Posts Tagged ‘Education’

The Workshop (2017) ****

Dir: Laurent Cantet | Writer: Robin Campillo | France | Cast: Marina Fois, Matthieu Lucci | 114min | Drama

Laurent Cantet follows his middle-aged rumination Return to Ithaca (2014) with an equally unsettling but darker teenage drama that takes place in a multi-cultural summer school in Provence. Youth is a subject he’s covered before in his Palme d’Or winner The Class (2008) but here the region’s working class past come back to haunt the instability of the present providing an intoxicating mix of emotions in a tense, intelligent and socially relevant drama.

The film follows Antoine who is taking part in summer school in rather downtrodden town of La Ciotat, where he hopes to write a crime thriller novel with the help of a well-known author Olivia Dejazet (Marina Fois).  Joined by seven other local teenagers from the town which has seen better days as a centre for shipbuilding – today the docks just service luxury yachts.

Whilst most of the students are critical of Dejazet’s Parisian “snootiness”, they still co-operate  – apart from Antoine (Lucci). He is provocative to both teacher and co-students, shocking them with a piece of gruesome writing, describing a mass-killer, and told in the first person singular. Downtime is spend hanging around the area, in one instance with an unlicensed firearm.  Antoine has already been playing the popular video game “The Witch3: Wild Hunt”,  where he choses the role of a Viking killer-for hire. Malik (Rammach), a young Muslim woman, is Antoine’s fiercest critic, as he continues to undermine the project, upsetting everyone with his unruly attitude. Dejazet feels hopeless – not used to open racism and Antoine’s perverse love of violence – then she tries to help him. But her efforts end in a traumatic encounter, and Antoine gives himself away: he describes the main motive of the Bataclan perpetrators as boredom, a very astute projection, considering his activities with other far-right friends.

Antoine might not have the intellectual prowess of Drieu La Rochelle, the nihilist hero of Louis Malle’ s Le Feu Follet, but there are certain parallels: both men prefer male company, the home-erotic undertones are very clear. Like many fascists, they are obsessed with death and suicide (La Rochelle killed himself in 1945 after being a collaborator), and their relationship with women tends to be antagonistic: their masculine pride does not allow them to come emotionally close to women. Antoine is a gun for hire, his phantasies of obliteration are as much directed at himself as others.

Regular collaborate Robin Campillo, who also worked on Entre les Murs with Cantet, constructs an ambivalent relationship between Dejazet and Antoine: both are aware of their social differences, but in spite this they are somehow attracted to one another. Their relationship develops into a separate story, whilst the other six students try to write their own crime novel. DoP Pierre Milon uses impressive panoramic shots, showing the empty docks, then returning to the intimate scenes of collaborate writing, without breaking the fluent movement. Cantet’s direction is  sensitive, he never denounces Antoine, seeing him as a victim of change: once he would have found a spiritual home with the dock workers, but now he is alienated and bitter. L’Atelier is a story of disenfranchisement, and storytelling – with the author as teacher, but one who’s not always in control.




The School in the Cloud (2018) **** Warsaw Film Festival 2018

Dir: Jerry Rothwell | Doc | 85′

“Do not limit children to your own learning for they were born in anther time” Rabindranath Tagore

What is the future of education in a networked world? With the words of Tagore ringing in his ears, TED Prize-winning scientist Sugata Mitra installs an unmanned Internet kiosk in a remote Bengali village to pioneer “The School in the Cloud”. As children encounter the Internet for the first time, will they be able to use it to transform their futures? Award-winning documentarian Jerry Rothwell decided to find out in his latest film The School in the Cloud  which examines the ups and downs of Sugata Mitra’s pioneering cloud-based educational model, as the leap from theory to practice proves to be its own fascinating learning curve, both in the developing and the developed world.

Three years in the making – in India and the North East of England – director Jerry Rothwell  (How to Change the World/Sour Grapes) explores the challenges of bringing the Professor Mitra’s vision of giving the next generation the opportunity to create a better and more informed existence for itself. If he’s successful, education will never be the same again. In his tweed suit, shirt and tie, Professor Mitra comes across as a kind and approachable presence. He began his self-organised learning experiments in 1999, when he knocked a hole in the wall of his office in Delhi, India, into a nearby slum and placed an Internet-ready computer there (that went on to become the Hole in the Wall experiment). Some of the children have never had access to the internet. His research had taught him that if children’s minds are allowed to wander in a chaotic fashion, they will crystallise around big ideas. And the experiment was a big success, initially. Children flocked to the computer and taught themselves how to use it. But Sugata wasn’t satisfied with that – he wanted them to be able to pass the same tests as children in private education. By introducing an adult into the mix who offered support and encouragement in much the same way a grandmother does, he found his answer. Both in India and in England, where children are already digital natives, this access to self-learning turns out to be able to change everything. The Indian system of learning tends to focus on stricter right/wrong answers, whereas British children are allowed to be more creative and playful at school. Rothwell’s film is a portrait of an idealist at work, and of an idea that can potentially create positive change for millions of children. But Mitra also has his (British) detractors who make negative comments about the difference in theory and practice of his idea. They talk of “educational colonialism” and “parachuting shiny objects into developing countries, and then hoping for the best”. But Rothwell the first recipient of the Sundance Institute/TED Prize Filmmaker Award in 2013  counters these naysayers: “Mitra is often accused of naivety about the way children learn, but I think the power of his ideas – even if they are utopian – is in challenging education systems that have failed to acknowledge how the internet has changed the world,” says Jerry, “During the film we see both the difficulties of implementing his ideas of self-organised learning environments in remote locations, and their potential for children itching to explore the world.” The children design their own ideal classroom.

Rothwell’s film is enriched by its widescreen footage of the Sunderbans scenery in the local villages of Korakati and Gurjala and and by the children themselves, both in the UK and India, who share their excitement, ideas and lively observations which bring fresh insight into the learning process. The School in the Cloud is a portrait of a positive idealist at work, and of an idea that can potentially create positive change for millions of children. MT

WARSAW FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | 12-21 OCTOBER 2018 | Then at BERTHA DOCHOUSE | FROM 19 OCTOBER 2018 | Q&A with the director on the opening night | International screenings 

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