- Title: KENYA: Film about world's oldest school boy premieres in Kenya
- Date: 16th June 2011
- Summary: NAIROBI, KENYA (JUNE 14, 2011) (REUTERS) THE FIRST GRADER POSTER AT OFFICIAL KENYA PREMIERE PREMIERE ATTENDEES (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID THOMSON, THE FIRST GRADER PRODUCER, SAYING: "People have seemed to have really enjoyed the film tonight, it obviously touches a very emotional core because the Maruge story is very important to people in Kenya. It seems they have been very moved, and charmed by the film and really engrossed by it so we had a really strong reacting tonight, which is really exciting." PICTURE OF OLIVER LITONDO ON POSTER
- Embargoed: 1st July 2011 13:00
- Location: Kenya, Kenya
- Country: Kenya
- Reuters ID: LVAC2G10P0JCDIAW0LVIVJCAUO98
- Story Text: In what appears like just another primary school in Kenya's Rift Valley province, some 400 pupils from the Kisames village gathered on Monday (June 13) to watch a screening of "The First Grader", a film most of them acted.
The First Grader, shot in and around the Oloserian Academy recounts some of the major events of the life of ex Mau Mau fighter Kimani Maruge who at the age of 84 was determined to seek basic education and became the world's oldest school boy.
The film was screened in one of the Academy's classrooms -- 'Classroom 7', where all the scenes showing Maruge's education were shot.
Director of the film, Justin Chadwick said that audiences worldwide were wowed by the school children's raw and natural performances.
"All those children were part of his film, and I came in and spent time here, and adapted the characters I saw in front of me and how they were in the playground to the characters in the film, so it's really their film," said Chadwick.
The kids giggled, screamed and clapped whenever they saw themselves on screen.
Thirteen-year old Sammy Muyoma described how exhilarating it was to act in film for the first time.
"It was a wonderful movie, and even somebody from far will see it, not only in our country. Even we will be famous, yes," said Muyoma.
The multi-layered character of Maruge, who fought for Kenyan independence from the British in the 1950s and for his right to basic education in the 21st century was a thrill to play for actor Oliver Litondo.
The 63-year old Kenyan who in this production, appeared for his first major international cinematic lead role said he was honoured to interpret the life of a man who was so critical to education in Kenya and abroad.
"I tried my best. He is a challenging character, he is an inspiring character, he is a model to a lot of people in Kenya," said Litondo.
Oloserian Academy head teacher, Catherine Mbirua who following the screening led her pupils in songs that were used as part of the film's soundtrack, said that the film's production process, just like Kimani Maruge himself had inspired more children to come to school.
Since filming began in 2009, the Oloserian Academy began to receive donations such as a water tank, a backpacks.
"We are able to see that even more children are coming to school, so it is a very good experience. It has opened many very many doors for us," said Mbirua.
The following night, in one of the capital's prestigious malls, The First Grader was premiered to government officials, film industry members, cast, crew and ordinary Nairobi citizens.
The film's producer, David Thomson, who said having the majority of the film's production team as Kenyan was key to it's success, was thrilled by the local response.
"People have seemed to have really enjoyed the film tonight, it obviously touches a very emotional core because the Maruge story is very important to people in Kenya. It seems they have been very moved, and charmed by the film and really engrossed by it so we had a really strong reacting tonight, which is really exciting," said Thomson.
Local filmmakers and industry members have praised the First Grader's production approach in which only nine foreigners were flown in.
With the majority of the cast and crew being Kenyan, they are convinced that the film will help put the East African country on the international film circuit.
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