National Geographic Entertainment (NGE) has acquired the Videovision Entertainment co-production, The First Grader, for distribution in the United States and will release the film theatrically and in all other media. The film which generated positive attention at both the Toronto and Telluride Film Festivals, was the runner-up favorite in ballots cast for the Toronto Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award.
The First Grader tells the true story of Maruge (Oliver Musila Litondo), an old Mau Mau rebel in his eighties, who knocks on the door of a bush primary school, seeking the free education promised by the Kenyan government to everyone. Maruge fought for Kenya’s liberation and now feels he has earned the chance of the education he was denied for so long – even if it means sitting in a first-grade classroom with six-year-olds. The teacher Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) supports Maruge’s struggle, and together they face the opposition from parents and officials who think it’s a waste educating this old man. Through his fight to learn how to read, Maruge and his teacher embark on a journey for a better future for himself and his country.
Daniel Battsek, president of National Geographic Films, says: “When I saw The First Grader, I knew immediately that National Geographic should acquire it. It’s not only about historic political events, but it tells a personal story with great warmth and humor. “‘The First Grader‘ made Telluride and Toronto audiences laugh and cry, but it also made them think about the power of learning.”
Executive producer Anant Singh says: “”We are very excited to be in business with National Geographic. Daniel Battsek has been a friend for many years and, although we received many offers from other companies to acquire The First Grader, we decided to license it to National Geographic in view of Daniel’s passion for the film.”
David Thompson, producer of Origin Pictures, adds: “We are thrilled that National Geographic is going to distribute the film. We believe they are a perfect fit given the strength of their brand and their massive reach across all platforms. They will bring the film to the attention of millions of people. My producing partners Richard Harding and Sam Feuer of Sixth Sense are confident that The First Grader will stir the hearts and imaginations of audiences all over the world as it has already done at Telluride and Toronto.”
The sale of The First Grader was handled by Anant Singh of Videovision Entertainment, the co-financer of the film.
The First Grader is a BBC Films, UK Film Council production in association with Videovision Entertainment, Lip Sync and ARTE France, a Sixth Sense/Origin Pictures production, was directed by Justin Chadwick and written by Ann Peacock. David M. Thompson, Sam Feuer and Richard Harding produced The First Grader, starring Naomie Harris and Oliver Musila Litondo. The executive producers were Anant Singh, Helena Spring, Joe Oppenheimer and Norman Merry with Trevor Ingman co-producer. The director of photography was Rob Hardy, the editor was Paul Knight, and the music was composed by Alex Heffes.
The film will be released at cinemas in South Africa early next year through United International Pictures.