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The First Grader might just be the best movie you see this year. No, scratch that—maybe the best movie you see in five years.
Produced by BBC Films and distributed by National Geographic, the film is based on a true story and set in modern-day rural Kenya. The imagery is crisp, vivid, moving and graphic.
The film tells the tale of eighty-four-year-old Maruge, an ex Mau Mau freedom fighter, and his fight to go to school for the first time in his life. Maruge desperately wants to learn to read, despite his age, and humbly sits alongside his six-year-old classmates practicing his letters and learning how to properly hold a pencil. He is supported by head teacher Jane Obinchu, played by the beautiful Naomie Harris. Their journey is fraught with controversy and opposition from not only the school authorities but the local villagers and the government.
The sparse bush landscape provides fertile ground for a rich back story, which is told with intermittent flashbacks to Maruge’s youth in British colonial Kenya. Maruge’s story is emotionally charged and engaging, and much of the story is painful to watch. Funny, heart warming and inspiring, the film is a triumph of the human spirit.
Audiences won’t be able to help themselves from cheering Maruge on.
If reading this hasn’t convinced you you need to see this film, consider the fact that proceeds from ticket sales go towards furthering National Geographic in their education, research and conservation efforts. As Whoopi Goldberg said, “Run, do not walk, and go see this!”