The First Grader (2010)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  24 June 2011 (Ireland)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.4/10 from 2,830 users   Metascore: 56/100
Reviews: 17 user | 67 critic | 21 from

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



Watch Trailer
0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video

16 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

Director: Justin Chadwick
Stars: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A young, aspiring actor from upcountry Kenya dreams of becoming a success in the big city. In pursuit of this and to the chagrin of his brother and parents, he makes his way to Nairobi:the city of opportunity.

Director: David 'Tosh' Gitonga
Stars: Joseph Wairimu, Olwenya Maina, Nancy Wanjiku Karanja
Sometimes in April (TV Movie 2005)
Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Debra Winger, Oris Erhuero and Idris Elba star in this drama framed by the Rwandan genocide.

Director: Raoul Peck
Stars: Idris Elba, Carole Karemera, Pamela Nomvete
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A touching mother-daughter relationship that reflects the modern South Africa.

Director: Oliver Schmitz
Stars: Khomotso Manyaka, Keaobaka Makanyane, Harriet Lenabe
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

Duncan navigates the unsteady world of romance and relationships, going through five girlfriends in four years. Unfortunately, none of them turn out well.

Director: Julian Kemp
Stars: Brendan Patricks, Naomie Harris, Kelly Adams
Borom sarret (1969)
Short | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Boron Sarret is arguably the first film made by a black African. It illustrates poverty in Senegal, particularly for the working man

Director: Ousmane Sembene
Stars: Ly Abdoulay, Albourah
Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

In April 1994, after the airplane of the Hutu President of Rwanda is shot down, the Hutu militias slaughter the Tutsi population. In the Ecole Technique Officielle, the Catholic priest ... See full summary »

Director: Michael Caton-Jones
Stars: John Hurt, Hugh Dancy, Dominique Horwitz
Short | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Director: Lucy Tcherniak
Stars: Oliver Litondo, Raif Clarke, Andrew Lee Potts
Mr. Pip (2012)
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

As a war rages on in the province of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, a young girl becomes transfixed by the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations, which is being read at school by the only white man in the village.

Director: Andrew Adamson
Stars: Hugh Laurie, Xzannjah Matsi, Healesville Joel
Something the Lord Made (TV Movie 2004)
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A dramatization of the relationship between heart surgery pioneers Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas.

Director: Joseph Sargent
Stars: Alan Rickman, Yasiin Bey, Kyra Sedgwick
Dream India (2012)
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

A visually beautiful documentation of Steven's four-month journey through India back in 2011, which showcases the incredible efforts of several Indian NGOs in creating hope and a future for those children most in need.

Director: Steven Keen
Short | Adventure | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Former child slave, James Kofi Annan, braves all the odds and rises to become one of the leading anti-child slavery activists of our time.

Director: Steven Keen
Stars: Stephen Nsiembe, Salima Abu, James Kofi Annan


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 ...
Kamau Mbaya ...
Kamau Chege
Emily Njoki ...
Young Maruge's Wife
Lwanda Jawar ...
Dan 'Churchill' Ndambuki ...
DJ Masha (as Daniel Ndambuki 'Churchill')
Hannah Wacera ...
Maruge's Daughter
John Kimani ...
Maruge's Baby Son
Macharia Kamau ...
Abubakar Mwenda ...


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


It's never too late to dream.


Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:




| |


Release Date:

24 June 2011 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

Az iskolakezdő  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$20,437 (USA) (13 May 2011)


$330,533 (USA) (29 July 2011)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


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 »


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.
See more »

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 »


Featured in Breakfast: Episode dated 20 June 2011 (2011) See more »


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.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A fine film, but not a feel-good movie for kids
8 June 2011 | by (Upstate New York) – 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.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Why didn't he just go to the adult school? thesurf842
Tissues, please.... anubis-45
Oscar chances? bettestreep2004
Name of the Song Near End of the Trailer? action_jackson_0178
Casting caggiegc
BFI London Film Festival: The First Grader Review matthew-groizard
Discuss The First Grader (2010) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: