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Kenyan actor wins top US film award

Posted by Administrator on February 8, 2012

Oliver Litondo receives his award from Leila Ali, the daughter of former heavyweight boxing champion Mohammed Ali

Oliver Litondo receives his award from Leila Ali, the daughter of former heavyweight boxing champion Mohammed Ali


Kenyan actor Oliver Litondo on Monday won the Best Actor award at the 11th Annual AARP movies award gala for his role in the movie The First Grader. 

Litondo scooped the prize in a category that included famed actors George Clooney, (The Descendants); Mel Gibson, (The Beaver); Gary Oldman, (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy); and Kevin Spacey, (Margin Call).

Litondo poses for a photo with US actress Sharon Stone

Litondo poses for a photo with US actress Sharon Stone

Hollywood elite who had packed the hall in Beverly Hills, California gave Litondo a standing ovation after a 50 second snippet of the movie was played showing an illiterate Kenyan elder named Kimani Maruge, begging a first grade teacher (Naomi Harris) to teach him how to read.

The short piece gripped the Hollywood royalty who immediately realized that Litondo travelled all the way from Kenya to accept the award.

Litondo played the part of Maruge, the 84-year-old man who enrolled in a remote Kenyan primary school so he could learn to read.

During his acceptance speech, the newscaster-turned-actor made a plea for filmmakers to go and make movies in Kenya, where “our young people are educated but unemployed.”

The First Grader went by virtually unnoticed in the US other than by quite a number of Kenyans who tuned in to watch the drama once it debutted on HBO an American  premium cable television network.

Though the drama was little known, the AARP editors gave it rave reviews and decided to consider it for the award.

Others who received awards at the event were Sharon Stone who received the Lifetime Achievement Award; Martin Scorsese, receiving the Breakthrough Achievement Award for his 3-D masterpiece,Hugo and  Meryl Streep who played the role of former British premier Margaret Thatcher in the movie The Iron Lady accepting the Best Grownup Love Story award. 

Last November, the film’s producers launched an against-all-odds effort, trying to bring the movie to the attention of Oscar voters with little help from its distributor.


11 Responses to “Kenyan actor wins top US film award”

  1. Tuta said

    Congratulations Oliver Litondo, very proud of you

  2. ITHAVETHI. said

    Hongera Bw Litondo. Twajivunia wewe kwa kuipepeprusha bendera bendera la taifa letu juu juu. Ulianza kufanya hivyo kitambo kama ninavyokumbuka. Endeleza mwenendo huo ili urudipo nyumbani, tafrija, vegeregere, na mangoma ya sukuti na ” Mwana wa mbeli….” yatakushangilia ilivyo.

  3. Congratulations big brother! Now you are the type of representation we need for anything Kenyan. You firmly put us on the map, especially with that call that producers should come shoot movies here! Good job!

  4. kilomojah said

    Carry bthe flag high..onelove

  5. Mama Watoto said


  6. The movie industry in kenya have not been fully exploited, since it can become a big investment and create jobs to our youth. One film actor from Nigeria told Jeff Koinange that in Nigeria movie acting is taught in their universities and their are also movie training insituties . I don,t whether we have movie training in kenya. Mr Litondo congratulations for putting kenya on the move. To mr editor talk to mr Litondo and ask him to open movie training school

    • Sijuinijiite said

      @ njuguna muigai, herein is where the problem lies. We Kenyans complain 24/7 about things and are so quick to give unwarranted advice and direction. Why can’t YOU with your bright ideas ‘open a movie training school’ and develop the movie industry in Kenya vs telling ‘mr. editor to talk to Mr. Litondo to do the same’?
      If you feel that the industry hasn’t been ‘exploited’ why don’t YOU go out and make a diffrence? Thats the only way change can come about-when each ONE of us makes a difference in some form or fashion vs. dictating what should be done.

      And for our information before you jump, generalize and judge the industry with baseless blanket comments, please do some research and you’ll find tonnes of internationally acclaimed KENYAN film makers, producers, directors etc. building Kenya through visual art. Albert Wandago, Lupita Nyongo, Wanuri Kahiu, Bob Nyanja, Kwame Nyongo, Judith Kibinge just to name a few.
      Lastly, most schools in Kenya teach ‘movie training’ as you call it. Remember the Music and Drama festivals that your school participated in? That outlet builds a foundation for the art. Schools like Brookehouse on Langata Rd. have a fully fledged Visual Arts department. Universities and Colleges also offer Movie production, theatre, Visual communication classes etc. Alliance Francaise, Kenya National Theatre, Phoenix Theater….Thats where many people start off. You learn in a classroom, you get training from the job itself.

      • mtangwa said

        Aaaiiii hujasema ukweli! He says ‘its not fully exploited ‘ the fact that there are afew expertise does not mean this industry is fully exploited. I wonder if you’re asked to rate Kenyan Movie industry on worldwide grid where would you place it. To me Kenya is not at the top. Therefore if someone says its not fully exploited, then i see no foully.

  7. Vey said

    Very very nice Kenyan scene is coming up!!!

  8. Clara Indire said

    Excellent. So proud of you Mr. Litondo. You have come a long way and deserve this honor.

  9. Always great when this happens. Problem is the recognition at home is hardly anything to speak about. Well done Oliver!!

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