Sunday, May 25, 2008

To Be and To Have: Movie Review

This 2003 French documentary may have you believing it's about a rural school room in France and a commentary on the educational system. I found it to be much more than that.

In the one-room classroom, Georges Lopez, a 55-year-old teacher about to retire, teaches a class of 13 children ages 5 to 11. He talks about how he is the son of farmers and how he always wanted to be a teacher. The film shows him at work in the classroom, dealing with discipline issues, learning difficulties and emotional issues of the children. His quiet dedication and calm discipline speaks volumes about what it means to be a teacher.

There are also film clips of children being tutored at home by their parents and families. In one scene, an entire family tries to help a student with his math assignment and in the end appears to confuse him even more. The film has a sensitive, gentle tone about the very real difficulties of providing a good education under circumstances that are far from ideal.

The film provides no solutions and in fact ends as several of the students move on to middle school, somewhat unprepared despite the teacher's almost heroic efforts to prepare them. He does what he can, however, to provide each student who is moving on with the necessary resources, with the same loving care he shows while they are under his tutelage.

I guarantee if you take the time to watch this documentary, you won't soon forget Georges Lopez or the children you meet.

You can find another review of the movie here.

Update: the French film The Class won this year's Canne's festival. Find a clip of the movie here.

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