The fact based story of a class of schoolchildren, teenagers, in a, from the look of it, mixed ethnic district of Paris, who's teacher decides to enter them in a competition to examine the ...
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The fact based story of a class of schoolchildren, teenagers, in a, from the look of it, mixed ethnic district of Paris, who's teacher decides to enter them in a competition to examine the holocaust from the point of view of its impact on young people. It contains some very emotional scenes and chronicles the change in the opinions and interactions of a typical class of adolescents.Written by
The French movie Les héritiers was shown in the U.S. with the title Once in a Lifetime (2014) It was co-written and directed by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar. Her co-writer was Ahmed Dramé, who co-stars in the film as the student Malik. (The film is based on Ahmed's own experiences.)
Ariane Ascaride plays Anne Gueguen, a dedicated and skillful high-school teacher. She teaches students from a poor, culturally mixed neighborhood. Most people have given up on these students, and they have given up on themselves.
Rather than just throwing facts at them, Gueguen engages the students in fascinating but difficult project. She wants them to enter a national competition to produce a work about French children in the Holocaust.
France is notorious for the manner in which the French police helped the Germans find and deport Jews. One of the students tells the incredulous class that the French Fascist, Pierre Laval, insisted on deporting French children to the concentration camps, although the Germans hadn't demanded that.
What happens next is somewhat predictable. The principal and the students themselves don't believe that they can accomplish something of this magnitude. Even when enthusiasm for the project starts to emerge, it's difficult for the students to work together for the common good.
Anne Gueguen is quite a teacher. Her students learned things they never would have learned otherwise, because she helped them go after the information themselves. She got them to want to learn. She made learning about the French Holocaust a personal quest for each student.
I don't know how accurately Ariane Ascaride portrays Anne Gueguen, but for me, her portrayal appeared to be perfect. She's the high school teacher you wish you could have had. Ahmed Dramé, as Malik, is already a skilled actor, and he makes his character come alive. The other young actors do well. Although all the scenes are recreated, I got the sense that this was probably a reasonably accurate portrayal of the actual events.
We saw this film at The Little Theatre, as part of the excellent Rochester International Jewish Film Festival. It's available on DVD, and will work well on the small screen. Find it and see it.
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