Rent The First Grader (2010)

3.9 of 5 from 73 ratings
1h 38min
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When the Kenyan government promises free education for all, 84 year-old Mange (Oliver Litondo) makes his way to a remote primary school in the Kenyan bush to get himself the education he has always been denied. A former Mau Mau warrior fifty years earlier he fought for the liberation of his country and now he must fight for his right to learn to read and write in a class of six-year-olds.
, , , Alfred Munyua, , , Agnes Simaloi, Kamau Mbaya, Emily Njoki, , Dan 'Churchill' Ndambuki, Hannah Wacera, John Kimani, Macharia Kamau, , Tom Gitau, Watson Mbirua, Shadrack Murimi Gachuhi, Mwenga Matilika, Kathyline Ndogori
Sam Feuer, Richard Harding, David M. Thompson
Ann Peacock
Soda Pictures
British Films, Drama
Release Date:
Run Time:
98 minutes
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 2.35:1
  • Making the first grader: Including interviews with Naomie Harris and the man who inspired the true story, Maruge
  • What happened next: Maruge's journey to the UN with actionaid

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Reviews (2) of The First Grader

Inspiring - The First Grader review by NG

Spoiler Alert

True story set in Kenya about a man who had fought against the evils of the British empire who years later tries to fight against the odds to learn to read and write. Humble story, wonderful acting from all the actors and extras. It teaches you that you have to fight for what you believe in and everyone has the right to learn, no matter what your age.

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Could Do Better. - The First Grader review by NC

Spoiler Alert

A well-meaning film, with several ticks in its final report, but one which ultimately left this viewer disappointed - and I can't help deducing it was because it was made by the British, for the British.

English language films have to ensure any lesson is learned by rote. So whenever any poignant bit comes up, so does the orchestra. When the music starts to beat along, you know a highly charged scene is on the way. The flashbacks to the British colonial barbarity inflicted on the Kenyan people, though undeniably shocking, are akin to a teacher telling us "This is how it was. Get it?" There were moments in the film, like brief footnotes, which could have been made into something special: when Maruge has individual contact with one of the children: when there is an attack on the school by the villagers: these moments are allowed to come and go in an unimaginative, undramatic dash.

One piece of history we are taught is that the 'Free Education For All' call that Maruge decides applies to him just as much as any child, has become possible only because of people like him. No-one had a greater right. It is a pity this couldn't have been shown in a more subtle way.

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Critic review

The First Grader review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso

Based on a true story the First Grader is the story of Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge an illiterate 84 year old Kenyan. Kimani learns that his government has promised free education for all and decides to enroll in a local primary school so that he may learn to read and write.

Kimani’s story, as he studies surrounded by children who can not be more than six or seven, is sweet and shocking in many places. Mocked and even physically attacked for his choice to return to school Kimani seems to be outcast by all. Despite this Kimani is determined and eventually is invited to New York to speak on the importance of primary education at a UN conference.

Kimani, in his own school uniform, is somewhat of a pitiful character, whose story, rather than being moving, is not handled very well and becomes a little contrite and obvious. Where Kimani is suspicious of his government and his government are wary of his past as a Mau Mau fighter and newly acquired star status, the movie misses the opportunity to really open up this dark and complex aspect of the narrative. Overall, the movie is very much sugar coated, which distracts from the huge importance and impact of Kimani’s actions.

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