Entries in Toronto Film Festival (8)


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

Awards - The people have spoken.

TIFF People’s Choice Awards

The Calgary Herald

The winner of the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is Tom Hooper’s lighthearted royal drama The King’s Speech.

It chronicles the efforts of King George VI (Colin Firth) to rid himself of a chronic stutter, aided by an unorthodox Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush).

The runner-up for the People’s Choice Award was Justin Chadwick’s The First Grader. Based on a true story, it follows an uneducated 84-year-old Kenyan man who learned his government was offering free primary education and showed up on the first day, ready to learn.


Positive Response to The First Grader

Toronto International Film Festival

Movie City News KV Tweets from China Town, Toronto :

“Hearing very positive response to The First Grader, both from Telluride and here, so going to try catch it.”


The Story behind the Film... Amazing!

Toronto International Film Festival

Didiseeyouthere tweets from Toronto :

The story behind the film The First Grader is almost as good as the film. Amazing!


First Grader : Moving, Beautiful, Inspirational

Toronto International Film Festival

In a TIFF Review : “The First Grader was moving, beautiful and inspirational. Crowd got to it’s feet for Oliver Litondo’s portrayal of Maruge.”

I tend to cry during the festival. Movies that might normally get a sniffle or induce a slight redness of the eyes under normal circumstances at TIFF have me bawling uncontrollably. I don’t know if it the energy of the crowd, or just the festival-induced fatigue that lowers my emotional walls to the point where I’m getting weeping along with the battle-scarred directors in Every Little Step watching Jason Tam’s audition.

So I thought I was ready heading in to The First Grader - at least I thought I knew what to expect. The ten-second summary is “an 84 year old man enrolls in primary school after the Kenyan government announces there will be free education for all”. So I figured that I would see some adorable children, a lovable earnest teacher and some flashbacks to the war-torn past that would culminate in an uplifting story of how the human spirit can overcome adversity. We get all of that, but we also get so much more. I can barely write this as some of the images from the film continue to haunt me - as they should. In the film over and over again we hear the argument repeated that children are the future and precious resources should not be wasted on an old man’s education - but the story of the old man is a vital missing piece in the curriculum. In an effort to move past the tribalism and retribution they turned away from learning about the history that shaped what their nation had become.

Two performances stand out - Lwanda Jawar as the young Maruge has almost no dialogue but in the flashbacks he is so intense you don’t need to hear him speak at all. The love for his wife and family, his dedication to his oath and ultimately his pain during his captivity is clearly visible in a gaze that burns through the lens. Oliver Litondo as the older Maruge gives the best performance I have seen in years. I can’t compare it to anything I have seen - I can only say that it was amazing, and in the screening I saw more than half of the crowd got to it’s feet as Litondo came to the stage.

If you have a chance to see this movie, do it. Bring Kleenex, but do it.