Juma is working at his post as a security guard when he receives a tip from his wealthy boss: he gets 10 U.S. dollars, which is a nice bonus, especially in Kenya. He could pay his utilities for a month with it, but delighted with his windfall, Juma instead gets dressed up for a night on the town, going out to eat at one of Nairobi's most elegant restaurants.
That $10 isn't enough, though, and he goes to jail for the night for not being able to pay. But still, money counts for something, as Juma parlays that $10 bill in other ways -- proving that a dollar can go a lot farther than one thinks.
Written and directed by Hugh Mitton, this short comedy captures the vivid, vibrant city of Nairobi, letting the feel of the place set the film's buoyant pace and bright, bold cinematography. The city is the backdrop to what emerges as a sharp, clever and satirical portrait of economic disparity, where the poor scramble as workers in the playgrounds for the rich, and must find their way in a system with many hidden rules and loopholes.
Those are serious themes, but they're tackled here in a fresh, funny angle, through a story that portrays an ordinary worker on an unexpectedly good day and charting what misadventures he gets up to with a small, sudden windfall. With madcap pacing and nimble storytelling, the film has a cheeky, broad sense of humor that comes through even with just sparing dialogue, and actor Yafesi Musoke plays Juma with a mix of deadpan eccentricity and terrific physical comedy, which echoes a bit of Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean. He's fun to watch as he goes about living the high life for a night, and it's funny and telling to see his "impersonation" of privilege and wealth, with both its stiff mannerisms and exaggerated social practices.
Through our unassuming, enthusiastic security guard, that gap is played for uniquely charming satire, but the storytelling understands that Juma is part of a larger system that's portrayed here with telling visual acuity, where the haves can live in elegantly serene luxury but the have-nots scrabble for scraps in poverty.
With his windfall, Juma can feel emboldened in traversing the gap between rich and poor, but he can never quite stay there unless he has enough resources to take advantage of the system's loopholes. Smart, fun and irreverent, "A Guide to Dining Out In Nairobi" captures the energetic, captivating face of its namesake city, but also the economic machine that underlies its fascinating nooks and crannies.