America, once upon a time, was called the world’s melting pot – “give us your tired, your poor…”. It no longer has that international distinction and director Julie Bertuccelli’s documentary “School of Babel” takes us to the city that has taken over as the center of migration from many countries around the planet: Paris. The children of émigrés to France are placed in a special “reception class” where few speak the same language. They must learn French in order to be allowed to move on to regular school.
Bertuccelli gathers children from 24 countries to talk about how it is to be a stranger among strangers. The filmmaker follows the kids for a year and we see them grow and change. At first, they communicate in rough, pidgin French but, as the year progresses, the all become more fluent and articulate in the language as they prepare to move on in the French school system.
When we first enter the “reception” class and meet the kids that are forced to learn a new language, they are a disparate collection of youngsters thrown together. Some adjust to their new circumstances better than others and we get to know all of them over the course of the school year. Friendships are made as the kids learn to communicate in their adopted language and get better and better in communicating their fears and feelings to the camera.
Julie Bertucelli does a solid job in showing us a true Tower of Babel. The difference is that, instead of that tower failing because of man’s pride, the “School of Babel” is one where unity thrives. I vive it a B.
Laura also gives "School of Babel" a B.
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