7.5/10
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The First Grader (2010)

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The story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau veteran who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.

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17 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Tony Kgoroge ...
Charles Obinchu
Alfred Munyua ...
Teacher Alfred
Shoki Mokgapa ...
Teacher Elizabeth
Vusi Kunene ...
Mr. Kipruto (as Vusumuzi Michael Kunene)
Agnes Simaloi ...
Agnes
Kamau Mbaya ...
Kamau Chege
Emily Njoki ...
Young Maruge's Wife
Lwanda Jawar ...
Young Maruge
Dan 'Churchill' Ndambuki ...
DJ Masha (as Daniel Ndambuki 'Churchill')
Hannah Wacera ...
Maruge's Daughter
John Kimani ...
Maruge's Baby Son
Macharia Kamau ...
DJ's PA
Abubakar Mwenda ...
Boie
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Storyline

Set in a mountain village in Kenya the film tells the remarkable true and uplifting story of a proud old Mau Mau veteran who is determined to seize his last chance to learn to read and write - and so ends up joining a class alongside six year-olds. Together he and his young teacher face fierce resistance, but ultimately they win through - and also find a new way of overcoming the burdens of the colonial past. Written by Unknown

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

It's never too late to dream.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some disturbing violent content and brief nudity | See all certifications »

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

24 June 2011 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

Az iskolakezdő  »

Filming Locations:


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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$20,437, 15 May 2011, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$330,533, 31 July 2011
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Tony Kgoroge is a frequent collaborator with director Justin Chadwick, having also appeared in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013), another film Chadwick directed. See more »

Quotes

Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge: I will continue learning, I want to become a vet.
Jane Obinchu: [laughing] A vet? Maruge, you'll be almost 100 years old.
Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge: I will never stop learning until I have soil in my ears.
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Crazy Credits

During the initial credits, there is 1. a photo of the real Maruge with some students. 2. a scene with the DJ mentioning Maruge's trip to the UN, and predicting that a Kenyan will ascend to the White House. 3. more scenes of the children at the school See more »

Connections

Featured in Maltin on Movies: The Hangover: Part II (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Zingu 7
Artist: Zola
Composer: Zola (as Bonginkosi Dlamini)/Kabelo Ikaneng
Master: Courtesy of Ghetto Ruff International
Publisher: Ghetto Ruff Publishing Limited & Guluva Entertainment
Sub-publisher: Fintage Music Publishing & Collection B.V.
Used by permission.
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User Reviews

 
A fine film, but not a feel-good movie for kids
8 June 2011 | by See all my reviews

The First Grader (2010), directed by Justin Chadwick, is a serious and important film that is being advertised as a feel-good movie, suitable for kids. It's an excellent movie, but not for kids. The film is a portrayal of the true story of Kimani N'gan'ga Maruge, an 84-year-old Kenyan man who successfully enrolled in a first grade.

Maruge is a former Mau-Mau revolutionary and prisoner of war. He was horribly tortured by the British army, but his spirit was never broken. When the Kenyan government announces "free education for all," he accepts this literally and tries to enroll in the first grade.

This neglect of former revolutionaries has occurred in many countries, and, at least in the film, Kenya is no exception. As portrayed in the movie, the Kenyan government officials aren't that different from the British colonial officials, except for skin color. They're certainly not enthusiastic about large numbers of adults following Maruge's example and enrolling in school.

The film is overly simplistic at times. The behavior of the dedicated teacher who accepts Maruge in her class is too good to be true, and the other education officials are all "bad-guy" cardboard cutouts. A subplot involving the teacher (Jane Obinchu) and her husband is contrived and leads nowhere.

The torture scenes are horribly graphic and almost certainly realistic. (See the entry about Kenya in Wikipedia for the terrible details.) Those scenes make the movie completely unsuitable for children, in my opinion.

The film is still worth seeing because it is based on a true event. Who cannot be moved by an 84-year-old who is determined to read? In addition, the acting by the two principals, Naomie Harris as the teacher Jane Obinchu, and Oliver Litondo as Kimani Manuge is superb.

Although the film will work better on a large screen, it will definitely be worth seeing on DVD as well. Seek it out--it's worth the effort.


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