In 1953, native Kenyans led by the Mau Mau who were mainly from the Kikuyu tribe revolted against the British colonial rule. The British were brutal interning millions and killing thousands. Independence was eventually won but the legacy of tragedy continues today.
The film is based on the true story of Kimani N’gan’ga Maruge an ex Mau Mau freedom fighter who at the age of 84 went back to school to learn how to read with 6 year olds. The government had declared free primary school education to all. Maruge despite his age was determined to learn. What drives him is an official government letter he holds but cannot read. Frequent flashbacks show Maruge’s back story; both his fight for independence and the price paid for it. The true story itself is a full one but the film also delves into the consequences of having an octogenarian attend first grade.
Maruge is played by Oliver Musila Litondo and Jane Obinchu the teacher is played by Naomie Harris. Both are wonderfully charming. The film is well made but the story is equal parts preachy, inspiring, and often pulls you towards the Kleenex box. You always get the feeling the movie makers are embellishing more than need to. It’s as if the filmmakers didn’t trust the true story to inspire by itself. This is where it went from being inspirational to average.
Here is the true news story on Maruge: