THE FIRST GRADER promises something a little special

Judging from the enthusiasm emitting from the talent that I spoke to The First Grader, which had it's London Film Festival Premiere on Tuesday 26th October, is going to be something rather special. Set and filmed in Kenya it tells the inspirational true life story of Maruge, an illiterate 84 year old villager who finally gets an opportunity to for fill his life-long dream to receive an education when a government initiative introduces free primary schooling 'for all'. The First Grader has already received critical acclaim for the performances of its two major leads: Naomie Harris (of 28 Days Later and Pirates of the Caribbean series fame) playing the passionate teacher who warms to the cause of former Mau-Mau fighter Maruge; who is brought to life with heartfelt naturalism by former journalist/sometime actor Oliver Litondo. Director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) has also received praise for turning the potentially cliché ridden 'inspiring teacher' tale into something unique and refreshing. Making use of a real school and its real pupils appears to have positively brushed off on the film; gracing it a rare authenticity "...very natural acting, {the children} believed in everything they were taught..." says Litondo. "...they believed Naomie Harris, was their real teacher, in fact when we finally wrapped up they were sad and said €˜where€™s our teacher going?€™... Justin the director, they loved him so much, he was not so much a director but a part of the community, a part of the kids, a part of the the morning they would come to him and say {to Justin} €˜teacher, teacher€™ to {get him to} mark the books...They contributed immensely to my acting and to the production of the film." For Chadwick the choice of Litondo was instinctual
"I met him and I was like 'he's the man, the kids are going to absolutely love him...such a good, warm-hearted gorgeous man, really articulate about how he saw education...with his own feelings and views and you know all those children just responded to him and that was just them, all those looks...really natural."
Naomie Harris has worked under the helm of such movie maestros as Michael Mann, Danny Boyle and Gore Verbinski butThe First Graderwas an opportunity to take a break from big budget Hollywood movies to try something small and intimate and to continue to work with talent who aren't afraid to push her to her best:
"as a director {Justin's} never going to just let anything go if it€™s not good enough, he wants it to be the best it can possibly be so he really pushes you and challenges you and I love that because I am not happy unless I have done my best either. For me, there€™s no point in doing something if it€™s just good enough. You know it was lovely working with someone who was equally a perfectionist as I am."
Look out for a complete interview report on The First Grader when the film receives its UK release.

Oliver Pfeiffer is a freelance writer who trained at the British Film Institute. He joined OWF in 2007 and now contributes as a Features Writer. Since becoming Obsessed with Film he has interviewed such diverse talents as actors Keanu Reeves, Tobin Bell, Dave Prowse and Naomie Harris, new Hammer Studios Head Simon Oakes and Hollywood filmmakers James Mangold, Scott Derrickson and Uk director Justin Chadwick. Previously he contributed to and has had other articles published in Empire, Hecklerspray, Se7en Magazine, Pop Matters, The Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle and more recently SciFiNow Magazine and The Guardian. He loves anything directed by Cronenberg, Lynch, Weir, Haneke, Herzog, Kubrick and Hitchcock and always has time for Hammer horror films, Ealing comedies and those twisted Giallo movies. His blog is: