Film Review: The First Grader

| 17 November , 2011 | Reply


Director: Justin Chadwick
Cast: Naomie Harris, Oliver Litondo
Sassi\’s Star Rating: 5 / 5

Justin Chadwick\’s The First Grader is an inspiring story based on one man\’s fight to be part of the Education system that the Kenyan government claimed was ‘for all\’ and not just six year olds. This is based on the true story of Mau Mau veteran, Maruge (Litondo), who refused to give up and at the age of 84 entered the first grade in order to learn how to read. Despite being turned away, he forged ahead insisting he receive assistance in learning to read.

The beautiful teacher Jane Obinchu (Harris of the famed Pirates of the Caribbean: At World\’s End) takes pity on Maruge and includes him in her school which causes much unrest amongst the villagers as they believe he is taking education away from the youth who need it more. This resentment grows and soon political risings cause more problems in the village not only for Maruge but also for the teacher, Jane, and the children. It delightfully plays with the innocence of the children and the harsh reality of life in Kenya.

Suffering from relentless memories of torture by the British in the 50s, Maruge also finds it difficult to fit in at school in many ways. This film is both hard hitting and inspirational. It captures the essence of freedom that was never given freely to the people of Kenya. Heartfelt performances from all of the cast, including the amazing children within the school makes this film incredibly memorable. Director, Chadwick, said he managed to get the children so involved by convincing them it was a real classroom as none were professional actors. Their brilliant performances look very real, probably because they are! They had ‘actual\’ lessons and embedded these in the movie. It really shines through and gives the film a sense of depth.

Brilliantly acted, superbly filmed and all inspired but one little article that has been rewritten and taken to a whole new level. Sadly Murage passed away in 2009 and was not able to see the extent of his crusade, however, it is one we, the public, can always treasure.

Chadwick\’s nod to the amazingly brave and honourable Maruge is a beautiful story that should not be missed.

As Maruge said: It\’s never too late to dream.

In cinemas now.

Monique

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