The Kimani Maruge's life story themed movie "The First Grader" has evoked much ecstasy among its Kenyans fans ,however there is a twist of irony to the whole affair. The film which featured in this years Toronto Film Festival (September 9-19th) has as part of its cast Hollywood actress Naomi Harris, Sam Feurer, Nick Reding and local media personalities and comedian Daniel Ndambuki, actor Oliver Litondo (playing the Lead Mr Maruge) Emily Njoki, Mumbi Kaigwa among others .
The film featured as a "British Film" whereas much of the cast, the location and the story line is Kenyan.The film was Directed by Justin Chadwick That is the irony -a local story that hardly merited any production venture from our myriads production houses but caught the eyes of our former colonial masters hence being retold by foreigners.
While ultimately this story of resilience has caught more attention than it would have been had it been a local production ,the fact is that it was a story worth telling and perhaps we as a people never thought of seizing the opportunity of telling our own stories of triumph and victory over adversity. In fact the inspiration of the story Mr Kimani Maruge died in misery as an Internally Displaced person by virtue of the selfish interests that played out in Kenya's last general election.I am a firm believer that no one can tell an African story better than the Africans themselves yet we pass on many opportunities e.g Nelson Mandela's Movie(was a foreign production) ,we hardly have a movie on Wangari Maathai and other personalities whose story is worth mention.
According to IMDB the story line behind the movie is developed upon the 84 year old Kimani Maruge's desire to learn to read which inspires him to Join Primary School standard One(American equivalent: First Grade) a class alongside six year-olds. Together he and his young teacher face fierce resistance, but ultimately they win through - and also find a new way of overcoming the burdens of the colonial past.
Interestingly,"Kimani Maruge" enjoys a facebook fanpage courtesy of a fan with over 5,349 fans indicating its not only school that he joined- his story went past the Digital Divide.The only thing lacking as is common of Holywood hits is "The First Grader Movie Website"