Apprendre by Claire Simon, in a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival 2024: Our opinion

Published by Manon de Sortiraparis · Published on May 19th, 2024 at 06:31 p.m.
Claire Simon's new documentary, Apprendre, was presented in a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Read our review.

Learning, lifting your finger, not making mistakes. Wanting the teacher to say, " That's good! Knowing how to read, write and count isn't always easy... Teaching children, detecting in their eyes what's sticking, encouraging them, helping them. Getting them to read, sing... Learning to talk to each other in the playground instead of fighting. In her new documentary Apprendre, presented as a Special Screening at the Cannes Film Festival 2024, Claire Simon's camera sets up for a few months in a school of the Republic, theAnton Makarenko elementary school in Ivry-sur-Seine, in the Paris suburbs.

Here, the different communities live side by side in perfect harmony - living together is one of the key notions of the teaching that takes place here, where we learn not to be bad players and to let others do the talking - in classes ranging from kindergarten to CM2. The documentary filmmaker, who has already taken an interest in the schoolyard (in her documentary Récréations, 1992), this time concentrates on the inside of two well-behaved classes: one for toddlers and the other for older children preparing to leave the nest and enter middle school.

Filmed most of the time at child height, with an immersive shoulder-mounted camera and close-ups of the children's faces immersed in the day's activity, Learning ultimately takes us back to our own school memories - the rambunctious boy's table at the front of the classroom, recess games with random rules, the soup of leaves and slush. With no voice-over, and almost no breaking of the fourth wall, the film's set-up fades into the background, leaving nothing but the natural, stretching out certain scenes to capture theenergy in the playground, the synergy between the students, their relationship with the teacher and the ritualized daily routine.

While it's true that filming such adorable material is guaranteed to provoke emotion in the viewer, in the manner of kitten videos on the Internet, Claire Simon's documentary goes beyond this simple observation. For if it is indeed a sunny documentary that puts a smile on our faces throughout, Apprendre doesn't shy away from showing children's harshness towards each other - for some, stupidity under the guise of malice - as in this playground harassment scene; or certain moments of bitter hesitation, when religion invites itself into the children's words.

At a time when public schools are in decline, Apprendre reminds us that this is indeed the finest profession in the world, and stands up for a certain kind of education that must be preserved at all costs. More than a place, a humanist, secular sanctuary, adapted to each child, and teachers invested in the mission entrusted to them. We can only hope that the documentary does not become an archive of a bygone era.

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The Cannes Film Festival returns to the Croisette for its 77th edition from May 14 to 25, 2024. Click here for all the latest news and information! [Read more]

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Dates and Opening Time
From May 14th, 2024 to May 25th, 2024

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