The First Grader(2010)
It's never too late to dream.
The true story of an 84-year-old Kenyan villager and civil war veteran who fights for his right to go to school, and get the education he could never afford. From the director of The Other Boleyn Girl.... More
"Set in Kenya in 2003... the story of Maruge, an 84-year-old village elder who uses a government initiative to introduce free primary schooling. A former Mau Mau fighter, Maruge’s desire to learn to read and write has been sparked by the arrival of an important letter from the government. However, when he presents himself at the local school gates, he finds head teacher Jane alone in being sympathetic to his cause: her colleagues are unenthusiastic and her superiors appalled." (London International Film Festival).
The film is shot on location at the stunning Kenyan Rift Valley and involves Kenyan kids with no acting backgrounds.Hide
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BY Andreas Heinemann Flicks Writer
The true story of an elderly Mau Mau freedom fighter getting a free primary school education in Kenya is a unique piece of source material. Whilst there are times when the film lives up to that promise, it also comes with contrived weaknesses that stop the film reaching its potential.... More
You cannot level that accusation at the cast. The two central characters, the titular student Maruge and his plucky teacher Jane, turn in well-rounded, fleshed out performances that are the piece’s highlight.
Given the script they were working from, it can’t have been easy. The story is told partly with flashbacks to Maruge’s past, namely scenes of torture that he endured. Whilst these do make him even more sympathetic, they don’t really gel with the rest of the film’s tone and come across as gratuitous. Meanwhile, the scenes taking place in the ‘present’ day have been given a little too much of the Hollywood treatment, and, with the melodrama cranked up as high as it is, it’s hard to believe this was a true story.
Pertinent social commentary is sprinkled throughout, and, although it would’ve been nice to see that expressed in more subtle fashion, The First Grader works as a tearjerker with occasional moments of genuine levity and emotional gravity.Hide