Kenyan film ‘Disconnect’ out to break new ground

Wednesday March 18 2020

Behind the scenes during the acting of the Kenyan movie 'Disconnect', which premiered last Saturday at the Anga Diamond cinema in Parklands, Nairobi. PHOTO | KAGWIRIA NJAGI

It is the dream of most girls to walk down the aisle someday, and a bachelorette’s party is definitely on their to-do list, the infamous last hurrah where a would-be bride gets plastered with girlfriends, and does all of the things a decent woman shouldn’t do, one last time.

But what happens when you develop seriously cold feet about getting into holy matrimony with the man ‘of your dreams’?

When alcohol leads you to do things that you do not want to remember when nursing your hangover the morning after?


This is a common theme and trope in Western films, but we seldom see it in a local movie.

Disconnect is the much anticipated romantic comedy film featuring some of the biggest names in film locally, including Brenda Wairimu, Catherine Kamau, Bridget Shighadi, Nick Mutuma, Patricia Kihoro and Pascal Tokodi. It has created a buzz on the local scene, and it premiered last week.

With ticket sales overwhelming the cinema hall capacity, we reached out to the director Tosh Gitonga, who also produced the mega-hit Nairobi Half Life, to get the story behind the Disconnect movie.

“The film industry in Kenya has been evolving over the years and has mostly focused on documentary films about the poor living conditions of the people in city slums,” Tosh explains.

“The quality of the films has also been an issue, with producers clashing with the government about lack of funding, and colliding with cinemas for screening Hollywood productions far more than local content.”

As I watch the film, I am impressed with the quality of production. You notice the beautiful landscape as the cast drives through the countryside.

Thanks to technological advancement, I find out that drones were employed during the shoot, and actually made the overall production cost lower.


As I speak to Tosh, he looks relaxed in a white t-shirt and black casual pants, toying with the laces of his cool sneakers.

After Nairobi Half Life, Tosh says he had wanted his next production to be a film that Kenyans could enjoy at a ‘chilled’ level, as opposed to a high octane storyline highlighting difficulties and oppression that an African youth suffers.

He wanted to focus more on urbane Africa, the working and social lives of young, upwardly mobile Kenyans, although we all know these ones are in the wee minority.

The initial process involved conducting an online poll to get an understanding of what fans would like to see on screen.

A classic case of asking the horses what sort of carts they would like to draw.

The story that came out tops from the poll was about a Muslim and Christian romance, but he knew that for that bold statement to come across, he had to evolve the characters a lot, (as well as jostle with religion), so he jettisoned this cliché yet complicated plot for an easier, naughtier, more familiar storyline.

Shooting experience? It was a self-funded project that suffered the usual local production story — lack of enough resources. But the team worked with what they had because they knew they couldn’t settle for less.


A few brands came on board. The characters in the film drink EABL products, mostly ‘Tusker Lite.’ And the morning after, take ‘Mara Moja’ to get rid of the throbbing headache.

The shoot was done across 17 days in different locations in Nairobi. Most of these locations were given without charge, a good way to promote the local film industry on a quid pro quo basis.

“The industry is evolving, and clever corporates are more open to funding filming for credits,” explains director Tosh. “It is still not at the level where you can get funding using just a script yet, but it is a space that is more open now than it was a few years ago. So, I am optimistic.”

During the shoot, they ‘lost’ a few locations, which disrupted the filming schedule, but the crew and cast adapted, re-jigged the script and kept going for 17 days, some of these at 17 hours straight shooting.

Disconnect is a film that Kenyans can connect to. It’s like watching your story, or the story of someone you know, on screen.

For authenticity, Tosh says he prefers working with story lines that stick close to everyday reality, as much as possible.

Disconnect premiered last Saturday at the Anga Diamond cinema in Parklands.