'Cherub,' 'First Grader' among projects

BBC Films is not only getting into the franchise game but also mining Kenya for a good yarn.

The shingle is developing “Cherub: The Recruit” as the first in a planned series. Also on tap is “The First Grader,” a true story about an 84-year-old Kenyan named Kimani Nganga Maruge who attempted to take advantage of a government initiative to give free elementary school education for all. Initially denied access to go the school with his fellow first graders, Maruge eventually took the government on in court.

“Cherub” has Christopher Smith (“Severance”) on board to direct. he project is based on the popular book series by Robert Muchamore about a secret division of the British Security Services which employs orphaned children. Pic will be the first in a planned series that is being pitched as “Jason Bourne for kids.”

Ronan Bennett (“Public Enemies”) has written the script. Rebecca Farhall, Courtney Pledger and Sarah Radcliffe are producing along with BBC Films’ Joe Oppenheimer and Jamie Laurenson.

Project marks an ambitious move by BBC Films execs, who are also excited about helmer James Watkins’ chiller “The Buried.”

Pic is described as a classy horror title in the mold of “The Others” and features two strong female lead roles.

BBC Films execs are working with the former BBC Films topper David Thompson’s new shingle Origin Pictures, which is in early discussions with potential cast.

BBC and Thompson are hoping to plug into the Obama effect with “The First Grader.” Ann Peacock (“The Chronicles of Narnia”) has penned the script to the heart-warming drama.

BBC execs are hoping that Barack Obama’s Kenyan heritage, as well as the success of Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” in the U.S., will raise the project’s Stateside profile.

“It’s good to know that Kenya now has an important political connection in American politics,” quipped BBC Films’ Joe Oppenheimer. “And it’s true that ‘Slumdog’ has opened the door for projects like this in the U.S. but no one is silly enough to think you can just replicate that formula.”

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