and careers, during which their strong bond of friendship is also constantly tested.
The drama series, currently in its second season on Showmax, is directed by Grace Kahaki and Philippe Bresson of Insignia Productions.
“Single Kiasi was originally an adaptation – we put in so much work to finesse it and we are proud of what it has become. The impact has been amazing, especially considering [that] we are telling a modern-day Nairobi city story. It doesn’t get better than this,” Bresson tells The Africa Report.
“A lot of research goes into making the show, and in terms of technology, we use the latest sound and camera/edit suit gear to stay competitive because it is a Kenyan product first, then secondly a pan-African show,” he says.
Pepeta premiered in 2022 as the sixth Showmax original, with its eight episodes capturing what the production team described as “the dreams and realities of the youth in Kibera, known for churning out top football players in the country”.
The story – which was brought to life by a young cast – was adapted from the true story of Harun ‘Rio’ Wathari, a talented football player who, during the day, mesmerised many with his skills on the pitch, but at night would turn into a dreaded gangster.
“I had to dig deep into my experiences, especially working with young first-time actors,” says director Vincent Mbaya.
“I really had to go back to my acting days and put myself in their shoes, guiding them through the process, helping them tap into the small things that define their characters. It was a very fulfilling experience.”
Real Housewives of Nairobi
The Real Housewives of Nairobi was one of the most anticipated reality TV shows in the country this year. It has surpassed its billing following its debut – breaking streaming records for most first-day views on Showmax in Kenya. Additionally, its first episode holds the title of the most-watched premiere ever on Showmax in Kenya.
Real Housewives of Nairobi is part of the Real Housewives franchise licensed as a format by NBC Universal Formats and is the sixth to be adapted for their African library.
It follows a group of stylish, fashion-centric, successful women – Susan Kaittany, Vera Sidika, Sonal Maherali, Minne Kariuki, Lisa Christoffersen, and Catherine Masitsa (who joins the cast in the fifth episode) – as they navigate their posh lifestyles, relationships, and careers in Nairobi.
The show was produced by D&R studios, under the leadership of Eugene Mbugua, who has his hands on almost all Kenyan reality TV shows, including This Love, Sol Family, Kyallo Kulture, and Stori Yangu.
“Each of the ladies has a strong personality and [a] sure identity of themselves. They are hardworking, affluent, influential, and unapologetic women who are not ashamed to live large and live well because they have earned it,” says Denise Mwende, a content specialist for Showmax in East Africa.
“They’re also a representation of the diverse communities we have in Kenya.”
This is perhaps the shortest film I have ever watched; I’m not kidding. Ironically, it’s also quite possibly the movie that has made me laugh the hardest – true story.
Just like the title suggests, Morning After is about what a young man goes through the morning after a one-night stand. The 20-year-old cheeky man, played by Charlie Karumi, sneaks a girl (played by Foi Wambui) home for a drunken night of passion, but wakes up just late enough to find that his mother (veteran actress Millicent Ogutu) has already done the damsel’s laundry.
Everything, predictably, goes downhill from there, and in such a hilarious manner.
This 95-minute thriller, which had me gripping the seat the whole time, was shot in Nairobi across five locations over a 16-day period in February 2019.
With a storyline that revolves around a group of death row prisoners trapped in a crashed prison bus deep in the woods, it became the fourth Kenyan film to be aired on Netflix.
The prisoners face the scariest night of their lives as they strive to remain awake, while a sharp, ridiculously fast mysterious killer hunts them from the shadows in a bid to get revenge for their past misdeeds.
“We picked a rare genre for Kenya and ran with it, and the team did very well if I may say so myself. We are excited that we now get to show Kenya and the world what Kenya is capable of,” Fakii Liwali, the show’s executive producer, told local media.
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