Music Composer, Alex Heffes, won the Discovery of the Year prize for his work on The First Grader at the 2011 World Soundtrack Awards which were announced at the closing event of the 38th Ghent International Film Festival on Saturday, 22 October 2011. The Awards is an initiative of the World Soundtrack Academy which was launched in 2001 by the Ghent Film Festival, is aimed at organizing and overseeing the educational, cultural and professional aspects of the art of film music, including the preservation of the history of the soundtrack and its worldwide promotion.
The Awards event was attended by leading international composers among whom were Gabriel Yared (The Talented Mr. Ripley), Hans Zimmer (Inception), Elliot Goldenthal (Batman Forever), Giorgio Moroder (Scarface), Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now), Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech), Abel Korzeniowski (A Single Man) and Alex Heffes (The First Grader and The Rite).
The Film Composer of the Year award went to Alexandre Desplat (A Better Life, The Burma Conspiracy, The King’s Speech, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2); Hans Zimmer won Best Original Film Score for Inception, Randy Newman won Best Original Song Written for Film for We Belong Together from Toy Story 3 and India’s A.R. Rahman won The Public Choice Award for 127 Hours.
Director of The First Grader, Justin Chadwick said, “This is such brilliant news. Well done to Alex Heffes who created a most superb soundtrack. Winning this prestigious award is well deserved.”
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 currently on release in 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 Israel Makoe. 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.