Films: The Class

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The Class  {Entre les Murs}

The Class
Entre les Murs

France, 2008, 128 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Foreign, Social Issues
Programs: Films in Competition, Contemporary World Cinema
Language: French English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Laurent Cantet
Producer: Carole Scotta, Caroline Benjo, Barbara Letellier, Simon Arnal
Editor: Robin Campillo, Stéphanie Léger
Screenwriter: Laurent Cantet, François Bégaudeau, Robin Campillo
Cinematographer: Pierre Milon
Principal Cast: François Bégaudeau, Nassim Amrabt, Laura Baquela, Cherif Bounaïdja Rachedi
US Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, director Laurent Cantet’s devastating examination of the clashing attitudes among warring cultures in a tough French junior high school serves as an open window to the conflicts facing the country as a whole—and as a testament to the extraordinary resolve of teacher François Bégaudeau.

Bégaudeau plays himself in the docudrama based on his memoir Between the Walls (Entre les Murs), though no Dead Poets Society–style hero worship surrounds him. Cantet wanted to remain neutral in the pivotal wrangle over teaching philosophies—essentially disciplined tradition versus free-form improvisation. “The film does not try to defend nor accuse either side,” he has said. “I even have the impression that [it] expresses something paradoxically positive: A school is sometimes very chaotic…and from this great chaos, a lot of intelligence can be born.”

Much the same could be said for the making of The Class; improvisation was standard operating procedure for a cast composed almost entirely of real-life students along with their parents, teachers, and administrators. The resulting interplay among them reveals a broad spectrum of educational methods, religious and ethnic grievances, and adolescent uncertainties. But as the noise of their daily battles fade, we come away with a new appreciation for the brightness of young minds in the making as well as for the determination of those charged with the monumental task of educating children anywhere in the world. Indeed, of Bégaudeau, Cantet (whose previous film, Heading South, was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Biennale di Venezia) has simply said: “Few teachers take as many risks with their students: the risk to fall off track, the risk to fail…there’s a bit of Socrates in that man.”

Sponsor:

Los Angeles Film and TV Office- French Embassy

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