French film "The Class" up for Oscar
Nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language category, "The Class" looks so real, some might think it's a documentary.
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The French film features a veteran teacher as its main character, and its screenplay is based on a memoir by that very same teacher. "Studio 360's" Sarah Elzas talks with director Laurent Cantet, who spent several months in a Paris high school preparing for the film.
Cantet explains that the French name of the film, translated, is "Between the Walls": "... which describes quite well what the film is. In fact we enter a school and we don't go out of it before the end of the film. It was important to me to stay between the walls, and to see what can happen just between 25 children and a teacher working together for a whole year, and see the kind of relation they can have together, the kind of tension you can have in a class."
The movie opens the week before school starts. We meet François Marin as he walks into the building. He gets his room assignment, meets the new teachers. He's been teaching French there for four years. The school is in northeastern Paris, in a diverse part of the city. The students are a rowdy group of teenagers with varied backgrounds -- Somalian, Chinese, North African.
Cantet says he didn't set out to make the teacher a hero in the film: "I didn't want to make the film to say this is what school should be, this is what a good teacher is, this is what a bad teacher is. I just wanted to show the complexity of the system, and how complex it is to be a teacher.
"There are a lot of reforms in the school programs, and the official program is now trying to go back to knowledge and that's all. I don't think teachers will really play the game. Sometimes some teachers are really impressive in the way they are working, and sometimes ... they just miss their purpose, and I think that what they have to accept now is that school is not a fortress, school has always to be seen as part of society, and since society is changing, the school has to change too."
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