Oliver Litondo who plays the tenacious, 83 year old Maruge in the award-winning movie, The First Grader which is co-produced by Videovision Entertainment, won the Best Actor Award from the Black Critics Circle it was announced last night. Founded in 2010, the Black Critics Circle is comprised of film critics of colour who write for daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines, radio, television and qualifying on-line publications in the United States.
The film has also received recognition last night with the song “Keep On Walking” from The First Grader being short-listed by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for the Original Song category of the 84th Academy Awards. Nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 24 January 2012. The song was composed by Alex Heffes who won the Discovery of the Year prize for his work on The First Grader at the 2011 World Soundtrack Awards at the 38th Ghent International Film Festival in October.
Executive Producer, Anant Singh commented, “Oliver’s performance in The First Grader was really powerful and the Best Actor Award from the Black Critics Circle is well deserved. Music Composer, Alex Heffes is an amazing musical talent whose work in the film was outstanding. We are thrilled with the accolades that The First Grader continues to receive and we hope that the film continues this success at the Oscars. ”
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 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.