Être et avoir

Poster for Être et avoir

Spring 2003 Edge series

Sunday, April 20, 2003 at 7:00pm

Empire Theatres, New Minas, NS

Directed by Nicolas Philibert


Rated NR · 1h 44m

In his latest film, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Nicolas Philibert (Land of the Deaf) looks at a rural single-class school in which children from kindergarten through the primary grades struggle together in a pursuit close to Philibert’s heart: the learning process. Être et Avoir invites the audience to share in the learning process, to undertake, as if for the first time, lessons in counting, writing and interacting with others. The children progress at a gentle pace, the vignettes of their triumphs punctuated by images of their Auvergne farming community’s changing seasons. Philibert chose the school from among 300, intrigued by the eclecticism of its 13 students. The scope of their education is broad in a world stocked with both tractors and photocopiers, fireplaces and computers. The film is a series of luminous images of a motley collection of students at different stages of progress, each a wonder and a pleasure to watch. However, it is Georges Lopez, the unfailingly caring but stern teacher who guides these young people through their formative years that infuses the film with humanity. Georges ensures that the children’s education leaps off the page and into the world of sports, nature, art and everyday technology. As this traditional, quietly philosophical man nears retirement, the richness of his life experience is one of the rocks on which his students’ education rests. Part of the joy of this film is the balance between the children’s fresh view of the world and the wisdom that Lopez brings to their journey. In one of the films most moving scenes Georges is shown fighting back tears as he sends his students off to the joys of the summer months, knowing that some of the older students (who have been attending the school for 6 years) will not be returning. The film celebrates the adventure of learning in a nurturing environment and rejects preconceived notions of backwards farming communities. Philibert’s work is always the product of a partnership with his subjects and bears the mark of his regard for them. His maturity and thoughtfulness as a filmmaker lead us back to the moments from which his insight springs: the curiosity of childhood.

“…reflects the sheer beauty of two professionals doing their jobs – a teacher teaching and documaker documenting.” – Lisa Nesselson, Variety

“…a rare glimpse from the learners’ perspective, one that is often left out of the education debate. Like any good teacher, Être et Avoir is subtle; it gently takes us back to the world of chalk dust and cloakrooms, reminding us of how little and how much we once knew.” – Gillian Grace, Toronto Life