The award-winning film, The First Grader, co-produced by Videovision Entertainment has been nominated for the prestigious Gotham Independent Film Awards coveted Genius Audience Award it was announced in New York last night. The Gotham Independent Film Awards, are held under the auspices of the Independent Filmmaker Project and are selected by distinguished juries and presented in New York, which is acknowledged as the home of independent film. These Awards are the first honours of the film awards season in the run-up to the Academy Awards.
The First Grader which stars Naomie Harris who will star as Miss Moneypenny in the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, also stars Oliver Litondo who plays Maruge, as well as well-known South African actors Vusi Kunene, Tony Kgoroge, Israel Makoe and Shoki Mokgapa. The film is directed by Justin Chadwick and is written by Ann Peacock. It is 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, 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.
Executive producer, Anant Singh commented, “We are delighted with this acknowledgement from our peers in the independent filmmaking community. The First Grader is up against some tough competition and we hope that come 28 November, the film will be announced as the winner of the much sought-after Genius Audience Award.”
The other nominees for the Gotham Festival Genius Audience Award are Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, Buck, Girlfriend, and Wild Horse, Wild Ride. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, Constance Marks’ documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey traces the life and career of Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind Sesame Street’s Elmo. Cindy Meehl’s Buck is a documentary about Buck Brannaman, the man who inspired the book The Horse Whisperer and the ensuing Robert Redford-directed movie. Justin Lerner’s Girlfriend revolves around a young man with Down’s Syndrome who financially assists his object of desire, a woman stuck in an abusive relationship. Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus’ documentary Wild Horse, Wild Ride follows the physical and emotional voyage of wild horses transported from public lands to horse adoption auctions.
The First Grader is currently on release in South Africa and is scheduled to be released in Kenya and the rest of East Africa and West Africa in December 2011.
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.