Entries in Jane Obinchu (5)


Videovision's "The First Grader" Star is New Bond Girl

SKYFALL - 23rd film in the James Bond Franchise

Naomie HarrisNaomie Harris
Photo : Kerry Brown
The star of the Videovision Entertainment’s The First Grader, Naomie Harris, who plays the lead role of Jane Obinchu in the multi award-winning film, has been cast in the new James Bond film, Skyfall, the 23rd film in the James Bond franchise. Harris will play one of the most famous and memorable roles of the Bond franchise, that of Miss Moneypenny. Harris, who gives a powerful performance in The First Grader, won the Best Actress Award at the Kenyan International Film Festival last week for her role in the film. She has also received international acclaim for this role at leading film festivals including Telluride, Toronto, London, Tribeca Doha and a host of others.

The First Grader, which has a strong South African association with Videovision Entertainment being one of the co-production partners as well as featuring well-known South African actors Vusi Kunene, Tony Kgoroge, Israel Makoe and Shoki Mokgapa, is written by South African born Emmy winner, Ann Peacock.

Last week, The First Grader scooped the main prizes at the Kenyan International Film Festival, winning the Best Actor (Oliver Litondo), Best Actress (Naomie Harris) and Best Film Awards. Among the awards the film has received are The DGB Trade Union Award - Audience Choice and The Bernhard Wicki Award - Best Film at the Emden International Film Festival; the Audience Award: Best Feature Film and Director’s Choice Award: Best Feature Film at the Sedona International Film Festival; the Audience Award at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and the Pan African Film Festival; Best Film at the Palm Beach Film Festival and was runner-up to The King’s Speech for the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the Audience Prize at the Durban International Film Festival. Music Composer, Alex Heffes, won the Discovery of the Year prize for his work on The First Grader at the 2011 World Soundtrack Awards held at the 38th Ghent International Film Festival.

The First Grader is currently on release in South Africa and is scheduled to be released in Kenya and the rest of East Africa and West Africa in December 2011.

The First Grader is a BBC Films and UK Film Council production in association with Videovision Entertainment, Lipsync and ARTE France. It is a Sixth Sense / Origin Pictures production directed by Justin Chadwick and stars Naomie Harris, Oliver Litondo, Vusi Kunene, Tony Kgoroge and Israel Makoe. It is written by Ann Peacock, produced by David M. Thompson, Sam Feuer and Richard Harding and executive produced by Anant Singh, Helena Spring, Joe Oppeheimer and Norman Merry.


The First Grader US Release May 13, 2011

National Geographic Entertainment

The First Grader will be released in the United States on May 13, 2011 by National Geographic Entertainment. The film will be launched in New York and Los Angeles and then expanded to other US cities in the forthcoming weeks. The First Grader, based on a true story, is set in a remote primary school in the Kenyan bush where hundreds of children are jostling for a chance for the free education promised by the new Kenyan government. One new applicant causes astonishment when he knocks on the door of the school. He is Maruge, an old Mau Mau veteran in his eighties, who is desperate to learn to read at this late stage of his life. He fought for the liberation of his country and now feels he must have the chance of an education so long denied - even if it means sitting in a classroom alongside six-year-olds.

Moved by his passionate plea, head teacher Jane Obinchu, supports his struggle to gain admission and together they face fierce opposition from parents and officials who don’t want to waste a precious school place on such an old man.

The First Grader has been a hit at prestigious international film festivals since its debut at the Telluride Film Festival last September. The film went on to the Toronto Film Festival where it was the runner up for the Audience Prize and then to the Doha and Pan African Film Festivals where it won the coveted Audience Prize. The First Grader trailer can be viewed at here.

The First Grader is an uplifting true story which realistically portrays the triumph the human spirit against all odds. We urge you to go watch the film and also tell your friends about the film. Hereunder is a list of US cities and theaters at which The First Grader will be playing :

MAY 13, 2011
New York The Beekman

Angelika Film Center
Los Angeles Landmark
May 20, 2011
Atlanta Tara Cinemas 4
Boston Kendall Square 9
Chicago Century Center 7

Renaissance Place Cinema
Dallas Landmark Magnolia Pictures
Houston Greenway Palace Stadium 24
Los Angeles Westpark 8
Philadelphia Ritz 5
San Diego La Jolla Village 4
San Francisco Embarcadero 5
Washington DC Shirlington 7

Bethesda Row
May 27, 2011
Albuquerque Devargas Mall Cinema 6
Austin Arbor Cinemas at Great Hills
Charlotte Regal Cinemas Manor Twin
Dallas Angelika Film Center & Café
Detroit Maple Art 3
Indianapolis Keystone Art
Kansas City Glenwood Arts
Knoxville Regal Downtown West Cinema 8
Los Angeles Playhouse 7

Town Center 5
Minneapolis Edina
New York Cinema 100 Quad

Clairidge 6

Roslyn 4
Phoenix Camelview 5
Portland Fox Tower Stadium 10
Salt Lake City Broadway Centre 6
San Francisco Shattuck 10
Seattle Metro Cinema
St. Louis Plaza Frontenac

London Film Festival 2010 Round-Up

The First Grader

Philip Concannon - Phil on Film

This is conventional, tick-the-boxes filmmaking and you can predict its narrative arc from frame one, but The First Grader is a solid crowd-pleaser nonetheless. It’s based on the true story of Kimani N’gan’ga Maruge (Oliver Litondo), an 84 year-old who turned up at a local school one day when the new Kenyan government announced free education for all. Undeterred by the teachers’ insistence that the offer is aimed only at children, Maruge stubbornly turns up at the school gates every day, dressed in uniform and clutching his pad and pencil, until sympathetic teacher Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) final relents and allows him to join her class. What follows is a fairly standard tale of inspirational uplift and the desire for education, but director Justin Chadwick also includes some surprisingly dark and violent scenes from Maruge’s freedom fighter past, which are jarring against the generally upbeat images of happy African kids running around in slow motion. The First Grader certainly looks smart thanks to Rob Hardy’s strong cinematography, but the film is really grounded by its two leads. Naomie Harris gives a sensitive and appealing performance, while Oliver Litondo brings a rheumy-eyed dignity to the role of this unlikely hero.


The First Grader pushes All The Right Buttons

The View London Review

By Matthew Turner

An enjoyable feel-good drama that pushes all the right buttons thanks to strong direction and terrific performances from Oliver Litondo and Naomie Harris, though it’s also entirely predictable and some scenes may be too strong for young children.

What’s it all about?

Directed by Justin Chadwick, The First Grader is based on a true story and set in Kenya in 2003. Oliver Litondo stars as 84-year-old village elder and ex-freedom-fighter Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge, who decides to take advantage of a government free primary schooling initiative to gain the education he’s always wanted, prompted by the arrival of an important letter from the government that he’s unable to read.

Maruge duly presents himself at the gate of a school run by kindly Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) and her assistant Alfred (Alfred Munyua). After some initial resistance (Alfred insists Maruge must have a school uniform; Maruge turns up the next day in shorts, long socks and a shirt and tie), he’s allowed to join the school but his presence causes local and later national unrest, with seemingly only Jane prepared to fight his corner.

The Good

Oliver Litondo is superb, delivering a performance that is dignified, determined and quietly moving, while radiating warmth and humanity; his interactions with the children (especially a lame little girl and a boy who’s bullied by his strict father) are amongst the film’s highlights. Naomie Harris is equally good as Jane, generating strong chemistry with both Litondo and the children.

Chadwick’s direction is assured throughout, particularly during the schoolroom scenes, which have an authentic feel thanks to the use of a real school and its pupils. There’s also a lot of humour in the film, though some of the jokes are a little dodgy, for example a scene where Jane asks Maruge how he managed to control the kids and he replies that he threatened them with his stick, which would be a lot funnier if we hadn’t already seen Maruge use his stick to break up two fighting pupils in an earlier scene.

The Bad

The main problem with the film is that it’s relentlessly predictable from beginning to end, to the point that every scene unfolds exactly as you’d expect. In addition, the brutal flashback sequences (to Maruge being tortured by the British in the 1960’s) may prove too strong for younger viewers.

Worth seeing?

This is a well-made feel-good drama that makes up for its predictability with strong direction, an emotionally engaging script and terrific performances from its two leads. Worth seeing.


US Theatrical Distribution For First Grader

National Geographic Entertainment

By Brian Brooks - indiWIRE

Director Justin Chadwick’s “The First Grader” has been picked up by National Geographic Entertainment for U.S. theatrical distribution. The true tale about an 84-year-old Kenyan’s battle for an education screened at the recent Toronto and Telluride film festivals. It was a runner-up for the Toronto fest’s “People’s Choice Award.”

“The First Grader” tells the true story of Maruge (Oliver Musila Litondo), an old Mau Mau rebel in his eighties, who knocks on the door of a bush primary school, seeking the free education promised by the Kenyan government to everyone. Maruge fought for Kenya’s liberation and now feels he has earned the chance of the education he was denied for so long - even if it means sitting in a first-grade classroom with six-year-olds. The teacher Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) supports Maruge’s struggle, and together they face the opposition from parents and officials who think it’s a waste educating this old man. Through his fight to learn how to read, Maruge and his teacher embark on a journey for a better future for himself and his country.

When I saw ‘The First Grader,’ I knew immediately that National Geographic should acquire it,” commented Daniel Battsek, president of National Geographic Films in a statement. “It’s not only about historic political events, but it tells a personal story with great warmth and humor. ‘The First Grader’ made Telluride and Toronto audiences laugh and cry, but it also made them think about the power of learning.”

Anant Singh at Distant Horizon, which co-financed the film, handled the domestic sale of “The First Grader;” Penny Wolf, at Goldcrest International, is handling international sales.

“The First Grader” is the latest in a string of major acquisitions for NGE including, “Restrepo,” the Everest adventure “The Wildest Dream,” and the upcoming “Desert Flower,” “Flying Monsters 3D” and “Blue Man Group: Mind Blast.”