The First Grader

"Very Good"

The First Grader Review


Based on a true story, this drama from Kenya reflects on the legacy of colonialism and tribal warfare in a nation trying to get its feet on the ground. It's a fairly straightforward film, and it's also a real crowd-pleaser.

As the government introduces free education for all, 84-year-old Maruge (Litondo) shows up at primary school hoping to learn to read. Head teacher Jane (Harris) takes him in, knowing that she'll get in trouble with her boss (Kunene) but never suspecting that Maruge's story will ripple around the world.

Maruge is a Kikuyu who fought with the Mau Maus against British colonialism in the 1950s, when he was imprisoned and viciously tortured. And there are still old wounds between him and those he saw as collaborators.

While the grim past gives the film a dark undercurrent, the central story is warm and sentimental, as Maruge bonds with his much-younger fellow students and takes a stand for the importance of education. It's lovely to watch his infectious joy fill the school, as his yearning for education lights up even this boisterous classroom. Meanwhile, dark antagonism swirls outside the gates (and among a few disgruntled teachers), building a real sense of menace from a growing mob mentality.

Against this we see in flashbacks Maruge's life as a young man (Jawar), reliving the horrific violence he and his wife (Kjoki) suffered. These scenes of radicalised youth and terrified uniformed officials have real resonance in today's world, although the filmmakers slightly play this down in lieu of a positive message about perseverance and reconciliation. Still, the repeated shots of Maruge's face in sweaty, terrified close-up put us into his mind very effectively. So we really feel the injustice as he is unable to put the past behind him.

The performances are very strong across the board. Even if the characters aren't particularly complex, they are believable and engaging. Harris and Litondo are a terrific central double-act, and the children are simply wonderful on screen. So if the underlying nastiness boils over into a satisfying, sentimental final sequence, we don't mind too much. The filmmakers make their hard point, then leave us with a smile.



The First Grader

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Friday 24th June 2011

Box Office USA: $0.3M

Box Office Worldwide: $330.5 thousand

Distributed by: National Geographic Entertainment

Production compaines: Original Pictures, Sixth Sense Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 59%
Fresh: 42 Rotten: 29

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Justin Chadwick

Producer: Sam Feuer, Richard Harding, David M. Thompson

Starring: as Jane Obinchu, as Charles Obinchu, Nick Reding as Officer Johnson, Oliver Litondo as Kimani N'gan'ga Maruge

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.