Nat Geo acquires U.S. rights to 'First Grader'

Film was runner-up for TIFF's People's Choice Awards

National Geographic Entertainment has acquired U.S. rights to Justin Chadwick's "The First Grader," the film that earned runner-up status for the People's Choice Awards at the just-concluded Toronto International Film Festival.

The dramatic feature tells the true story of an 84-year-old Kenyan, a farmer and former Mau Mau tribesman, who fights to go to school when his country introduces universal education.

"First," which also played the Telluride Film Festival, stars Naomie Harris and Oliver Musila Litondo and was written by Ann Peacock.

The film is the first feature from Origin Pictures, former BBC Films head David Thompson's new production venture. Origin co-produced with Richard Harding and Sam Feuer of Sixth Sense Prods. Exec producers were Joe Oppenheimer, Anant Singh, Norman Merry and Helena Spring.

Singh's Distant Horizon co-financed the film and handled its domestic sale; Goldcrest International is handling international sales.

"When I saw 'The First Grader,' I knew immediately that National Geographic should acquire it. It's not only about historic political events, but it tells a personal story with great warmth and humor. 'The First Grader' made Telluride and Toronto audiences laugh and cry, but it also made them think about the power of learning," National Geographic Films president Daniel Battsek said.