By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated May 13, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT
Kerry Brown

In the Kenyan bush circa 2003, an illiterate 84-year-old Mau Mau freedom fighter (Oliver Litondo) who survived imprisonment during British colonialism joins a classroom of 6-year-olds learning to read, guided by a kindly teacher (Naomie Harris from 28 Days Later). The story, based in fact, is told with such undifferentiated, textbook-style admiration for African culture, singing schoolchildren, passionate instructors, and wise elders that The First Grader plays more like a teaching tool than a dynamic drama. C+

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