The First Grader, produced by Durban based, Videovision Entertainment, won the coveted Audience Award at the 32nd Durban International Film Festival it was announced last night at the Festival’s awards ceremony. The film had its South African premiere last Sunday (24 July) at the Festival with actors Oliver Litondo and Tony Kgoroge, producer, Anant Singh and Guest Of Honour, Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile in attendance.
The Audience Award at the Durban International Film Festival is further recognition for The First Grader which has won awards at top international films since it debuted at the Telluride Film Festival. Among the awards won by The First Grader are: The DGB Trade Union Award – Audience Choice and The Bernhard Wicki Award – Best Film at the Emden International Film Festival; the Audience Award: Best Feature Film and Director’s Choice Award: Best Feature Film at the Sedona International Film Festival; the Audience Award at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and the Pan African Film Festival; Best Film at the Palm Beach Film Festival and was runner-up to The King’s Speech for the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The First Grader has also received endorsements from former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan and Whoopi Goldberg. Annan said, “The First Grader is inspirational and proves the old adage that one is never too old to learn,” while Goldberg commented, “A great movie. Brilliantly done. Fantastic ! Run – do not walk – and go see this film.”
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.
“We are delighted that that audience once again reacted so positively, especially at the premiere screening at the Durban International Film Festival,” said Anant Singh. “We are delighted to have launched the film at the Festival and to continue our association and support for the Festival for the 25 years” added Singh.
Director, Justin Chadwick commented, “Winning the Audience Award in Durban is brilliant news, especially for its forthcoming opening in South Africa. Wish I was there to share in this excitement.”
The First Grader will be released at cinemas nationally on 23 September 2011 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.