Better than the Real Thing: The First Grader

Better than the Real Thing started out with Michael Mann’s Miami Vice trailer – a hyper-kinetic and energizing promotion that managed to exceed the experience of viewing the actual film itself. It was a tightly edited piece that was able to hide the shortcomings of the real thing – a scattershot narrative and a underwhelming action vehicle. The trailer for The First Grader doesn’t hide the film’s shortcomings. Instead, it follows the disturbing trend that other films have fallen victim to: it tells the entire story.

**Warning: If you’re interested in seeing The First Grader, do not watch the trailer. It will ruin the experience for you.**

All the major plot points are covered: Maruge (Oliver Litondo) is an 84 year-old man who wants to learn how to read. He heads to an elementary school to take advantage of the government’s newly implemented “education for all” decree and attend the first grade. One teacher thinks it’s a joke (and a waste of resources) to educate an old man, but Maruge wins over teacher Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) who admires his persistence and desire to learn. She’s discovers Maruge is an ex freedom fighter, and that he has an important letter that he wants to read himself. Villagers and administrators scoff at the notion of an old man learning alongside their children and tension ensues. Obinchu has to make a choice whether to risk everything to keep Maruge in the first grade, or to let him go to save herself.

The First Grader is a good movie that feels a bit too long, which is surprising, considering it’s 103-minute running time. But after you’ve seen the trailer, the major beats of the story have already been outlined for you. No wonder it feels padded out – the trailer left out the filler.

Watching the trailer isn’t better than the real thing; there’s just nothing left for the film to show.



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