Directed by Justin Chadwick
In a small, remote mountain top primary school in the Kenyan bush, hundreds of children are jostling for a chance for the free education newly promised by the Kenyan government. One new applicant causes astonishment when he knocks on the door of the school. He is Maruge (Oliver Litondo), an old Mau Mau veteran in his eighties, who is desperate to learn to read at this late stage of his life. He fought for the liberation of his country and now feels he must have the chance of an education so long denied - even if it means sitting in a classroom alongside six-year-olds.
Moved by his passionate plea, head teacher Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris), supports his struggle to gain admission and together they face fierce opposition from parents and officials who don’t want to waste a precious school place on such an old man.
Full of vitality and humour, the film explores the remarkable relationships Maruge builds with his classmates some eighty years his junior. Through Maruge’s journey, we are taken back to the shocking untold story of British colonial rule 50 years earlier where Maruge fought for the freedom of his country, eventually ending up in the extreme and harsh conditions of the British detention camps.
Directed by Justin Chadwick (THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL/BLEAK HOUSE) from a script by Emmy-winner Ann Peacock (THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, NIGHTS IN RODANTHE, KIT KITTRIDGE), THE FIRST GRADER is a heart warming and inspiring true story of one man’s fight for what he believes is his right in order to overcome the burdens of his past. It is a triumphant testimony to the transforming force of education.
The filming process itself was quite extraordinary, as the children in the film – who are in many ways the stars – had never even seen a film or television set before let alone been involved in the filming process. Their involvement in the shoot was a totally novel experience for them and their enthusiasm and energy is captured beautifully on screen.
As well as working on big budget Hollywood Movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,Naomie Harris (Jane) continues to choose challenging and exciting roles in smaller and more diverse films such as THE FIRST GRADER. London-born Naomie graduated with honours from Cambridge University in 1998 with a degree in social and political science. She went on to train at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and had her first major acting breakthrough in 2002 with Danny Boyle’s zombie horror film 28 Days Later. She went on to receive further international recognition and critical acclaim in her role as Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Other major feature film credits includeMichael Mann’s Miami Vice, Michael Winterbottom’s A Cock and Bull Story, and Street Kings with Keanu Reeves and Forrest Whittaker.
Most recent feature film projects include: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll with Andy Serkis; Ninja Assassin directed by James McTeigue; Julian Kemp’s My Last Five Girlfriends: and, THE FIRST GRADER, written by Ann Peacock and directed by Justin Chadwick.
Major television drama credits have included: Julian Jarrold’s White Teeth, based on Zadie Smith’s best-selling novel; Peter Kosminsky’s The Project; Poppy Shakespeare: and, more recently Blood and Oil and Small Island for the BBC.
Accolades include :
2003 - Winner Best Actress at the Monte Carlo Television Festival
2007 - Winner Rising Star Tribute Award at the Bahamas International Film Festival
2007 - Nomination BAFTA Orange Rising Star
2007 & 2009 - Winner Best actress at the Screen Nation Awards
2010 - Winner Best Actress at The Royal Television Society Awards
© The First Grader 2012. All rights reserved. An iKind Media Website
- Durban International Film Festival (Audience Award – Feature Film)
- Emden International Film Festival (The DGB Trade Union Audience Choice Award and The Bernhard Wicki Best Film Award)
- Doha Tribeca Film Festival (Audience Prize for Best Film)
- Toronto Film Festival (Audience Prize runner-up)
- Sedona Film Festival (Best Director’s Choice, Audience Choice Award)
- The Pan African Film Festival (Audience Choice Award)
- Palm Beach Film Festival (Best Feature Film Award)
- Nashville International Film Festival (Audience Choice Award)
- 360/365 Film Festival - Rochester (Audience Prize for Best Film)