The First Grader

2011

The First Grader

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

61%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 77

76%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,332
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Movie Info

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. -- (C) Official Site

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Cast

Naomie Harris
as Jane Obinchu
Oliver Litondo
as Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge
Emily Njoki
as Young Maruge's Wife
Hannah Wacera
as Maruge's Daughter
Tony Kgoroge
as Charles Obinchu
John Kimani
as Maruge's Baby Son
Lwanda Jawar
as Young Maruge
Tom Gitau
as Old Codger
Watson Mbirua
as Old Codger
Mwenga Matilika
as Old Codger
Alfred Munyua
as Teacher Alfred
Shoki Mokgapa
as Teacher Elizabeth
Kathyline Ndogori
as Teacher Katherine
Kamau Mbaya
as Kamau Chege
Shirlen Wangari
as Mother Wanjiku
Benta Ochieng
as Mother Benta
Eunice Tekero
as Village Woman
Jackie Musimbi
as Village Girl
Susan Sisian
as Young Mother
Kurenda ole Kureya
as Maasai Store Owner
Nick Reding
as Officer Johnson
Nick Ndichu
as Mau Mau Oath Giver
Paul Mbogo
as Mau Mau Leader
Jeannette Elsworth
as Plantation Owner's Wife
Kamau Wa Ndung'u
as John Gambe
Mary Mbirua
as Stall Owner
Catherine Njiru
as Stall Owner
Mumbi Kaigwa
as Education Secretary
Charles Ouda
as Adult School Teacher
Rachel Jones
as BBC Journalist
Lydia Gitachu
as CNN Journalist
Sam Feuer
as American Journalist
Gilbert Lukhalia
as Mr. Mutahi/Politician
Melvin Alusa
as Mr. Mutahi's Aide
Irene Kariuki
as Mrs. Muthumba
Rosemary Nyambura
as Jacquie (P.A. to the Chairman)
Ainea Ojiambo
as Education Official
Michael Oyier
as Newsreader
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Critic Reviews for The First Grader

All Critics (77) | Top Critics (20)

Audience Reviews for The First Grader

  • Sep 25, 2012
    Wonderful movie!! Inspiring. Heartfelt. Moving....and so continues my theory that some of the best movies are the ones that I have never heard of.... I found this a heart warming story, and much to be learned from. The main character's determination to realize his dream against all odds is truly inspiring. Makes me count my American blessings.
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Aug 14, 2012
    Wow... that's what I said after watching this movie! Outstanding biographical drama directed by Justin Chadwick, starring Naomie Harris, Oliver Litondo, and Tony Kgoroge, and based on the true story of Kimani Maruge, a Kenyan man - Mau Mau freedom fighter - who enrolled in elementary education at the age of 84 after the Kenyan government announced universal and free elementary education in 2003. The British-produced film was shot in Kenya, despite earlier reports that it would be filmed in South Africa. Director Justin Chadwick explained the reasons saying: "We could have shot it in South Africa, but Kenya has this unbelievable, inexplicable energy - inherent in the children, and the people we were making the film about". And he was right - the energy of this film is something to be remembered! Inspirational and educational - but I have to say that I was upset that none of the crimes against humanity committed by the British portrayed in this movie, like the ones committed by the other mighty armies trying to "make it right"(for themselves) will ever be answered in the courts... it's just not right! Tough watching and very emotional - highly recommended!
    Panta O Super Reviewer
  • Sep 29, 2011
    This true story of an 84 year old Kenyan man who, against all opposition, wants to make use of the new law of free education for first graders, is a perfect feel good movie. While the flashbacks into his past that by and by reveal his eventful back story and explain the motivation for his wish to learn reading also give a glimpse into the violent history of the country, this is not a political film. It is a story about the importance of education, dealing with your past and standing up for yourself. The performances are top notch and heart warming, especially the leading man Oliver Litondo and Naomie Harris as teacher are adorable. While the film does not avoid all stereotypes that come with such stories it is still enthralling, touching, beautifully filmed and very entertaining. The best stories are still those where bad things happen to good people but in the end everyone gets what they deserve.
    Jens S Super Reviewer
  • Jun 22, 2011
    From the director of The Other Boleyn Girl comes a completely different story; one about perseverance and fighting for what is right. After just studying the Mau Mau of Kenya and their struggles against the British in the 1960's for a school project, it's devastating to see it on the big screen. The flashbacks are vivid, violent and disturbing, but the rest of the story is extremely heart-warming and inspiring. Oliver Litondo and Naomie Harris are absolutely superb in their roles. Harris is so different here from her role in Pirates of the Caribbean as Tia Dalma. I would highly recommend this film because it conveys some very important messages, it is beautiful, extremely up-lifting and well-done.
    Raymond W Super Reviewer

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