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To Be and to Have
To Be and to Have
Actors: Georges Lopez, Alizé, Axel, Guillaume, Jessie
Director: Nicolas Philibert
Genres: Indie & Art House, Kids & Family
NR     2004     1hr 44min

The National Society of Film Critics awarded Nicolas Philibert's lovely To Be and to Have a 2003 Best Documentary prize for its pastoral grace and subtle power. Philibert spent a period filming the rhythms and activities w...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Georges Lopez, Alizé, Axel, Guillaume, Jessie
Director: Nicolas Philibert
Creators: Hugues Gemignani, Katell Djian, Laurent Didier, Nicolas Philibert, Gilles Sandoz, Serge Lalou
Genres: Indie & Art House, Kids & Family
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Family Films
Studio: New Yorker Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/19/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 44min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A Close and Warm Documentary - Spontaneously Brilliant!!!
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 12/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"To Be and to Have is a spontaneous documentary depicting the hard work a teacher continuously provides for his students in a rural part of France where mountains loom in the background. The words 'hard work' are relative as it is manually considered light work while the hours and the emotional patience might be weary on the hardest of men. In addition, very few teachers are recognized for the work they provide for an emerging generation that will eventually take over from the current generation. Nonetheless, the teacher's satisfaction is provided through the success of those he teaches, as they will move away and in due time discover what secrets rest behind the mountains.

The teacher, Georges Lopez, teaches a combined elementary school where the student's age varies with the youngest at about four years old. Despite the wide range of ages among the students Mr. Lopez succeeds in teaching them what is needed to advance academically. The students learn how to draw and write proper letters and numbers and learn what diameter and radius mean. One of the amusing moments in the film is when the younger students learn how to crack an egg and one student misses the bowl while cracking the egg to which Mr. Lopez simply says, "It's ok." This displays how Mr. Lopez does not miss an opportunity for learning, as the child learns a lesson in how to deal with failure. There is a serenity surrounding Mr. Lopez to which the students seem to respond well, which is implemented even when he is dealing with bullying and fighting. It is easy to see that Mr. Lopez has a job that he loves, as he also mentions that he could not imagine having a different job.

The students are uncomplicated kids that prefer to play during recess and chat among one another. However, the students show an immense respect for Mr. Lopez who keeps them in line and on task as he holds them accountable for their work or lack of work. In one scene there is a student, Jojo, who has not finished his assignment as he wants to go out for recess, but Mr. Lopez keeps him inside and makes it clear that he must finish his assignment now and not later. These students learn not only academic skills through Mr. Lopez, but also social skills through verbal communication along with work ethic. These verbal skills are practiced and demonstrated when two students are being reprimanded after a fight, which Mr. Lopez verbally guides the two boys through.

It is pure joy to watch Mr. Lopez handle each and every situation in school, outside of school, and during recess as no situation is the same. Films such as Stand and Deliver (1988), Dead Poets Society (1989), and Emperor's Club (2002) offers insights and the beauty of an enlightening education, but these films do not affect the audience in the way To Be and to Have does as the students truly display a sincere manner in which most children learn. The difficulty a teacher faces in order to get and continue to maintain their attention focused on educational material can be monumental, but in the fiction films this is merely displayed through one situation and with a wink of the magic wand where all students sit in nice rows and pays attention.

Mr. Lopez should have had one more year of teaching when Nicolas Philibert finished shooting the film, which means he has entered retirement by now. In 30-some years Mr. Lopez worked with numerous students as many other teacher have done before him and teachers will continue to do after his retirement. The notion of all the hard work that teachers provide for children are seldom appreciated as many even think teachers are overpaid. However, the audience should consider that without teachers there would not be a progressing civilization, as teachers encourage the young generations inquisitiveness and quests for knowledge, which are a fundamental piece of technological evolution. In addition, teachers help foster social skills which are essential for society's well-being as people must try to get along whether they like or dislike one another. Thus, 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.
Captivating piece, set in small French school-room
johnvl2 | 10/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This simple, beautifully crafted movie unfolds over the course of an academic year in a small, one-room school in Auvergne, France. It was a huge box-office attraction in its native France, and little wonder. It's a documentary that never for a moment looks 'staged'. Its success is in its simplicity - the camera (the audence) is the unobtrusive observer, endlessly rewarded as the scenes unfold before us.This is light-years away from the MTV-generation documentary-style, where 'engaging' amounts to being bombarded with non-stop image and sound, for fear you might stray for a moment. In Etre et avoir we are immersed in a world where patience always has its reward, where we're granted a privilege pass into this world of tenderness, nurturing and growth.Who couldn't identify with the little one who's trying so desperately to remember what-that-number-is-after-six, or who drifts off day-dreaming and needs to be steered back on track? The pupil-teacher rapport is wonderfully captured by director Nicolas Philibert sharing with us moments of joy, pathos, and sometimes pain in the lives of the children, under the expert guidance of teacher Georges Lopes, as he balances the needs of those on their first day in class, through to those coming to terms with the prospect of leaving this one and moving on the higher school. We see both the centre-stage happennings and the many wonderful vignettes, those little 'distractions' which so often take place on the fringes of the classroom.If you want to see human compassion and understanding, humour and joy, wonder and revelation - played for real - then this gem is one to treasure."
This is a must see.
Justin Hambly | Simi Valley, Ca | 12/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Etre et Avoir/ To Be and to Have is a masterpiece of documentary filmmaking. I watched this with my wife and we were both taken in by the story of the teacher in the twilight of his career using all his acquired skill and experience to shape these children. Not only teaching them to read and write, but also teaching them their personal worth and place in society. You'll laugh and cry. Any teacher or anyone planning on teaching should view this film.
I loved that there was no voice over commentary from the director, which allowed you get an unbiased view into the life of this little schoolhouse. Forget Michael Moore and his propaganda laced documentary, Nicolas Philbert isn't selling you any of his ideas, but you'll buy into the story line. The shots are beautiful and you'll wish grew up in small farming town in France. Absolutely Stunning. A must see. Thank you Nicolas Philbert.
Ronald Gilmore | Berlin | 10/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If there truely is 'beauty in simplicity' this is a film that encapsulates it perfectly. The cinematography is so sophistocated it belies the genius behind it. It is such a genuine piece of work that doesn't attempt to work emotions - they simply happen through the extraordinary portaryal of the seemingly ordinary.
Anyone who teaches or has the slightest interest in children will, and I say 'will' without hestation, be drawn into into the lives of the pupils and will understand what lies behind the teacher we all wish we had.
If you have the opportunity to see this film - do so. In an hour and a half you will understand the cheepness; the commercialisation of Hollywood and you will leave the film celebrating the art of documentary making at its very very best."