Watch The First Grader
- 1 hr 45 min
In the heartwarming drama film The First Grader, directed by Justin Chadwick, audiences are transported to a small, impoverished village in Kenya where an eighty-four-year-old man named Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge (Oliver Litondo) has just enrolled in primary school. Unwilling to let his age hold him back any longer, Maruge wants to take advantage of the Kenyan government's offer to provide free education for all primary school-aged children, including adults who never had the opportunity to go to school when they were younger. Maruge's decision to go to school is met with mixed reactions from the community. While some celebrate his determination, others view his enrollment as a waste of resources that should be used for younger students. The school's headmaster, Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris), is initially skeptical of admitting Maruge into her classroom but soon becomes impressed by his enthusiasm and work ethic. As Maruge navigates the challenges of being the oldest student in his class, he is haunted by flashbacks of his traumatic experiences during the Mau Mau Uprising in the 1950s. He reluctantly shares his story with his fellow classmates, who are moved by his bravery and resilience. Meanwhile, tensions in the village begin to rise as a local politician (Tony Kgoroge) seeks to profit off the government's education initiative by obtaining land that the school is built on. Maruge becomes embroiled in the political conflict when he starts speaking out against the politician's corrupt tactics, putting himself, his classmates, and the school in danger. The First Grader is a poignant exploration of the transformative power of education and how it can bring hope, healing, and empowerment to individuals and communities. The film sheds light on the persistent inequalities in access to education, particularly in developing countries, and the societal attitudes that perpetuate them. Oliver Litondo delivers a standout performance as Maruge, imbuing the character with a quiet dignity and determination that inspire both admiration and empathy. Naomie Harris adds depth and nuance to her portrayal of Jane, highlighting the complexities of balancing duty with compassion. Tony Kgoroge plays the role of the villain effectively, bringing a palpable sense of threat to the film's climax. The supporting cast, made up of local Kenyan actors, adds authenticity and depth to the film's portrayal of the community. The film's cinematography captures the stunning beauty of the Kenyan landscape while also highlighting the stark contrasts of wealth and poverty. The score by composer Alex Heffes complements the visuals with a mix of traditional African music and Western orchestral arrangements. Overall, The First Grader is a heartwarming and thought-provoking film that celebrates the human spirit and the transformative power of education. It offers a fresh perspective on issues of access to education and highlights the importance of addressing these inequalities to empower individuals and communities.