The First Grader
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In a small, remote mountain top primary school in the Kenyan bush, hundreds of children are jostling for a chance for the free education newly promised by the Kenyan government. One new applicant causes astonishment when he knocks on the door of the school. He is Maruge (Oliver Litondo), 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… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 59%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"It's funny how 'real life' sometimes conforms so closely to hackneyed patterns of screenwriting."
‑ Dave Calhoun, Time Out
"The story is uplifting in a predictably pro-education, antiwar, feel-good way, warmth and humor balancing the heavy moments."
‑ Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"An earnest "true story" that hits many of the expected importance-of- education grace notes, but never quite achieves a lump-in-your-throat reaction"
‑ Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
"With the melodrama cranked up as high as it is, it's hard to believe this was a true story."
‑ Andreas Heinemann,
"Learning never ends is the message of this inspiring true story set in Kenya in which an 84 year old villager joins local primary students in a bid to learn how to read. It's a great story"
‑ Louise Keller, Urban Cinefile
"The First Grader is every bit as inspiring and heart-warming as you'd expect."
‑ Tom Long, Detroit News
"Stow your cynicism and give this lesson in continuing education the response it deserves -- more than a polite clap, maybe even a sitting ovation."
‑ Rick Groen, Globe and Mail
"achieves a poignant, humanist sincerity"
‑ Jay Antani, Cinema Writer
"An uplifting, romanticised and gently-paced film infused with the dry beauty of the Kenyan landscape and powered by the moist-eyed performance of Oliver Litondo in the title role"
‑ Simon Weaving, Screenwize
"A pass mark, just, for preachy African melodrama."
‑ Don Groves,
"The filmmaking is ... uneven, filled with charming picture-postcard scenes of smiling children and African sunshine that seem crafted for a different film than one with moments of horrific flashbacks."
‑ Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times
"It's a middle-of-the-road film."
‑ Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post
"The First Grader is a self-congratulatory and subtlety-free slog that makes saints of its protagonists, devils out of its antagonists and narcoleptics out of its audience."
‑ Simon Miraudo, Quickflix
"Based on real events, The First Grader is a unique blend of uplifting self determination and harrowing conflict"
‑ Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile
"Director Justin Chadwick's film is sort of corny, not surprisingly, but it is inspiring and full of real feeling at times."
‑ Rob Thomas, Capital Times (Madison, WI)
More reviews for The First Grader on Rotten Tomatoes