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strangely captivating
MartinHafer27 August 2005
I did not expect to like this film or care about the people in it as much as I did. After all, this is just a documentary about a one-room school in rural France--it doesn't exactly sound like an exciting topic, does it? Plus, to top it off, the film has absolutely no narration--the camera simply focuses on the day to day routines of the students and teacher. What a shock, then, when I found myself captivated after only the first few minutes. The producer, director and editor did a fantastic job of piecing it all together as well as giving us what the viewer wanted--REAL kids and quite a few really cute ones at that. My wife and I actually found ourselves rooting for them--especially little JoJo--the occasionally not terribly bright little kid who liked to stick his pencil up his nose! One day, I am sure, he will become rich and successful and have the last laugh!

By the way, if you liked this, try watching A TOUCH OF GREATNESS about an amazingly innovative and inspiring teacher.
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"Nice" but lacking anything challenging, informative or really that interesting
bob the moo29 May 2005
In a small rural school, children ranging from ages 4 up to 11 are taught by teacher Georges Lopez. We see how he approaches each class as different but yet manages to engage the children, relating to them and making them trust him as a friend while still remaining an authority figure within the classroom.

For about 7 years, I helped out in a crèche looking after 2-4 year olds and it was a weekly job that I very much enjoyed because, while I had to keep control of the class I also enjoyed the friendship of the kids, found them interesting and funny and was able to keep this part of the class dynamic – much like Lopez does here (albeit he has more structure to deliver than I did). For that reason I was mostly interested in the documentary but very quickly I found myself wondering why such a film had been made – what about this was important enough to be worthy of documenting for the ages. I can see in principle that the example of this wonderfully personable teacher and his relationship with his students would be worth showing around to show what teaching and schools can be like but really this is a simple example and it is too easy to dismiss it as being perhaps true of some rural schools and not of the vast majority of schools in any country.

I can see why it was popular though; the "nice" atmosphere and concept of this type of teaching must be like a wet dream to many, but it doesn't often exist and by documenting it the film never has a chance to comment on anything – instead it just shows how nice everything is. Although this is good to watch and inspiring in a way, I would have preferred it if it had been contrasted with an urban school; although that smacks a bit of reality television I couldn't help but wonder how the film could have been more interesting and relevant. As it is, the kids are cute, funny and engaging, Lopez is patient and affable and the classroom setting shows what can be done in a relaxed room, a small amount of pupils and no major problem children. Sadly none of this is interesting for that long and I didn't really see the reason for it doing as well as it had back in 2002.

Overall, this is nice and slightly inspiring but even then it is too easy to look at Lopez's situation and think that life would be like that if all schools were given the same circumstances. However, documentaries work best when informative, challenging and interesting – and really this film was none of those to any great extent even if it was "nice" and perhaps of interest to those who like kids.
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with Georges Lopez as a teacher, we need education!
dbdumonteil28 November 2003
A school lost in the center of the Massif Central in France. One school teacher for 14 pupils who aren't of the same academic standard. The youngest (Jojo) is 4 and the oldest (Olivier) is 11.

Nicolas Philibert, the director shot during six months usual life in this school not like the other ones and where it reigns a relaxed atmosphere. Nicolas Philibert isn't only interested by life in school but also by the pupils' life in their respective houses with their joys, their sorrows. Philibert's movie also contains a good advantage: there aren't any comments but they turn out to be pointless because the characters' faces and dialogs speak of themselves. Moreover the director gives an engaging description of the teacher, Georges Lopez. An attentive and understanding teacher, always willing to lend a sympathetic ear to his pupils.

"être et avoir" is also a film served by gorgeous pictures. A few of them connote the coming of a season: winter, spring, summer and these pictures combine in confer the film a quiet poetry.

In spite of all these advantages, one can have reservations about "être et avoir". For example, the description of the school may not correspond with the reality of current schools in France but Nicolas Philibert's movie is human and warm enough to gain the spectator's adhesion.
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Au revoir Monsieur Lopez
jotix10027 September 2003
Director Nicolas Philibert takes us to rural France, to the Auvergne region, to show us how a great teacher can make the difference in the lives of these children. It is a magical trip, indeed.

In these times of school killings, unruly and disruptive students, it is very refreshing to find a dedicated teacher, such as M. Lopez, who is an inspiration and an example to the would be educators and a treasure to whatever school or class will have him teach his craft.

This man is at the end of his teaching career. He is in charge now of a one room school in the country, where he teaches the children of the local farmers. M. Lopez is friendly, but at the same time, he is firm in telling some of the students where they are not doing enough. At the same time one can only feel the plight of the older children as they have to help the family in running the farm, so it's not an easy task to go to school and have to come home to do chores that have to be done.

The small children are delightful to see. Their angelic faces and their inter action among themselves are typical of kids in that age range. The saddest point of the film is when the teacher has to confront a bully and his victim, who tells M. Lopez at the end about his cancer stricken father as tears roll down his cheeks.

This year two great documentaries have surfaced, Spellbound and now this one. What a beautiful approach to show the process of learning.
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I Have To Be Honest ...
writers_reign9 December 2004
... and say that this is one of the warmest and most accomplished documentaries of the last few years. Deceptive simplicity is not the easiest thing to pull off but here it works perfectly. The thing is that there's no way to tell people who haven't seen it that a film that spans about six months in a one-room schoolhouse in the Auvergne with teacher and pupils being rather than playing themselves is so rewarding. Winter turns into Spring, Spring becomes early Summer. That's it. The changes in the pupils are less obvious, more felt than seen. The teacher, in his last year before retirement is far less academically gifted than Mr. Chips but he is Real as opposed to the fictional Chips and both are imbued with the hard-to-pin-down qualities that make good teachers. A second viewing, about a year later found the film holding up well. 9/10
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Wash your hands, Jojo
ferguson-612 February 2004
Greetings again from the darkness. Wonderful, award-winning documentary about George Lopez and his one room school house in rural France. So many thoughts rush through the viewer's head as we watch this incredibly patient man battle through the daily challenges of teaching kids ages 4 to 12. Young Jojo will win your heart as the eager to play boy who would undoubtedly be subjected to doses of Ridlin in the U.S. Jojo's charm and openness are in stark contrast to the older children who seem to keep their emotions pent up to play along with the expectations of maturity. Personalities are obvious by age 4 or 5 and we have no trouble looking forward to see the type of teens and adults they will become. This environment offers so many advantages to the "pack 30 in a classroom and demand robotic behavior" that has become the norm in our education system. Teachers have become disciplinarians by force rather than life educators like Mr. Lopez. Yes, I laughed many times during this one, but only as my heart was breaking while dreaming of what could be for kids. The scenes with the families are torturous to watch and should provide insight into how many parents undermine even the best teachers. Should be required viewing for all parents and teachers. We should all ask ourselves, "what is the point of taking the eagerness and desire learn away from kids?"
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A Nutshell Revoew: (DVD) To Be and To Have (2002)
DICK STEEL26 October 2007
The thing that caught my eye to picking up this documentary DVD from the library was a cute kid with dirty hands soiled by paint, and the plenty of high flying accolades bestowed on the film by reputable critics and publications. Naturally my interest was piqued, but after watching this Nicholas Philibert directed documentary, while it had its charming moments, it doesn't warrant, in my opinion, some of the praises that it had garnered.

George Lopez is a teacher in a small town, and has to handle the challenge of educating his students, ranging from 3 years of age, to 11. Being a small town, naturally resources are limited, and he has not only to cater his methods to teach his students of different capabilities, but also to tackle a myriad of subjects, ranging from art, to mathematics, to language too. Talk about multi-tasking, and extreme dedication to the job (most I guess would have bolted given the workload, and responsibility), he doesn't find the need to raise his voice at those who misbehave, choosing instead to reason with them like adults, using his soft voice to win the most hardened of hearts.

But the stars of the documentary are the children. Philibert had revealed in an interview (included in the DVD as an extra) that he had deliberately chosen this particular school, for its logistics in supporting a film crew on site, but more importantly, for the size of the class of students, nothing too large that each becomes a passing face, but something manageable so that they can come across vividly. And having chosen this particular class of 12, and their teacher with his more than positive approach and attitude, are what made this documentary tick.

The children are as adorable as they are in need of some serious education. Early in the documentary we see them struggling with mathematics (OK, so they are the 3-4 year olds), but in one truly memorable scene was when one of them brought back his homework, and had to unwittingly enlist the help of parents and relatives to help him solve the problem. But alas, to my dismay, I later found it to be fabricated, which sort of spoilt my overall feeling toward this documentary - thou shalt not meddle with thy subjects.

However, what I thought was unique in Philibert's approach to documentary making, was the conscious decision to minimize the number of talking heads. There isn't any, not until the one hour mark, where George Lopez had to give a short history of himself and his underlying motivation to teaching, but other than that, it's almost like a fictional narrative in the way the subject of education is being handled.

Not one with big sets nor wanting to incorporate controversial elements, To Be and To Have is stoically quiet, and touching in the moments where teacher and students connect, especially when one is trusted enough to be a confidante, and dispensing good advice and words of encouragement to children under his charge. For those scenes I credit George Lopez for his relentless work in providing a firm grounding and good work attitude to the students under him. But alas, any notions I had on the film's honesty were somehow tainted by Philibert's revelation. Still not a bad movie, despite it being slow (to mirror the long, arduous journey one goes through to receive a decent education), but one which could have been a lot more sincere in putting forth the material.
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Wonderful documentary of a caring teacher
Red-12518 February 2003
Être et avoir (2002) is a fascinating documentary of a teacher in a small elementary school in rural France.

I live in an area that resembles the French region depicted in the movie. However, the system of education, with one teacher for children from kindergarten to--I think-- 6th grade, is obviously completely different from the system to which I am accustomed.

The teacher portrayed is clearly an intelligent and caring educator. The children obviously respect him and are fond of him. Still, I did not see a real spark of enthusiasm or an exceptional academic performance from any of the kids. I don't know if this has to do with the student population, the editing of the movie, the teacher's style, or my own ignorance of this type of learning environment.

All in all, a wonderful and truly heartwarming film, but not one that has remained at the front of my consciousness since I saw it.
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A film of warmth and humanity
howard.schumann7 April 2003
Named as one of the best films of 2002 in the Film Comment poll of 59 international film critics, To Be and To Have provides an insight into the learning process of thirteen children, ages 4 to 10, in a one-room schoolhouse during a seven-month period. The film is a tribute to the innocence of childhood and to the dedication of their teacher, 55-year old George Lopez. Director Nicolas Philibert selected Lopez' rural schoolhouse in the Auvergne region of southeast France from a list of 300 schools. As Philibert explained: "I wanted a school with a limited number of pupils so that each child would be easily identifiable and become a character in the film. I also wanted the fullest age range possible -- from kindergarten to the final year of primary school -- to show the atmosphere and charm of these small, eclectic communities and the very specific work required from the teachers."

Filming almost 600 hours of the children's daily activities with a crew of four, Philibert allows us to re-experience the long forgotten frustrations of learning how to trace letters, express our feelings verbally, count until we run out of numbers, and get along with our classmates. Mr. Lopez has taught in the same school for twenty year and has a unique ability to simply be with and respect children for who they are and what they say. He is a model of patience and an example of how to listen without making moral judgments or instant evaluations. He says of the teaching profession, "It takes time and personal involvement and the children return that again and again." Most of the children come from families who are not well educated but the film shows the parents struggling to do their best to solve the mysteries of their child's homework. To Be and To Have is also filled with humor as in a sequence when two very young students are fighting a losing battle with a photocopier and when a student insists on using the word "pal" instead of "friend". Much time is spent observing a pre-schooler named Jojo with a very typical attention span. He is endearing but I would have liked a bit more exploration of Katherine who we find out at the end has a serious problem in communicating.

Mr. Lopez works closely with each child, showing sensitivity in the way he handles problems as when he asks two fighting students to imagine the effect their behavior has on others. Time and again he mediates disputes by helping children to communicate with each other as in the scene where he assists two older boys, Julien and Olivier, in understanding the reasons they got into a fight. "You were just testing each other, but then it degenerated, no?" he asks. The film begins in December with footage of snow falling on a herd of cows and continues until the following Summer. By the end we have come to know many of the students. When the teacher announces he is going to retire in another year, the emotion on his face when the children plant kisses on his cheek as they say goodbye for their vacation was felt throughout the entire audience of 800 people. To Be and To Have celebrates the dedication of teachers whose unacknowledged labors make a profound difference in the lives of our children. A film of warmth and humanity, it is the highest grossing French documentary of all time. Job well done, Mr. Lopez and Mr. Phlibert.
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Au revoir, les enfants
Chris Knipp23 January 2004
Être et avoir, To Be and To Have, is, like Something's Gotta Give, a title I don't get. But unlike the latter, a poorly written romantic comedy and star vehicle deserving to be soon forgotten, the French documentary leaves a deep impression. It's an incredibly touching and absorbing portrait of a teacher named Georges Lopez in rural Issoire, in the center of France, who works alone in what is called a `one-room' school. His students, the blurb says, are 4 to 11. You don't really know their ages, and since they're all together you see them as individuals rather than representatives of particular age or class levels.

The focus of To Be and To Have is, with minutest detail, upon what happens in the classroom. It stops just short of a complete portrait of the man, assuming he has some `être,' some being, outside the classroom. At a moment where he speaks of himself to the camera, he reveals that he wanted to teach and loved the classroom even as a young child. Does he really have a life outside class? Has he married? It seems not. Is he gay? Asexual? Wonderful as he is as a teacher – and surely his patient firmness makes him superb with children in a peculiarly French way -- the insistence on manners and civility, on his being called `monsieur' (a bit old fashioned, one might think, even pre-1968, pre-Seventies) – and that apparent absence of a life outside the classroom, all suggest a certain human limitation in Georges Lopez. Or you can see him as a monk, teaching as his sacred calling, and the classroom as his chapel. This limitation comes through in his insistence on guidance, rather than listening, a gap that shows in two extended private sessions with students in need of counseling -- one with two boys who got in a fight, the other with a girl who is withdrawn amid her peers – where in each case the kids barely speak up at all. The teacher's manner seems to overwhelm them, even though it's gentle and caring.

But the documentary isn't just about the teacher or his firm, dominant, infinitely patient style, fascinating though those in themselves are. It's about the children too, of course, and they emerge with radiant clarity and life. Probably the one we'll best remember is JoJo (Johan, not to be confused with Johann of the beautiful eyes, sphinxlike calm, and occasional moments of cruelty). JoJo is so fascinating because he eludes classification; and yet in a way he's a childhood everyman. He's eager and gawky. Lopez is always focusing on him, but without great effect: he eludes molding too. He seems unfocused, unable to finish coloring, or photocopying a book illustration properly; or to wash his hands to remove the mess of ink he's gotten on them, or to finish the teacher's interrogation about how high numbers go.

But while JoJo seems frail and a bit confused at times, quick to become distracted, dissolving into tears when knocked down by Johann (the teacher handles these conflicts with magnificent calm evenhandedness), during the second, later numbers drill (which comes up spontaneously on a class outing) JoJo is making a quantum leap. Where earlier in the year he could barely write the number `seven,' suddenly he is talking about thousands and billions. You realize he's just a boy – full of possibilities. And there's no telling where he'll go. Those are right who've called this film a meditation on the mysteries of childhood. It's a meditation all right. Its slow microscopic observation makes it that. It makes you ponder a lot of things: childhood, teaching, retirement; the nature of the documentary process. You realize there are no rules about how minute or how comprehensive a documentary must be; that the best ones – and this is one of the best – are certainly both.

Throughout Être et avoir there are moments that are tremendously moving, which pop up instantly without warning. Since the editing doesn't follow any logic other than the passage of time as the school year progresses from the onset of winter to the approach of summer, you may wonder how it's all going to pull together. There are even some segments showing parents helping their children with homework that are rather dull – till the poor rural parents' academic cluelessness becomes hilarious, -- and then you realize it's a bit sad. There are beautiful brief sequences of the snow, of cows, of one of the boys cooking and driving a tractor. But what is the film talking about? we may wonder. Where is it going?

Then we learn that the teacher is going to retire shortly. And since we know now that teaching is his life in a far greater sense than usual, the day this school year ends, when the students all come up and kiss the teacher goodbye on both cheeks (three kisses in a few special cases) becomes a hugely significant day. After the children leave you half expect the maître to burst into tears like JoJo when Johann knocked him down. He doesn't, but we weep a bit for him, for the children, and for our own lost childhoods. Philibert, the filmmaker, has done a magnificent job, just by being there but not getting in the way. He has shown us a world. Merci M. Philibert! Merci M. Lopez! Merci JoJo!
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French director Nicolas Philibert films a simple yet charming tale about a "one teacher school".
FilmCriticLalitRao23 October 2014
'To be and to have' is one of the most interesting documentary films about education made in recent times. It presents a novel look at the educational system especially through its intimate portrayal of a small school run by a single teacher. Before directing "Etre et Avoir", Nicolas Philibert had made several interesting documentary films. This film is absolutely unique as it does not focus solely on the small school in question as it extends its scope beyond four walls of the school. One can see what the students do when they are with their families. It is with great amazement, one sees how almost everything related to education is depicted through the personal involvement of Monsieur Georges Lopez. As a teacher, he is respected by all as apart from learning from him, they are free to receive advice from him on their personal problems. In many ways, watching Mr.Georges Lopez teach, one is reminded of the changes which need to be brought about in modern education systems which have more drawbacks but fewer advantages. This is a perfect film to be shown at all schools where French language is taught.
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Delightful Documentary
valleyjohn5 June 2011
We sometimes forget how hard it is for young children when they start their school life . It's daunting going to a new place every day , with other children and adults they have never met before. To Be and To Have is a delightful documentary that follows a rural school in France that has just the one teacher and 12 kids aged 4 -10 . I wasn't sure if there was going to be enough going on this movie to keep my concentration but couldn't have been more wrong.

George Lopez is the name of the teacher and we see him in the last year before he retires. This is a man who quite clearly loves his job and adores the children he teaches. At first we see the sterner side of him when he has to tell a couple of the children off but it soon becomes clear that these children are extremely lucky to have a man like Georges Lopez as their first teacher.

There are some lovely scenes but one will stay with me for a while, its when he is talking to a pupil who's father has cancer and it's hard not to well up when see how both pupil and teacher handle it. The final day of George Lopes 's career is also another very moving moment.

This wont be everyone's cup of tea but i love foreign documentaries like this
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thought provoking and sensitive
wisewebwoman10 February 2003
This would not to be everyone's taste and in fact several of the audience members left the theatre where it was being screened.

It is extremely sloooooow paced. But exquisite and beautiful, like a rare jewel. Even several days later it is still with me.

The teacher, Georges Lopez, is amazing, both in his talent and in his reflection of the gift of a true vocation in what he does and in his strength on screen. There is never a doubt that this man loves his pupils and they love him and he proceeds to care for them and bring out the best in them with his one on one intensity.

I gave it an 8 out of 10. Do not miss this if you do not mind your movies subtitled - though because of the ages of the children I found the French quite easy to follow - and deeply reflective.

This movie is what learning should be for every child.
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A hymn to a dedicated man
Philby-32 May 2004
A documentary on a year in the life of a single teacher rural French primary school is on the face of it not riveting fare but I found this film insidiously charming. The style is rather like that of pre-war British documentaries where the cinematographers attempted to make each shot a work of art. Every scene is perfectly lit, framed and shot, yet with great immediacy. The Aubergene setting is exploited to the utmost and Dogme 95 can go to Hell. I'm not sure what the title has to do with the film – I guess 'to serve them all my days ' has been already used.

The naturalistic performances of the 'cast' – the middle-aged teacher Lopez and his 13 pupils aged from 4 to 12 are no doubt helped by the fact that when you have a film crew around you for 5 months there comes a point when you forget they are there, as some unfortunate NSW policeman found out in Jennie Brockie's doco 'Cop it Sweet' a few years ago. And of course the film makers here are showing us 100 minutes or so of the hundreds of hours they must have shot. What's left is not a tight narrative but a series of 'scenes from the lives' of the pupils and teacher. One or two of the kids are cute, but they are an ordinary group, and, it must be said, not always intellectually well-endowed. The curriculum, relying strongly on rote learning, is clearly outdated though Lopez does what he can with it, relying on 'play-way' methods. Part of his problem is that kids go to school at 4 in France, and some are really too young for structured formal learning.

We see a little of the lives of some of the kids outside the school such as Julien's hilarious homework session which becomes a kind of informal game show for the whole family. There's not much on Mr Lopez outside school though. A bachelor with a distant widowed mother, he seems to have no personal life whatever. The only time we see him outside the school day he is doing a spot of marking. He is obviously totally involved in his work but he somehow maintains the necessary detachment and is able to give wise advice. Mr Lopez apparently sued the producers for 250,000 Euros on the grounds they had 'appropriated his character' – I guess he wasn't paid and the film has done very well commercially. He cannot complain about his portrayal here where he comes across as an admirable teacher who derives a great deal of satisfaction from his profession. His pupils clearly appreciate his interest, though he is a bit overwhelming for some of them at times.

His chief virtue is his patience. I suspect his expectations are not terribly high (11 year old Julien for instance looks like he will end up on the family farm where he already operates the tractor with plenty of skill). But Mr Lopez does have his occasional small triumphs such as steering into friendship two boys who start out enemies.

As I said, this film turned out to be much easier to watch than I thought, and that was partly due to the God of Small Things – a stream of minor incidents used to build up the story. There was the two kids (the charming JoJo and his cute French-Asian friend Maria trying to operate the photocopying machine for example. How could that be funny? You'll see.
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A sweetly bucolic documentary about a one-room schoolhouse in the French countryside.
khanbaliq212 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
To Be And To Have is a film every teacher should see, and every parent, too. It's a documentary that traces a year in the life and career of 55-year-old George Lopez, a traditionally minded teacher, and his mixed-age class of 13 pupils in rural France.

The film is an assiduous, patient documentary that assembles the life of a small school over a year in its remarkable detail. Director Nicolas Philibert obtains relaxed, candid footage from its charming children; in Lopez he has unearthed a gem of a subject. To Be And To Have won several awards, including the 2003 Sacramento French Film Festival Audience Prize.
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clever, well constructed documentary with some beautiful landscapes
TheNorthernMonkee19 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS One of the most important parts of any childhood is the first few years of schooling. With a good teacher and a friendly environment, a child can learn things which will help him for the rest of his life. Whether in Britain, America, France or elsewhere, this stage is crucial to any developing child.

Perhaps the most important thing about this young stage in life is how good your teacher is. If they know their stuff and can inspire children, that teacher can have a permanent effect on a child. In 2002, documentary director Nicholas Philibert filmed a small class in a quiet French village. With beautiful landscapes and some amazing cinematography, Philibert's "Etre et avoir" or "To Be and To Have" is an impressive work which reminds us of our own childhoods and shows just how much a good teacher can effect a child.

Georges Lopez has been working at the same school in rural France for twenty years. With 18 months left till retirement, Lopez will deep down always be a teacher. Inspiring a class of four to 11 year olds, we are shown a period of time through which Lopez will demonstrate just how good a teacher can be.

Whether the beautiful snow covered beginning to the summer conclusion, the true beauty of "Etre et avoir" is the landscape and the way director Philibert shows it. Visually satisfying, the documentary shows us images of an outside world where life flourishes.

Inside the classroom, the documentary is equally amazing. Whether it's Monsier Lopez dictating to the children, or the often distracted Johan (or JoJo), lives are shaped in the classroom in front of the camera. The children are a varied collection of children who all love their teacher and who are taking part in one of the most important parts of their lives. Brilliantly shot, the film manages to capture the teaching skills of Lopez whilst displaying the innocence of the children who love him.

Ironically the finest moments in the documentary are actually away from the school. With parents helping their children with homework, the difference in styles is brilliant. Whether it's the quiet parent watching their child work, or the vocal family who all team up to help their child, all the families involved are reminders of how crucial a family life can be too. That second mentioned family in particular also give us the funniest moment of the film where they bicker between themselves over whether the boy's homework is right or not. This is a normal hard working family, and the scene is just yet another reminder of how real the story actually is.

There's little point trying to deny that in terms of plot, relatively little happens in this story. Unlike more recent American documentaries, it doesn't have some major point which it tries to force across. What "Etre et avoir" does is that it reminds us of the innocence of childhood and our own school lives. It shows us how a brilliant teacher can inspire children, and it reminds us that the early school years are crucial to a child's development. The story doesn't seem to literally go anywhere, but just like everywhere else, this real world demonstration demonstrates a gradual change over a period of time. Often the biggest plot developments are those which happen so gradually, that you barely notice them.

As a reminder of childhood, "Etre et avoir" is a superb documentary. Mixing absolutely gorgeous landscape images with the lives of a small village, the story shows us just how crucial these early years are for children. Georges Lopez is a superb teacher, and combining his skills with a solid family life, these children should be set for life. A masterful piece of film making.
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Very good documentary
LeRoyMarko21 March 2004
Very interesting way of presenting the way education is given in rural France. In fact, it's probably a way of teaching that's on the way of extinction. Because it doesn't really reflect the reality of the school system of today. But it's still a good movie for the humanity that transpires from it. And it make us think about our own education system and its flaws. More than teachers, we need life educators. People who will show kids the beauty of life. Who will show them to open their eyes and see the beauty that surrounds them, to smell life, to hear all of nature's sounds, to feel with their hands life and to taste what's good in life. The movie is full of a sentimentalism that wins us over. That's ok, we need that some times.

Out of 100, I gave it 84. That's good for *** out of ****.

Seen in Toronto, at the Cineplex Odeon Carleton Cinemas, on February 23rd, 2003.
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Quietly Compelling, Highly Intelligent Year In A Challenging Classroom
museumofdave6 May 2013
Wouldn't it be nice if instead of jamming the multiplexes to see mindless idiocy of most blockbuster movies, over-hyped reflections of our need to be constantly entertained, citizens could spend a few hours watching how children learn, getting to know what a quieter existence away from television might be like, getting a sense of community from a simple school room in France? Of course it would be nice if we all had free dental care, too, and a nutritious dinner fixed for us every night.

But to the film: To Be and To Have is an amazing year's document inside a French classroom, where one patient teacher gives attention to the students who need it, teaches persistence and patience and co-operation, and does so without "no child left behind" gimmickry. He leaves no child behind, and if you take the time to immerse yourself in this slow, rewarding film, there are children you will meet and never forget. This film is quietly entertaining, highly educational, and reflects a kind of intelligent model for a civilized world.
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Très bon!
treeline12 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This enchanting French documentary follows a year in the life of a teacher and his students in a one-room country school. The children, ranging in age from 4 to 11, display no awkwardness in front of the camera, but go about their days dealing with the agonies of times tables, the mysteries of learning to write, the thrill of flipping crepes, and the challenges of getting along. The teacher has the wisdom and dedication of a saint, in sharp contrast with a parent who is shown slapping her son during a homework session.

I heartily recommend this film to future, present, and past teachers; it will certainly open remind you of the innocence and value of each child and will inspire you to do your best. This is a rare and wonderful documentary that will have you laughing and also reaching for the tissues. With English subtitles.
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A hymn to teaching and Georges Lopez in particular.
diane-3429 August 2004
Teaching is a gift, a talent and it can not be taught-sure, people can be taught at universities about the particulars of teaching but the guts of teaching is something that imbues an adult with the warmth of dealing with young people. Georges Lopez has that talent, that gift and this beautiful film allows adults to see what happens in something we all participate in but rarely have a chance to observe after we are adults.

I found the film to be mesmerizing with it's reflections on the beauty and innocence of childhood as well as the little insights into French rural life all held together with the "glue" provided by the teaching of Lopez with his powerful personality. The beauty of this personality and his extraordinary attitude towards the children in his care are the parts of this wonderfully warm documentary that linger with me after viewing the film.

A person feels so humbled after watching a master at work and we must question our society's values when a man of this talent can beaver away unknown in deep pockets in urban and rural settings under valued by our society while others with far less to contribute are valued to a degree beyond worth.
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I,m totally baffled at the praise
karlericsson8 June 2013
So this is a dedicated teacher according to some reviews here. Makes me wonder what an undedicated teacher is like. If this bad school is what's good, I do not even dare to think what a bad school is like. From what I can see, it's the same old indoctrination going on here as I remember from my school-days. Not a word about the abomination of rich and poor that I hoped that I had learned something about when I went to school. No, no the same abuse of learning to accept injustice is going on here and there's nothing good about that. Just the same old brain-wash going on, in other words. I'd like to see the movie in which the teacher gets in trouble for telling the truth about our abomination of a society. This ain't it.
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A French documentary to treasure
jandesimpson28 September 2003
It's all been done before and looks so easy. Just get a group of cute little kids and a sympathetic adult prompter. Turn a hidden camera on them. Result - a sure-fire winner. And yet one is left with a nagging question - can it have been that easy when the result is something as impressive and beautifully formed as Nicolas Philibert's moving study of a village school in the Auvergne from winter through to summer? It opens with a stunning shot of cattle stoically moving about in a snow storm and continues with the progress of a school minibus as it collects young children from farms and hamlets to take them along snowy tracks to the warm security of a stone schoolhouse and their kindly and sympathetic village schoolmaster. He works alone, dividing his attention between children from four to eleven years of age and somehow succeeds miraculously in catering for their wide variety of needs. Shortly after their arrival I found a few doubts beginning to creep in on a first showing. Some of the interaction between master and pupils seemed to go on for an inordinate amount of time. When cinema adopts the role of recording the minutiae of the everyday without the discipline of the cutting scissors, as happens here when the very young children in turn write the word "Maman" and there is an inquest on each, does it not become a little like watching paint dry? And yet - if ever a film deserves patience in overcoming its initial longeurs, this is it. What these opening sequences achieve is to help us know these children as individuals and to become better acquainted with the schoolmaster as he gradually emerges as an almost saintly figure in the way he handles the problems of his charges, the two boys who fight, the girl about to go to secondary school who cannot relate to others, the boy who suddenly breaks down when he speaks of his father's illness and the tiny newcomer who cries for his mother. Such very special moments transcend what could have been an otherwise rather mundane experience; these and the sheer beauty with which the director and his cameraman record the passing of the seasons. The film concludes with the children saying goodbye to their teacher as they leave for their summer holiday. At this point I felt enriched by this brief insight into their lives. My tears were of gratitude for an experience that had touched me in so special a way.
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Yet another boring French documentary on an otherwise interesting topic.
stuka2419 October 2006
I found this film simply irritating.

I can't think why it should be "required viewing" like some reviewers claim. Maybe for those who are into teaching, who absolutely LOVE kids and for those who do rural sociology (I must be forgetting some other trade).

But for most of us, it only shows how difficult it must be to teach VERY young kids. And how vital that role is. As Kim Anehall puts so well in Amazon: "To Be and to Have offers some true insights on the job as teachers should be regarded as everyday heroes in the last line of defense in a developing society".

I think that the director Philibert never "scrapes below the surface" of the teaching process itself, leaving us instead with plain empiria. And the "lessons" seems staked, like if Mr. Lopez would like to prove how good he is at teaching, and as a person. But, as a reviewer notes, the camera shows very clearly when the kids have learnt their lesson, and when they don't (which is most of the times).

The stark contrast of the "conditons of life" in France compared to any underdeveloped country is painful. The teacher drives a big Audi (!), the schools themselves are nice and lofty, and they all have all the necessary equipment. The kind of things people take for granted on the developed world. I'd love to have this system back in my country, Argentina. Specifically, in the "conurbano bonaerense", where teachers aren't paid for months, pupils go to school basically to have a meal their parents can't afford back home, and violence is the rule of the game.

I laughed with one American reviewer when he said that probably JoJo would be medicated in the US...

If you want to know about different methods of education you could always watch for instance Kiarostami's "Where Is the Friend's Home?" to learn how the other half of the world lives.

The cinematography is very nice.

I agree with another Amazon reviewer Matt Curtin (Columbus, OH USA) on the Lopez'saga of suits: "That he would later claim that he was due some additional compensation that was never part of the deal reminds me of his interaction with young JoJo (...) even our greatest teachers are still ultimately human, complete with their own weaknesses. Perhaps the final lesson is that even disappointment is a part of life".

Same goes for the great Manohla Dargis on the LA Times: "Apparently, the French are not so very different, after all".
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Leisurely but fascinating (***1/2)
Ronin474 July 2004
Very good documentary about an extraordinary schoolteacher named Georges Lopez who runs a one-room school in rural France where he teaches children from ages 4 to 11 all at the same time.

The most fascinating aspect of the film is the way it observes the children. It's amazing to see young children interact once they've forgotten they're being observed, seeing them play and fight and learning new things about life every minute. You will definitely find yourself flashing back to your own early childhood.

It's also interesting to note that even in a one-room school in rural France, there are troubled bullies, shy outsiders, and all manner of children you'll find anywhere.

"To Be And To Have" is fascinating, very moving, and the French countryside is stunningly beautiful to look at, but it's certainly not a fast paced film. Definitely worth it if you've got patience, though.
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I found this rather troubling
calorne12 November 2020
Warning: Spoilers
It was interesting seeing the children undertaking their classroom tasks but I am not certain how effective the teaching was - it is not my field so I do not know, but there seemed to be a lot of rote learning without much understanding.

It also appeared to me at times that the teacher was being unkind to the children. However, I have since read in newspaper articles that the teacher and some of the parents of the children have sued the filmmakers and one of the allegations was that a number of scenes were staged. So possibly the scenes that I found troubling (in which, for example, the teacher appeared to be psychoanalysing the children and upsetting them in the process) were staged.

Staged or not it did appear to me that there was unkindness to the children as they seemed to be genuinely distressed.
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