Director Justin Chadwick’s “The First Grader” has been picked up by National Geographic Entertainment for U.S. theatrical distribution. The true tale about an 84-year-old Kenyan’s battle for an education screened at the recent Toronto and Telluride film festivals. It was a runner-up for the Toronto fest’s “People’s Choice Award.”
“The First Grader” tells the true story of Maruge (Oliver Musila Litondo), an old Mau Mau rebel in his eighties, who knocks on the door of a bush primary school, seeking the free education promised by the Kenyan government to everyone. Maruge fought for Kenya’s liberation and now feels he has earned the chance of the education he was denied for so long — even if it means sitting in a first-grade classroom with six-year-olds. The teacher Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) supports Maruge’s struggle, and together they face the opposition from parents and officials who think it’s a waste educating this old man. Through his fight to learn how to read, Maruge and his teacher embark on a journey for a better future for himself and his country.
“When I saw ‘The First Grader,’ I knew immediately that National Geographic should acquire it,” commented Daniel Battsek, president of National Geographic Films in a statement. “It’s not only about historic political events, but it tells a personal story with great warmth and humor. ‘The First Grader’ made Telluride and Toronto audiences laugh and cry, but it also made them think about the power of learning.”
Anant Singh at Distant Horizon, which co-financed the film, handled the domestic sale of “The First Grader;” Penny Wolf, at Goldcrest International, is handling international sales.
“The First Grader” is the latest in a string of major acquisitions for NGE including, “Restrepo,” the Everest adventure “The Wildest Dream,” and the upcoming “Desert Flower,” “Flying Monsters 3D” and “Blue Man Group: Mind Blast.”