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on December 18, 2004
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.
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on November 7, 2004
Etre et Avoir documents the story of a rural French one-room school, where students from kindergarten to about 11 years old are taught by a devoted teacher who has taught at this schoolhouse for over 20 years. We get a glimpse into the homelife of one or two of the students, and the documentary crew (who spent a year at the school) manage to capture some truly charming spontaneous moments.

I found it fascinating to watch the kids learning their numbers and French grammar. I am reminded of that old joke about the American who went on vacation in France and was impressed at how educated the children there were: "I heard children as young as two years old, speaking French!"

All first-year teachers could benefit from watching how the instructor deals with the children of different ages. He is patient, but he demands respect. He is stern when necessary but never cruel and the children love him, as it's clear he loves them. What a wonderful true story.
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on December 12, 2007
This was a nice video that is filmed like a documentary, but you are pulled in by the relationship the teacher has with his multi-level classroom students. It also gives a little glimpse into daily life for these French children.

Speaking as a French teacher, as French movies go, this one is very school appropriate, with only one bad word in the subtitles and no inappropriate scenes.
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on March 15, 2007
This is one of those movies that you buy copies of and send to everyone you know. My sister called me and demanded that I come to her house to watch this quaint little French film that she rented. I was not at all excited and planned to grade papers during the movie. Yet, I was immediately and completely distracted from my work tasks by the Debussy-like score as the snow powdered pines blew in the Auvergnian wind. Not to dwell on the score again, but it also perfectly mirrored the curious nature of the children as they discovered the world around them with the guidance of thier patient professor.

As I write this review, I am purchasing a copy for my best friend to brighten her day.
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on December 5, 2004
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.
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on January 24, 2007
On the last day of school, teacher George Lopez dismisses his students for the final time with hugs and kisses. He is nearly in tears, and so are we the viewers. To Be and To Have, France's highest grossing documentary ever, follows Lopez and his class of a dozen elementary kids ages 3-11 in rural France for most of the academic year. The film is entirely without comment or narration, except for a two or three minute segment towards the end when Lopez explains how and why he spent 35 years as a teacher. The reason? Pure love and joy, which goes a long way toward explaining why he was a master teacher, and this otherwise slow-moving film is so powerful and even magic. We see the kids reading and writing, fighting and farming, baking, sledding and celebrating class birthdays. In my favorite scene, Lopez coaches little Jo Jo to discover that he can count to a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, and even a billion or more. You see his little mind reeling with the unfolding realization that numbers never stop! For the most part the kids are oblivious to the camera. The true story of a life well spent, the spontaneity of children, and spectacular scenery of rural France make this film a visual and emotional delight. In French with English subtitles.
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on July 28, 2004
Plot Outline: A documentary portrait of a one-room school in rural France, where the students (ranging in age from 4 to 10) are educated by a single dedicated teacher.

Inspired by the French phenomenon of 'single-class' schools ÊTRE ET AVOIR charts the life of a small one-class village school over the course of one academic year, and takes a warm and serene look at primary education in the French heartlands.

A dozen youngsters, aged 4-10, are brought together in one classroom and taught every subject by one single teacher of extraordinary dedication.

A master in quiet authority, schoolteacher Georges Lopez patiently navigates the children towards adolescence, cooling down their arguments and listening to their problems.
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on August 19, 2004
If you want to feel that there's hope for human-kind, that kindness, generousity, and patience are everyday virtues, that one can be clear-eyed and not be cynical, you will probably like this film. I revelled in the timeless calm and playful atmosphere of this little movie. A firm five-star, thumbs-up! I expect that most viewers will wish they had experienced such a school year, and such a master teacher.
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on August 10, 2009
I saw this film when it was first released some years ago and really loved it. The film confirmed my belief that teaching is or can be one of the noblest callings/vocations in life.
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on April 3, 2005
French pedagogy differs from American, so American viewers should not expect an American classroom with a French accent when they watch "To Be and To Have" ("Etre et Avoir"). Despite the differences of style and language, however, the film is powerful because it taps into the reservoir of universal experience.

Adults sometimes idealize childhood. Maybe they really did have perfect lives as youth, but more likely their memories are short. "To Be and To Have" recaptures not just the innocence and sponteneity of childhood that we idealize, but also the uncertainty, the need to be accepted and understood, the need and sometimes difficulty of understanding, the influence of family, the importance of a wise and caring teacher or guide.

The children are positively endearing, and very individual. Some are stars; others struggle. George Lopez, the instructor, is soft-spoken and reaches his students' minds through their hearts as well as intellect. One of the things that struck me early on in the film was how effectvely he reached through to his students with his quiet wisdom and steady hand at the tiller.

The quality of the cinematography and editing are also excellent and support the film beautifully.

(I would give this movie 4.5 stars, if the option were available.) Highly recommended!
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