To Be and to Have | Chicago Reader

To Be and to Have

104 minutes

As a documentary, this sounds like a natural: a year in the life of a rural one-room schoolhouse where a dozen students, ages 3 through 11, are taught by a single teacher. Because the teacher appears to be very good and the filmmaker is Nicolas Philibert, whose earlier In the Land of the Deaf and La Moindre des Choses (about a psychiatric clinic) showed tact and sensitivity, this 2002 feature partly fulfilled my high expectations. But the sometimes intrusive role played by Philibert and his small crew seems inadequately dealt with, and I wondered if the segments showing the kids outside school mythologized country life, never alluding to such tokens of the outside world as TV. This is seductive storytelling and good investigative journalism, but I wasn't always sure which mode I was in. In French with subtitles.

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