The First Grader | Chicago Reader

The First Grader

Rated PG-13 103 minutes 2011

The true story of Kimani N'gan'ga Maruge, an 84-year-old Kenyan who entered primary school in hope of learning to read, inspired this pleasant but routine exercise in third-world uplift. When the government promises free schooling to any native Kenyan with a birth certificate, the aged Kikuyu tribesman (Oliver Litondo) shows up at the front gate of the local schoolhouse, where he's turned away by the brusque school inspector but eventually admitted by the sunny principal (Naomie Harris). Cute sequences of the noble old man sitting among a class of six-year-olds, ridiculous in his school uniform, are punctuated by flashbacks revealing his traumatic past as a Mau Mau rebel against the British in the 1950s. Harris is a charming presence throughout, but the screenplay by Ann Peacock (Nights in Rodanthe) is strictly by the numbers. Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directed.

Film Credits

Director: Justin Chadwick

Producer: Norman Merry, Joe Oppenheimer, Anant Singh and Helena Spring

Cast: Naomie Harris, Oliver Litondo, Tony Kgoroge, Sam Feuer, Nick Reding, Vusi Kunene, John Sibi-Okumu, Israel Makoe, Mumbi Kaigwa, Dan Ndambuki and Shoki Mokgapa

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The First Grader

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