The second of the five documentaries I offered for my students to view and briefly analyze is The Class (Entre les murs) (2008). Based on the 2006 novel of the same name by François Bégaudeau, this film is a semi-autobiographical "sort-of-documentary" account of a year in the author's life as a middle school French teacher in an urban Parisian school. (When I say "French," think your English class.)
I was struck by how similarly the experiences of students, teachers and parents in French public schools mirror those of individuals in American public schools. The majority of the challenges that François encountered were very reminiscent of my own experiences regarding classroom behavior, parent-teacher conferences and exhausted colleagues.
A unique facet of the film is that there are few black and white "characters." I'd go so far as to suggest that François is, himself, (though a seemingly good-natured soul if not always so toward his students) a fairly poor educator who shows little ability to reflect on his weakness as a facilitator of learning... like I mentioned, this film is very realistic. Interestingly, the film, HIS film, does not paint him as a savior to the urban culture... which in the day and age of superhero teacher fantasy films such as the manipulative Freedom Writers, is in itself refreshing.
A compelling film for anyone interested in our (The US of A) educational system, or those who are interested in seeing that despite being in a distant part of the world how similar the human experience among like nations can be despite perceived differences.
Viewing Suggestion: Avoid the dubbed version like the plague... the dubbed voice performances are terrible. It is well worth training yourself to read and watch to get the full experience.
The Class (Entre les murs) (2008) is available locally for rent through both the Monroe County (NY) Public Library System and Netflix.