In October 2015, Alex Madaga, a hit and run accident survivor died at Kenyatta National Hospital after spending 18 hours in an ambulance because he could not be admitted for ICU services in all the four hospitals he was taken to. In all those hours, Brian Odhiambo, an 18-year-old EMT was with him in the ambulance trying to keep him alive. This unfortunate event that briefly rocked the health sector in Kenya forms the premise of the award-winning film 18 Hours, now streaming exclusively on Showmax.
Released in 2017, 18 Hours follows Zack (Nick Ndeda, News Just In, Shuga), a rookie paramedic and his driver Mark (Brian Ogola, Lusala, Ma’Empress) as they race against time to save the life of a road accident victim who has been denied admission in several hospitals in Nairobi. Inside the ambulance is also Sabina (Sue Wanjiru, Something Necessary), the wife of the victim who struggles to make sense of what’s happening as she hops with them from one hospital to the next.
In minor roles, the film also stars Brenda Wairimu (Selina, Subira) Edijoe Mwaniki, Shirleen Wangari, Isaya Evans and Ruth Maingi (Mama Duka).
Directed by one of the youngest filmmakers in Kenya
While 18 Hours shines a spotlight on poor emergency response by hospitals in Kenya, the film also delivers a twist at the end that no one saw coming, and one that can only come from the mind of a filmmaker as ambitious as Njue Kevin.
18 Hours is the first feature film that Njue – whose interest in film started while he was still a student at Kenyatta University – has directed. At only 27 years old, Njue is already one of the most respected filmmakers in Kenya and in 2019, also appeared in Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. Njue first made waves in 2015 when he wrote and directed the short film Intellectual Scum based on a controversial article. Intellectual Scum earned numerous nominations including Best Feature at Kalasha Awards 2015, Best Short/Animation at Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) 2015 and Emerging Filmmaker Award at Silicon Valley African Film Festival 2015.
History at the AMVCAs
In 2018, 18 Hours made history at the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs) by earning Kenya its first nomination and win for Best Overall Movie, beating strong contenders like Nollywood favourite Shirley Frimpong-Manso (Potato Potahto). 18 Hours also won Best Movie East Africa and Best Picture Editor, only missing out on two nominations – Best Writer and Best Soundtrack.
Njue’s other projects include Sticking Ribbons (2013) featuring Maureen Koech (Lies That Bind), his first film which won Best East African Talent at the 2014 Zanzibar International Film Festival, Saidia (2014), a collaboration with 18 Hours producer Phoebe Ruguru and Plastic Maasai (2016) that follows a cross-dressing tourist who falls victim to two local con artists.