A small French documentary turned out to be a huge critical success while doing great at the box office. We’re talking about Étre et Avoir (To Be and To Have), a wonderful film about a rural teacher called Georges Lopez and his group of elementary school students ranging from 4 to 12 years old.
There isn’t anything artificial or sugarcoated about this movie. Every single scene details the magic process of a child absorbing the best knowledge possible during those first years at school. So that, there are several little angels starring in this film with their real names: Jojo, Guilleume, Létitia, Axel, Jessie and Julien among them.
The movie offers some subtle yet very important lessons along the way. Some of them might sound like a cliché for some though, and this is one of today’s biggest problems: for some reason, a lot of real values are considered “boring stuff” and at the same time they’ve been replaced with fear and ignorance.
Time to take them back by watching a movie like this, as the first thing we learn from it is the importance of respect toward others. With simple but powerful words, Lopez teaches the kids how to solve any conflict without using any violence: Jojo is hit by one of his classmates, and then the teacher explains to both children why this is wrong while teaching them about forgiveness. We can only wish that our politicians would have had a teacher like this… right?
The Spanish-descent teacher also finds the time to talk to the parents, thus remembering the importance of involving them in their kids’ education process. This should be the right equation (teachers-parents-students) in order to guarantee that these boys and girls will be the best citizens possible.
Étre et Avoir is set in rural France, the perfect landscape to tell this story with no argument, but made with lots of heart and soul. You will see the cold winter turning into colors as soon as spring arrives again. Meanwhile, Georges Lopez discuss about himself so the audience can get to know him a little bit more, and by the end of the documentary his reaction when saying goodbye to his beloved students can move us to tears in a heartbeat.
These kind of spontaneous and endearing moments explain why the primary purpose of the movie (to tell the story of a man with a big heart and his every day routine as an elementary school teacher) is often overshadowed by the mesmerizing spectacle of seeing those little ones just being themselves, like artless creatures just living in the present and loving every minute of it.
Children always have the best lessons for us, so it’s time to remember if we love and honor our inner child every day, with no exceptions. This movie is a great start, and Moira MacDonald (The Seattle Times) says it better: “Watchful viewers - particularly those with fond memories of a favorite teacher - will be deeply moved by this film.”
Étre et Avoir can take you away from the real world’s cruelty to show you that there is always a better place to go. If you think that there is no hope left for humanity, then watch again one of the best sequences from this movie, when Georges Lopez introduces a group of new, cute students to the class.
Être et Avoir
Les Filmes du Losange,
Directed by Nicolas Philibert
Produced by Gilles Sandoz,
Starring Mr. Georges Lopez and his Elementary School students
Cinematography: Laurent Diddier, Katell Djian, Hughes Hemignani, Nicolas Philibert
Músic by Philippe Hersant