The Videovision Entertainment co-production, The First Grader was the Closing Night film at the Second Doha Tribeca Film Festival last night where it captivated audiences, garnering the Audience Prize for Best Narrative Film. The Award was presented to director, Justin Chadwick and the team by actor, Robert De Niro. Also in attendance were the leads, Kenyan star, Oliver Litondo and Naomie Harris; Producer, David M. Thompson and Executive Producer, Anant Singh.
The First Grader has consistently been a hit with audiences since its screening at the Telluride, Toronto and London Film Festivals in September and was the Audience Prize runner-up at the Toronto Film Festival.
Commenting on the win, Anant Singh said, “We are delighted that The First Grader thrilled to have won the Audience Prize in Doha. This accolade is further recognition for The First Grader which has touched audiences at Telluride and Toronto. The film is a heart-warming, inspirational film and we are confident that it will achieve many more awards.”
The film has been acquired by the theatrical division of National Geographic for distribution in the United States and will be released in South Africa early next year by Videovision Entertainment.
The First Grader, based on a true story, is set in a remote primary school in the Kenyan bush where hundreds of children are jostling for a chance for the free education promised by the new Kenyan government. One new applicant causes astonishment when he knocks on the door of the school. He is Maruge, 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 plea, head teacher Jane Obinchu, supports his struggle to gain admission and together they face fierce opposition from parents and officials who don’t want to waste a precious school place on such an old man.
The First Grader is a BBC Films and UK Film Council production in association with Videovision Entertainment, Lipsync and ARTE France. It is a Sixth Sense / Origin Pictures production directed by Justin Chadwick and stars Naomie Harris, Oliver Litondo, Vusi Kunene, Tony Kgoroge and David Chege. It is written by Ann Peacock, produced by David M. Thompson, Sam Feuer and Richard Harding and executive produced by Anant Singh, Helena Spring, Joe Oppeheimer and Norman Merry.
Images available on Getty Images