Genre – drama - A coming of age film
Maria is on the brink of becoming the person her father wants her to be. Fresh from completing her undergraduate degree at a private Catholic university, all that’s left is a one-year stint at the Kenya School of Law.
But this isn’t a life Maria chose for herself. Art is her passion, but her father, a successful lawyer, wants her to follow his path, not hers. All would have gone according to plan if her father didn’t buy a new, grand house right next door to an art centre, in the upmarket suburbs of Nairobi. Here, Maria finds her true path and passion through an undefined relationship with wildcard lesbian artist Nzilani.
Maria is with family and friends in an Italian restaurant. She is doodling with her fingers; they are celebrating her first class honour pass at university. She is the least excited. Her father is really proud, everyone is well dressed – there is wealth in the room.
Maria’s friends from university say how luck she is…particularly her best friend Susan, who also did law but didn’t do as well – got average grades. Susan is secretly jealous of Maria and her family. Maria comments on her fear of graduating and the certainty of her life.
Maria drives home with family and father is planning her life – how she’ll work at his firm etc. Maria is quiet… Her younger sister, Anne, who’s about to enter university, teases her that she’s been conscripted into the family business and that her father has already planned her husband and wedding theme colour as well. (Anne was baptised Anne, but calls herself Anna – her father keeps on referring to her as Anne , and Anna insists she’s called Anne.)
Next day Maria wakes up and looks around her room – framed pastel paintings hang on the wall. She goes to one of them – an abstract painting…lots of red. Her sister, full of energy, bursts into the room. She speaks about the painting – asking what it means – Maria says she doesn’t know what it means.
Anna is excited about them moving to a new neighbourhood and asks sister if she wants to take a walk around. Maria says she’d prefer to drive, but Anna insists that they wont be able to truly explore the place if they drive.
Outdoors, they take a walk. We see it’s a nice neighbourhood. They stumble across an art centre in a crescent. It doesn’t fit in – Anna insists on them going in. They go there and walk around. Lots of artists of different ages – some at work, some chatting.
Anna sees a cute artist and goes to chat to him. Maria decides to walk around alone. She peers at different artist booths. She sees one with paintings of women in different poses. The paintings are wild, almost sexual. Maria is shocked, intrigued, and glued.
She touches one of the paintings hesitantly. Someone interrupts her from behind, telling her not to touch the painting. ‘It’s art. You don’t need to touch it to feel it. And besides, it’s still wet’
Maria smiles shyly and excuses herself for imposing on Nzilani’s art booth. Nzilani tells her it’s ok, ‘art is to be looked at, not hidden away, that’s how it’s expression develops meaning”. Maria asks her what the painting means. The artist Nzilani describes the painting.
Maria is enchanted and asks more about the place. Nzilani offers to show her around. They strike up a conversation as they go around meeting people. They meet a group of artists who are smoking weed and chatting about local gossip/current affairs. Anna rushes to them, excited about the cute artist she was talking to – he told her about a party that weekend at the artist centre. Anna insists on Maria coming to the party as well –only way she is going is to get permission from their father.
They walk back home and a waiting Susan drags Maria to her room. She wants to canvas for an internship at Maria’s father’s law firm. Maria questions her on why she’s so sure that she wants to become a lawyer. Maria mentions the art centre and how it makes her wonder what her life would be like if she chose art, did something different. She asks Susan about the painting and Susan comments that its pretty but it’s only art, a frivolty, but law makes things work in the world.
Mother comes in to her room and invites Susan for dinner. Susan agrees quickly.
Mother says an elaborate prayer before dinner and father asks about their day. Maria mentions art centre…father talks a bit derisively about the art centre, Anna is about to react but Maria’s mother (the peacemaker) asks Susan about what both girls planning on doing during their break before going to law school. Susan kicks her under the table and Maria looks at her questioningly. Susan clears her voice and asks Maria’s father if she can apply for an internship at her father’s law firm. The father is pleased and mentions that both Maria and Susan will enjoy working at his firm. Maria says she wasn’t planning on doing so, her mother says that she’ll love working there.
Maria goes to bed and looks at her painting and traces around it. She goes to sleep.
It’s the weekend. Maria, Susan and Anne are getting ready for the art centre party – which is starting at 3 pm. Mother asks them where they’re going, Maria says to the art centre. Mother agrees but says Anna must be home by six. They have a little tiff but Anna agrees to comply.
They go for the party, which is full of artsy people, expat people. Nzilani introduces her to her people. Susan is a bit snobbish, since Nzilani and her artists are a bit rough around the edges – from Umoja. Susan and Nzilani have an argument about art vs law…which is more necessary for society. Couple of dudes from Maria’s dinner party show up – Susan had invited them. One of them is clearly interested in Susan and is giving her a lot of attention. The other guy tries to hit on Maria, but she brushes him off.
Nzilani pulls Maria away and they go hang out with Nzilani’s other friends who are dancing. Maria is a stiff dancer, Nzilani teaches her to dance. Everyone’s teasing, it grows darker as they dance together. (This is where the spark of romance starts between the two, somehow – in the dancing,…)
Susan and her people say they want to leave. Maria is a little high by now from drinking. Maria and Anna stay. Nzilani and her friends promise to get them home.
Susan leaves reluctantly. Maria and Nzilani continue dancing. Anna and her artist “boyfriend” go for “a walk., with Anna giggling.
Nzilani and Maria sit in a circle chatting and smoking weed. Maria is reluctant to puff puff pass, but Nzilani says she’ll enjoy it. Nzilani pulls Maria close and blows smoke into her mouth. She kisses her after. Maria pulls back a little and Nzilani just passes on the weed. Maria looks at her questioningly.
Confrontation between Maria and Nzilani later on at the party – Maria reproaches her about the kiss. Nzilani brushes it off as nothing.
Anna and Maria end up getting home very high and drunk and arrive home to their angry mother who scolds them as they head to bed.
Maria gets a call later that day from Susan who asks if they can go shopping for clothes to wear at their internship at Maria’s fathers’ place. There’s a knock on the door and it’s Anna, with Nzilani in tow. Nzilani enters Maria’s room and looks around. Maria continues with her conversation with Susan and tells her after a minute or so that she doesn’t think she’ll be able to make it.
Nzilani is staring at the painting on Maria’s wall intently. Nzilani asks Maria whose painting it is and Maria says its hers. Nzilani asks what it means but Maria says she’s not sure. Maria asks her what she’s doing at her house. Nzilani tells her that they had apparently agreed the night before to go play football with Nzilani’s football team. Maria doesn’t remember but she agrees to go anyway.
Maria wants to drive to Nzilani’s but Nzilani says that Maria will get lost driving back, so they take a matatu and arrive at the soccer pitch in Umoja.
Maria gets to meet Nzilani’s friends and they play soccer. Maria bonds with Wahu and Kennie who are on her team. Game is interrupted by male passers by throw stuff at them and insults the girls calling them “shogas’ and Wahu, the team captain explains why to Maria.
They hang out at Nzilani’s art filled home after drinks and they all smoke up. Maria asks Wahu about how they formed the team. Wahu gives a story about how they all wanted to play soccer. Maria asks if they play against other teams. Wahu says no, Maria asks why. Nzilani says no one wants to play against them. Kennie interrupts her and says that they are the local lesbians, and no other girls want to be tackled by them. This cracks everyone up. Nzilani volunteers to cook for the rest of the girls, chapo madondo, and asks Maria to join her. They start chatting and Nzilani opens up to her about her coming out experience. Maria kisses her on the cheek.
They bring out the food to the rest of the girls. They all chat and dance. Most of the other girls black out – it’s too late for Maria to go home and she shares a bed with Nzilani. There is a gratuitous sex scene, where Nzilani gives her pleasure (fingering) and stares at her expression. A comment from Nzilani about sex being an art form.
The next morning Maria wakes to see Nzilani painting an abstract picture of one of the other girls who has blacked out on her couch. Maria goes to look and Nzilani gives her an easel, asks her to sketch as well. Maria paints with her, they’re competing to see who’ll paint her faster.
Nzilani mentions the painting in Maria’s room and says that Maria should paint more often and she has real talent. Maria says it’s an old hobby and school got in the way. Nzilani continues to paint as Maria watches.
Her reverie is interrupted by a call from Anna who asks her where she’s been and tells her to get home immediately, because of their mother.
Anna meets Maria at the front door and tells her she’s in a lot of trouble. Maria’s mother confronts her and grounds her and says the only time she’s getting out of the house is to go to church early the next morning, as punishment.
Susan comes over to the house to show off the shoes and clothes that she got. Anna comes in and brings up Maria’s being grounded and the reason why – she slept over in Umoja without telling their mother. Anna teases Maria about her “girlfriend” Nzilani. Susan and Maria have a tiff about this and Susan tells her that Nzilani is bad news. Nzilani calls Maria but Susan picks up and tells her not to confuse her best friend and to keep away. Maria is annoyed and calls back Nzilani. Susan and Maria fight over the phone and Maria wins and kicks out Susan, who leaves her with a warning – about playing with fire/or that she doesn’t know who Maria has become.