Gilbert Speaks on “Io” & “The First Grader”

22 Jan


Are we doomed as a species? Sometimes, because of all the hatred in the world, and the fact that the president has turned the protection of our environment over to corrupt corporations…I feel we are already circling the drain. I don’t understand how in this time and age, there still exists people in power who make it their life’s goal to dehumanize other people. Sometimes, I feel that we suck big time as a species. I’ll be reviewing two amazing films that show the better side of us.


Due to a very bad zombie sinus infection, I was housebound for close to two weeks, but I did get to watch plenty of shows that I would normally not have time to watch. I worry about our environment. Pollution of our water and air and the overuse of toxic Monsanto Round Up is actually killing us. This total disregard for our planet is not only killing us, but the other species that share this world with us.



Io is a 2019 American science fiction film that is set in the near future. Directed by Jonathan Helpert, and starring Margaret Qualley, Anthony Mackie and Danny Huston, this film shows a destiny that awaits us if we don’t wise up. The air is so toxic on Earth that the surviving humans flee the planet to live on a space station that orbits Io, one of the moons of Jupiter. Imagine that. Leaving this beautiful planet to live in a huge metal can…but not everyone left Earth.

Sam Walden (Margaret Qualley) lives high in the mountain where the air is still breathable, but when she heads down to the city, she must wear a gas mask or die. Sam is the daughter of Dr. Henry Walden (Danny Huston), but her dad is supposedly away doing research. Sam and her father have everything they need to survive. They have a makeshift hothouse to grow the essential veggies, including the trifecta of the vegetable world, the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash. They have to detoxify the water my straining it through sand and charcoal. Sam’s main job is raising bees that can survive in the atmosphere.



When she’s not raising bees, veggies, or driving her off road vehicle into the city for supplies, Sam keeps contact with a friend/future lover via satellite communications. Elon keeps begging Sam to leave Earth on the last ship that is heading to Io. Elon is also excited about a planet that is similar to Earth. It might be too late for Sam to get to Elon.

One day, a stranger shows up in a helium balloon. No! It isn’t a futuristic Wizard of Oz, but Micah (Anthony Mackie). He is there to talk to Dr. Walden before meeting the last ship to Io. Micah tries to convince Sam that there is no hope for Earth…but something happens to convince Sam that there is no place like home.


The First Grader

The First Grader is a beautiful, thought-provoking film, and is based on a true story. This 2010 biographical drama is directed by Justin Chadwick, and stars Naomie Harris, Oliver Litondo, and Tony Kgoroge. Where we take education for granted in this country, the people of Kenyan truly understand the power of knowledge. Where America’s president wants to dumb down it’s citizens, Kimani Maruge fights for the chance to learn how to read.

After the Kenyan government offers free primary school education to all who can prove citizenship with a birth certificate, an 84-year-old Kimani Maruge (Oliver Litondo) shows up at the local village school. At first, the principal, Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) tries to discourage the man. He has no shoes; no proper school clothes; no books and pencil, but Maruge is determined to gain an education.


Maruge is a survivor and a hero. He was part of the Mau Mau uprising against the British in 1950. This was a nasty and brutal war for independence with severe consequences for anyone who swore an oath for freedom. Maruge was forced to watch as the British killed his young wife, toddler daughter and infant son. Maruge spent almost ten years in prison where he was tortured, beat, and had all his toes cut off. His persistence to survive, and now, go to school finally wins over the principal.

Even though the students and teachers love Maruge, the villages are not happy that an old man is going to school with children. The principal is able to dance around this by making Maruge a teacher’s assistant, but Jane’s battle to protect Maruge finally costs her the Principal Positon, and her marriage.


Where there is life…there is hope. Where there is a toxic environment, Mother Earth survives. Sam decides to stay home, and not go with Micah. She is happy. The bees are doing well, and Sam has a son to keep her company until the people on that distant space station decide to come home.


I enjoyed both films, but the story of Kimani Maruge was the one that stayed with me. This film showed the true measure of the human spirit, and the will to overcome all obstacles. Maruge traveled to Nairobi to plead for Jane Obinchu’s reinstatement. He not only succeeded in this battle, but carried the message of the importance of education all the way to the UN in 2005.

I would recommend you watching both films.

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