Word of Mouth: Longshot campaign for underdog ‘First Grader’

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When “The First Grader” premiered at last year’s Telluride Film Festival, it became something of a festival sensation. The fact-based drama about an octogenarian Kenyan man enrolling in a public elementary school went on to finish second to “The King’s Speech” in voting for the audience award at the Toronto International Festival, and was honored with similar recognition at smaller festivals.

But the film did not work at the box office, grossing just over $300,000. The film’s producers, Richard Harding and Sam Feuer, blamed distributor National Geographic Entertainment for abandoning the movie. Now the two are mounting their own awards push for “The First Grader,” bankrolling it themselves with the help of the new Shea Family Foundation, which seeks to support entertainment that promotes family values.

In this week’s Word of Mouth column, John Horn looks at the unusual awards effort behind “The First Grader,” and the long odds their campaign faces. Here’s a video summary:



Word of Mouth: ‘The First Grader’ seeks Oscar attention

Movie review: The First Grader’ gets high marks

True-life material proves irresistible at Telluride

-- John Horn