Award-winning documentary charting the events within a small single-class village primary school in the Auvergne region of France over the course of one academic year. A dozen children aged 4-10 are brought together each day in a rural classroom and taught all their subjects by a single teacher, Monsieur Georges Lopez. A master of quiet authority, he patiently navigates the children towards adolesence, cooling down their arguments and listening to their problems, while trying to balance the varying needs of the disparate age groups for whom he must provide.
This is a film about a French primary teacher and his small class of pupils. That's all it is. Georges Lopez is the teacher - not an actor, this is a documentary - and he has a class of 12 aged 4 to 10. He comes across as greatly skilled and very dedicated. He is in his last year of teaching, and the accumulated wisdom of his experience is needed to guide the children, who all have difficulties of one sort or another to face, safely through the school year. It is visually beautiful, very funny in places, extremely poignant in others, deftly and subtly directed, and seems extraordinarily natural from beginning to end - there is great film-making skill here. I am very aware that words just don't do it justice. It is enchanting, and if you haven't seen it, you should!
Etre et Avoir is a marvellous and extremely likeable film. The continuous comparison between the changing seasons and the development of the school children is beautiful and completely unclichéd. The school children, both in the school and at home are magical. Some have cast doubt over the authenticity of the scenes where parents work with their children. Whether these scenes are truly real or not- the actions in the classroom are clearly pure and untouched by the director. This is essentially a documentary, but there are so many fascinating switches between different scenes and the changes of the main subject matter. We look at the life of young school children, then the older children, then the older children who will soon leave for secondary school. We see pupil interaction with their peers and their wonderful teacher- who we then learn even more about. Basically- completely absorbing. Plus the French is so simple in much of the film, that people with a relatively sound knowledge can understand it quite easily without captions- which is quite a confidence boost for learners!
A documentary film which follows a year in the life of a French schoolteacher who runs, and lives above, a small rural school in the Auvergne. This is rugged, beautiful countryside - good farming country if you are prepared to work and recognise that the weather will rarely be your friend. Shot almost entirely within the confines of the school, we nevertheless understand that farming is a dawn till dusk, 365 day a year business and that the children will be working on the farm before they venture to school for the first time ... and every day after they return from it. Children grow up fast in the country. This is fly-on-the-wall stuff, a chronicle of the lives of Georges Lopez and his dozen pupils. It is shot with such grace, it is shot so unobtrusively, it makes the vast, fashionable bulk of reality television look like reprehensible trash. The people in this film are not posing and preening themselves for the camera. What we get, instead, is honesty and humanity. We watch the kids having fights, struggling to grasp concepts, sometimes bored, sometimes excited, playing and working, just being natural. George Lopez comes across as a man who is passionate about his work - he can be sternly assertive at times, but his approach is based around rational discourse, about explaining and listening to explanation, about encouraging the children to think and not simply to behave. We learn little about Monsieur Lopez - the son of a Spanish immigrant labourer who rose in station by becoming a teacher, he has been in the profession for some thirty years, has occupied his present position for twenty ... and is about to retire. We watch the older children being introduced to the new, bigger school they will attend after the summer, we watch the arrival of the new intake of tiny ones, but we do not know where M.Lopez will go. Will he be allowed to stay on in his rooms above the school? Will he feel he has to move? As much as anything, this is a film about the nature of rites de passage, about process. We all go through changes in our lives, all have to face those moments when we enter a new school for the first time. It's a process which continues from birth to death, it's a process which can be made so much easier if there is rational explanation and discussion to parallel the emotion and salve the fear. In an era where it is so difficult, as a male, to be allowed to relate to children without eyebrows being raised, this is an evocative expression of caring and generosity of spirit. It is a plea for patience, for encouragement, for listening to others, for motivating others and helping them learn, for tolerance, for sharing. A beautiful, surprising film which will spin you deep into its web of charm and to which you can return again and again.
A documentary about a small French school does not sound like fodder for the entry paying English speaking cinema audience, but this little gem really works. It's secret is in the waiting. This has not just taken a year to make it has taken hours of editing. The children are unaware of the camera and it is the eccentricity of youth that propels its entertainment value across the language/culture diivde. So we see a four year old artfully plea for his playtime to be restored and the collective fear felt by the school as it visits the secondary college, that some of the class will be attending the following year. All life is here; birth, death, laughter tears, not least from the very accomplished teacher as he says goodbye to his charges at the end of the academic year. There is nothing more moving than the truth and this is a convincing testament, for this reviewer anyway, of why a career working with children has so many benefits beyond the salary cheque. For this reason it is an inspiration. The extras are negligible unless you are obsessive about technical details.