“To Be and To Have” is the best movie about teaching ever made


We’ve seen our share of teachers in the movies, but we never see them as teachers. We see them as great orators, stand-up comedians or wise counselors, but we never see them doing the actual nitty gritty of teaching grammar or times tables.

The French documentary “To Be and To Have” is simply about teaching and learning. Filmmaker Nicholas Philibert trains his camera on one classroom in a small school somewhere in the French countryside for a semester, and he finds spellbinding drama there. “To Be and To Have” gets inside the lives of its young characters so deeply and so empathetically that every tiny academic setback feels like a tragedy to us, and every small step forward feels like a triumph.

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