Sunday, March 8, 2009

Review: The Class (Entre les murs)

The Class (Entre les murs) is an unusual film. It bridges documentary and drama. It is based on an autobiographical book by François Bégaudeau recounting a year teaching French in an inner city Paris school. Bégaudeau also stars in the film, which features other students and was apparently shot over a year. In some ways the story moves along slowly, but it trods familiar grounds of class, race, culture, and identity. Familiar grounds, but seen through the slightly different lense of the French immigrant experience. Discussions of "proper French" and verb usage echo American struggles with the role of ebonics.

The classroom systems are different from those in America. Some of the finer points on French usage were lost on me. But the basic search for self and meaning in a changing world rings true. Marin's struggles to relate the meaning and importance of writing proper French reminded me greatly of David Foster Wallace's opinions on the politics of Standard Written English.

I'm not sure the the Marin, the teacher, really has a style worth emulating. The opinions of the other teachers and administrators about Marin could have been explored more. But, this film does remind me of that the challenges (and opportunities) of a complex, integrated, global community are topics that many societies are dealing with.

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