Be and to Have”(Etre et Avoir)
by Jan Aaron
of the most touching and interesting movies about education
ever made, Nicholas Philibert’s terrific documentary To
Be and to Have chronicles one year in the life of Georges
Lopez who teaches kids in the Auvergne region of France. Now
55, he is preparing to retire after teaching for 35 years—20
in this single room school, the likes of which also are being
phased out in France.
he instructs 13 children from ages 4 to 10, each in their own
corner. Lopez divides his time between each group, changing
his style to meet the students’ needs. He speaks softly, rarely
telling his students to do something. Instead, he questions
them to help them discover their feelings and ideas. When he
voices displeasure at misbehavior, it is in a way the kids
understand and relate to.
the hilarious bit of two 4-year-olds trying to master a photocopier
to a 10 year-old skillfully guiding a tractor through family
fields, the movie provides fresh insight into rural education
in France. The school is cozy and modern with a wood-burning
fireplace and computers. Colorful drawings, making and flipping
crepes, even sledding down woody slopes are part of the curriculum.
At home, a youngster struggles in the kitchen with multiplication
tables and it’s fun to see his entire family drawn into his
the movie’s start, the weather is harsh as the school van chugs
its way to school where they’re stern but caring teacher waits.
By film’s end, everyone has gone to visit the modern middle
school the 10 year-olds will attend next year, and enjoyed
a picnic under leafy trees.
son of a Spanish immigrant farmhand and a French mother, says
he always wanted to be a schoolteacher even as a young kid.
At the movie’s end the children say good-bye one by one. Watching
him choke up as the kids go off for the summer is one of many
moving moments in this film. The movie is a positive pat on
the back for dedicated teachers everywhere who help students
minutes, in French with English subtitles; call 777-Film
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 1588, New York, NY 10159.
Tel: (212) 477-5600. Fax: (212) 477-5893. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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