African film wins best narrative prize

2010-11-06 00:00

THE First Grader, a South Africa-Kenya co-production, has won the audience prize for best narrative film at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

The award was presented to director Justin Chadwick and the team by actor Robert De Niro.

In attendance were the leads, Kenyan star Oliver Litondo and Naomie Harris; producer David M. Thompson and executive producer Anant Singh of Durban-based Videovision Entertainment.

The First Grader has been a hit with audiences since its screening at the Telluride, Toronto and London Film Festivals in September and was the audience prize runner-up at the Toronto Film Festival.

Commenting on the win, Singh said: “This accolade is further recognition for The First Grader … the film is a heart-warming, inspirational film and we are confident that it will achieve many more awards.”

The First Grader, which will be released in South Africa early next year, is based on a true story.

Set in a remote primary school in the Kenyan bush, where hundreds of children are jostling for a chance for the free education promised by the new Kenyan government, one new applicant causes astonishment when he knocks on the door of the school.

He is Maruge, an old Mau Mau veteran in his eighties, who is desperate to learn to read at this late stage of his life — even if it means sitting in a classroom alongside six-year-olds.

Moved by his passionate plea, head teacher Jane Obinchu supports his struggle to gain admission and together they face fierce opposition from parents and officials who don’t want to waste a precious school place on such an old man.

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