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Etre et Avoir Review

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A documentary about a tiny rural school in France, where in one classroom George Lopez teaches children ranging in age from 4 to 11.

★★★★

The opening shots of this documentary linger on the frozen hills of Auvergne, a farming province in the heart of France. But the atmosphere at the local school is in stark contrast to the chill outside, since the children have Georges Lopez for their teacher. A remarkable man whoís run the one-class school by himself for 20 years, Lopez exudes warmth, patience and genuine affection for his students.

Culled from 60 hours' worth of footage recorded over ten weeks in a small classroom, this is a charming exercise in consummate professionalism. Shooting on film rather than digi-video, Nicolas Philibert reclaims actuality from the sensation-seeking of reality TV as he captures the changing seasons to emphasise the unwavering support that Georges Lopez gives the four to ten year-olds in his charge.

Lopez is gentle and fair, reassurance is unceasing, and the emotion he feels at the end of term is wholly genuine (especially as he knows retirement is close after 20 years' service to a community that clearly treasures him). But Philibert is also interested in how the kids respond to Lopez and his admirably diverse curriculum, and the director is rewarded with Jojo's mischief, the day trip to the nearby 'big' school and the arrival of next year's timorous intake.

A heartwarming look at small town life and a man with a true gift for teaching.