A Dedication to Teachers: The First Grader

Friday, May 16, 2014


I wrote this film review on the 5th of December 2011 but I never published it because I felt my words could not adequately express how much The First Grader moved me. In conjunction with Teacher's Day, I'd like to publish this review in hopes that it will inspire someone to watch the movie. It's available for free here. I think I'll re-watch movie again tonight and this time I'll have tissues prepared. Happy Teacher's Day to all dedicated teachers out there. Everyday should be Teacher's Day. S


If an 84 year old man were to tell you that he wanted to be a first grade student and attend school for the first time in his life, how would you react? Would you take him seriously or would you laugh at the idea of an old man learning alongside seven year olds?

Before you think of it as a crazy idea you should know that a primary school teacher in Kenya once faced this situation and a film was created out of this story - The First Grader.



The First Grader begins as a story about an elderly man in Kenya who fought for his right to learn how to read and write when the Kenyan government declared that education was free for all. Throughout the movie his life story unravels. There were beautiful moments which flowed beautifully like poetry and they were often juxtaposed with moments that broke my heart and made me cringe regrettably. He was a soldier who was tortured and imprisoned because he was not willing to give away his country to colonial powers. Tragically, he also witnessed the execution of his wife and children.

Many a time the director, Justin Chadwick, focused on the faces of the actors. It felt like he was trying to tell us to look deeply into their facial expressions so we could feel their emotions, especially in their eyes. I saw love, innocence, fear, determination, hurt, and hope. The First Grader truly moved me. Last year, I watched many documentaries about wars as part of my research on John Pilger's documentaries. Ever since then my whole outlook on life changed. I was very shaken by all the suffering I had seen and by the fact that there are people out there who are still suffering because of previous and/or current wars. It shocked me that human beings did this and are still doing this to each other. And to think, here  I realised that all my life I have been fortunate enough to live in war-free countries. I also realised that my parents never really spoke to me about their experience when Malaysia was colonised by the Japanese and the British. I'm not too sure why.

This is the best movie I've seen all year. It has depth, drama and a happy ending. Most of all, it is a humbling film that creates a higher appreciation for the art of learning and teaching.

4 comments:

Sarina said...

I was in TEARS after just watching the trailer. I'm DEFINITELY going to watch this movie now. Never heard of it so thanks for writing about it!

Shahirah Elaiza said...

@Sarina, if you cried watching the trailer you, prepare for major waterworks during the movie.

Anonymous said...

salam. really loves ur blog. do write more especially motivational post for muslim to work hard in study, work, etc. all the best in ur writing

Anonymous said...

Iqra',
Today to much sources to read and finally we are blurr on defining the priorities. Finally, everything will back to basic.