Screened as part of NZIFF 2011

The First Grader 2010

Directed by Justin Chadwick

The right to education is rousingly dramatised in the true story of an 84-year-old Mau Mau veteran’s bid for literacy. “An unknown story seems certain to stir the hearts of audiences worldwide.” — Hollywood Reporter

UK In English and Kikuyu with English subtitles
120 minutes CinemaScope



Richard Harding
Sam Feuer
David M. Thompson


Ann Peacock


Rob Hardy


Paul Knight

Production designer

Vittoria Sogno

Costume designer

Sophie Oprisano


Alex Heffes


Naomie Harris (Jane Obinchu)
Oliver Musila Litondo (Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge)
Tony Kgoroge (Charles Obinchu)
Alfred Munyua (teacher Alfred)
Shoki Mokgapa (teacher Elizabeth)
Vusumuzi Michael Kunene (Mr Kipruto)
Agnes Simaloi (Agnes)


Toronto, London 2010


“Set in Kenya in 2003, The First Grader is the story of Maruge, an 84-year-old village elder who uses a government initiative to introduce free primary schooling to claim the education he has always craved. A former Mau Mau fighter, Maruge’s desire to learn to read and write has been sparked by the arrival of an important letter from the government. However, when he presents himself at the local school gates, he finds head teacher Jane alone in being sympathetic to his cause: her colleagues are unenthusiastic and her superiors appalled... Shooting in the stunning Kenyan Rift Valley, and using a real school and its pupils, gives the film an authentic sense of place and community, and the children’s uninhibited, natural performances are a joy to watch. There is humour woven throughout, and a heartwarming affection and mutual respect between the dignified old man and his passionately progressive young teacher.” — Sandra Hebron, London Film Festival