The First Grader

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Relativity Media, LLC Released 2011

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Movie Summary

Director:
Justin Chadwick
Released:
2011
Rating:
PG-13
In a small, remote, primary school in the Kenyan bush, hundreds of children are jostling for a chance at free education newly promised by the Kenyan government. One applicant creates a stir when he knocks on the door of the school -- Maruge (Litondo), an old Mau Mau veteran in his eighties. Having fought for the liberation of his country, Maruge is desperate to learn how to read at this late stage of his life even if it means sitting in a classroom alongside six-year-olds. Full of vitality and humor, the film follows the friendships formed by Maruge and his young classmates who, at first, regard him with curiosity. Throughout his studies, Maruge reflects on his past and the cost of freedom; his playful days of working alongside the children are punctuated by memories of living under British colonial rule and the harsh conditions of the British detention camps.

Metacritic Score

  • 80

    Los Angeles Times Betsy Sharkey

    Anchored by a lovely performance from Oliver Litondo as Maruge and an exuberant Naomie Harris as Jane Obinchu, the school principal who champions his cause, the result is a tearful...

  • 80

    Variety

    The uplifting true story of world's oldest primary school student, The First Grader reels you in with its human-interest hook, but packs an even more vital agenda: enlisting Kenyan...

  • 50

    The New York Times A.O. Scott

    This ambition - to provoke thought while tugging at heartstrings - makes The First Grader fascinating and frustrating in almost equal measure.

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