Posted April 4, 2011 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in Features

Human Rights Watch

The closing night for the 15th Human Rights Watch was met with a near full house at Brixton’s Ritzy cinema.

The closing night for the 15th Human Rights Watch was met with a near full house at Brixton’s Ritzy cinema. An evening of free alcohol, a compelling final feature and a riveting Q&A to boot summarises a hugely successful festival that bounced from the screens of the Ritzy, the Soho Curzon and the Institute of Contemporary Arts with a headstrong objective to raise awareness of humanitarian crises across the globe.

Bracing the floor for subjects such as the Iranian 2009 election, The Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the many crimes of the Colombian paramilitaries, HRW concludes with a sweet adaptation laced with tragedy, following the true story of 84 year old Kimani N’gan’ga Maruge, a former Kenyan rebel who wants to take advantage of the “free education for all” policy introduced by a reformed government.

First Grader dwells on the frightening past of the British invasion on Kenya which saw Kimani’s family slaughtered and juxtaposes it with a hopeful look to an educated future of a nation. Funded by a recently deceased UK Film Council, the feature documents the rise of the Mau Mau rebellion and the atrocities that Kikiyus such as Kimani (a reserved but powerful Oliver Litondo) endured in internment camps at the hands of white forces. It also stars British actress Naomi Harris, beautifully personifying new Kenya as ballsy and kind headteacher Mrs Obinchu who withstands personal sacrifice to see that she honours the foundations of a gradually free country.

Directed by Justin Chadwick and followed by a Q&A with barrister Dan Leader, researcher Ben Rawlance and Chadwick himself, First Grader ends on a high, putting forth a message of change and niggling at possibility, both underlying themes of the past week.

Human Rights Watch has worked in Kenya since 1992 and, with the 2012 elections approaching hopes to achieve accountability for the nation’s abuse through the International Criminal Court. The organisation also combats the issues addressed in all of the screenings across the week, with the aim of the knowledge provided in the documentaries, animations and dramarisations shown to empower audiences to support the actions proposed to make change.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.