From a gangster to a superstar movie actor

Isaac Mburu
  • Isaac Mburu narrates how peer pressure pushed him into a life of crime
  • After losing his classmates to crime, Mburu changed his life and turned to film production

You blame poverty for your woes. Was it that bad?

Yes. Very bad. I was born and raised in Huruma estate. Being the first born in family of two, I was the apple my parents’ eye. My dad managed to send me to Mathare North Primary School, from where I later joined Genesis Emmaculate High School in Huruma.

In high school, it dawned on me that I came from a poor family. My friends would brag how their parents owned big cars, houses and that they even went on holidays.

This really affected me since the only thing I knew was poverty. Peer pressure was real.

What do you mean peer pressure was real?

I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be like my friends. I was desperate for attention and admiration. Since my parents couldn’t give me extra pocket money or afford the luxurious lifestyle, I joined a gang in the estate.

During holidays, we would terrorise residents and steal from them. I bought ‘cool’ stuff which I would brag with in school. Cops knew us and they always laid a trap. After five of our gang members were shot dead, I knew I was going to be next.

My days were numbered and I vowed to change.

So, did you have a Plan B?

Yes. Acting. In high school, I was really good in acting, directing and coming up with scripts. I was an active member of the drama club that saw me rise to the rank of team leader and trainer.

My team won a number of trophies in drama festivals, choral verse and poetry, both at zonal and provincial levels, and that made me proud.

Did you have someone to mentor you?

Yes. After high school, I was introduced to Jacton Alufwayo, a movie director and scriptwriter at Star Roll Family.

His production company taps talents in Eastlands. He is a reformed thug and he taught me the ropes. He uses film production to keep the youth off drugs and crime. I am forever grateful to him.

Tell us more about your recent movie, Suicide Note, in which you play the role of a daring gangster...

In most of our films, we depict ‘the real’ ghetto life. No mincing words or actions. My aim is to create that mental image and try to sensitise the youth against crime.

I always take the role of a gangster because that was my past life and I am able to bring out that character well.  In Suicide Note, I am the bad guy. I kill. I steal, but at the end of it, I end up in a wheelchair.

At the end of the film, I reform and surrender my life to God. The film’s response is overwhelming.

Which other films have you produced?

I have produced three other films - Intertwine, Ghetto Youth and Suicide Note. Currently, I am working on comedies to target the younger generation. Most of our productions revolve around crime and our actors are reformed gangsters.

Can you say this career is paying?

Well, that is hard to say because my objective is not to make money, but to encourage the youth to keep off crime. We are still growing, step by step.

Future plans?

To go international and partner with established film production houses.