After days of waiting for its Australian release, I finally saw ‘The First Grader’ directed by Justin Chadwick (director of ‘The Other Boleyn girl’), if you’ve seen his previous films, you’d not expect ‘The First Grader’. The film is a biography of a Kenyan man named Kimani N’gan’ga Maruge, who suffered endlessly under the British colonial rule, and now wants to learn to read at the age of 84, following the Kenyan government’s announcement of free education for all.
The film has a few profound messages – everybody has a right to learn and learning makes us better. Indeed, the film conveys them successfully, with remarkable performances by Oliver Lintondo and Naomi Harris. It touches on many issues faced by the dynamic African country. Some of the prominent ones being corruption, education, discrimination based on tribes and development. Good effort by Chadwick, however, it tends to be predictable owing to the biographical nature of the script. The characters of Jane and Maruge have been laid out at the beginning of the film, and follow the audience’s expectation. As a foreign viewer, I can only comment on cinematic quality of the film, but I am sure Kenyans might see it differently, would like to get some wider perspective.
Prior to the screening, the theatre ran a few trailers (which I thoroughly enjoy, honest). ‘Wasteland‘ was one of the trailers that caught my attention. It’s a story about Vik Muniz, a contemporary artist who decided to create garbage in to art, literally and attempts to help a group of scavengers living in Jardim Gramacho, the biggest landfill located in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The film won awards at Seattle, Berlin and Sao Paulo Film Festivals. The film is made by directors Lucy Walker.
What never ceases to amaze me is the powerful stories film makers like Lucy Walker, Chadwick and many more choose to narrate through their scripts. Cinema and development have never shared a closer relationship. Ground breaking documentaries find their way into the commercial space, all thanks to affordable and efficient technology. Another masterpiece that I have been waiting for – An African Election. The film is an account of the 2008 Ghanian elections, something that I fortunately witnessed, and a cinematic experience would only help me relive it!