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The First Grader (12A)

Biography, Drama

The true story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.

More information on this production is available at

The critical consensus

The First Grader pulls few punches in terms of its negative portrayal of British colonialism, but swathes its politics in bland, feel-good emotion that waters down its criticism.

**(*)(*)(*)Eddie Harrison, The List, 23/05/2011

When you go to the movies it shouldn’t feel like there’ll be a test afterwards.

***(*)(*)Neil Smith, Total Film, 13/06/2011

An amazing tru-life story that's Hollywoodised within an inch of its life. A missed opportunity for something really special.

***(*)(*)Ian Freer, Empire Online, 20/06/2011

The subject matter is thought-provoking and inspiring and the performances from young and old alike are A-grade.

***(*)(*)Henry Fitzherbert, Daily Express, 23/06/2011

The First Grader is a film that appeals and involves even during its stodgiest moments.

***(*)(*)Sukhdev Sandhu, The Telegraph, 23/06/2011

Feels like a good movie to show teens at school; it’s educational and inspiring, but dramatically plodding.

***(*)(*)Georgie Hobbs, Little White Lies, 23/06/2011

Despite committed performances and striking photography, this earnest and well- meaning – but ultimately tepid – real-life story should find its proper home on Sunday night telly soon enough.

**(*)(*)(*)Paul Greenwood, Evening Times, 23/06/2011

A true story from Kenya has unfortunately become a slightly hackneyed and insipid feelgood movie.

**(*)(*)(*)Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 23/06/2011

Some films are made for all the right reasons and still cause you to grind your teeth.

**(*)(*)(*)Anthony Quinn, The Independent, 24/06/2011

This excessively tedious and predictable heart-tugger is the kind of simplistic middlebrow film that gives quality drama a bad name.

**(*)(*)(*)Alistair Harkness, The Scotsman, 25/06/2011

However laudable and well intended its inclusion, this is too elaborate a piece of history to handle in beautifully shot flashbacks, and it sits uneasily with the inspirational classroom scenes.

Jason Solomons, The Observer, 26/06/2011

Considering how colourful the film's real Kenyan landscapes and songs are, it's a shame that a shiny veneer of Hollywood contrivance has been slapped on top of them.

Nicholas Barber, The Independent on Sunday, 26/06/2011

There’s not enough in the story to justify the 98-minute running time, and Chadwick could have balanced history and the present better, but a rich, rewarding picture for all that.

***(*)(*)The Herald, 30/06/2011

Features about The First Grader (12A)

The soldier who fought for the right to go to school in Kenya

Tracy McVeigh, The Observer, 19/06/2011

Film preview: The First Grader

Stephen Applebaum, The Scotsman, 23/06/2011

Where and when?

General release. Check local listings for show times.

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