Background on School of Babel (La cour de Babel, France 2014)

One of Brigitte's more expressive students

One of Brigitte’s more expressive students

This screening will be introduced by our colleague Rona Murray and here she provides a little background.

Julie Bertuccelli’s film La cour de Babel (Schoolyard of Babel) should stimulate some interesting discussion on 5th February. A film about a class made up of recent teenage arrivals in France, this is the work of an experienced documentary maker as she tells a story of one academic year under the stewardship of their welcoming French schoolmistress, Brigitte Cervoni. It is also a French film about issues of social integration and enfranchisement which might seem particularly relevant given recent events in Paris.

Other French films, such as Nicolas Philibert’s documentary about a primary school, Être et avoir (To Be and To Have ) in 2002 or Laurent Cantet’s drama Entre les murs (The Class) in 2008 have also examined the French education system up-close. All three films share an ability to convey the emotional and social complexity taking place. School of Babel is not the same as The Class. Both the students and the teacher are quite different but in both cases the questions of integration raised are not solely ‘French’ ones but apply to us all.

Bertuccelli is an intriguing subject herself, having moved outside documentary into fiction filmmaking.  Her experience perhaps highlights how far documentary makers allow events to unfold and how far they need to take charge and construct a story to engage their audiences in the cinema. Read about the director’s previous ‘fiction’ film here.

Read more about School of Babel on our main blog here.

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