The Videovision Entertainment co-production, The First Grader won the Best Feature Film Award of the Palm Beach International Film Festival last night. The film, shot in Kenya, is directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) stars Naomie Harris and Oliver Litondo, Vusi Kunene, Tony Kgoroge and David Chege, written by Emmy winner 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.
The First Grader has been a hit at prestigious international film festivals since its debut at the Telluride Film Festival last September and the Toronto Film Festival where it was the runner up for the Audience Prize and the Doha Film Festival where it won the coveted Audience Prize.
“We are thrilled that The First Grader won the Best Feature Film Award at the Palm Beach Film Festival,” said Executive Producer, Anant Singh. “This accolade is further recognition for the film and its uplifting true story which realistically portrays the determination and tenacity of the human spirit against all odds.”
Director, Justin Chadwick commented, “The First Grader tells of a human story of one man’s determination to receive an education. The film clearly sends the message that one is never too old to learn, and I am delighted that the film has won the Best Feature Film Award at the Palm Beach Film Festival.”
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 has been acquired by the theatrical division of National Geographic Films for distribution in the United States where it will be released in May 2011 and will be released in South Africa later this year by Videovision Entertainment through United International Pictures (South Africa).
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.