This incredible film is based on the true story of Maruge (Oliver Litondo); a man in his eighties who, after the Kenyan government announces free education for all, joins a primary school classroom so that he can learn how to read and write. Maruge and school principal Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) face heated and even violent opposition from those who believe that the opportunity for education is wasted on such an old man. But Maruge refuses to allow his age to define him – and his battle for the right to education is made even more inspiring when the film delves into his past. As a Mau Mau tribesman, Maruge was imprisoned for refusing to collaborate with British colonial rule and here, the film deals with some hard-hitting issues about Kenya and Britain’s history. However, the film focuses on the triumph of the human spirit, not within one person, but across several generations and is an absolute must-see.
Director Justin Chadwick fought for this film to be shot in Kenya. He claimed there is an unbelievable, inexplicable energy inherent in the people that he could only capture in the country – and it’s this energy, this spirit – that is the real star of The First Grader. (Words: Beth Downey)
In cinemas from June 24th.