8:00 PM, 4th April, 2012
When the Kenyan government decided to make elementary schooling universal and free in 2003, they got a most unusual applicant. Kimani Maruge was 84 years old when he enrolled in primary school, entering the first grade on January 12, 2004.
Justin Chadwick's heart-warming film The First Grader is a celebration of the right to education. While many of his peers and authority figures treat him with scorn and are convinced he is abusing the education system, Maruge (Litondo) perseveres and attains the schooling he is convinced nobody should be without.
The British-produced film is shot in Kenya's Rift Valley, a choice made after earlier reports that it would be shot in South Africa. Chadwick attributes this change of heart to an intense and vibrant energy in the country, evident in the children and people the crew came into contact with. This energy is in abundance within the film itself, with the infectious smiles and laughter of Maruge's classmates being a particular highlight.
The real Maruge died in 2009, having attended the 2005 United Nations Millennium Development Summit to espouse the value and essential need for education around the world. Chadwick's uplifting film is a testament to his tale and carries his message into the future. A great feel-good movie.