School of Babel

Not available for screening anymore

School of Babel (La Cour de Babel)

Directed by Julie Bertuccelli

  • France 2013; 89 min
  • Original version: French
  • Genre: Documentary


They are Irish, Senegalese, Brazilian, Moroccan, Chinese... They are between 11 and 15 years old and have just arrived in France. For a year they will be all together in the same adaptation class of a Parisian secondary school. 24 students, 24 nationalities... In this multicultural arena, we see the innocence, the enthusiasm and inner turmoil of these teenagers who, caught in the midst of starting out on a new life, question our preconceived ideas and give us hope for a better future...

Director's Statement

I discovered adaptation classes when I was chairing a school film jury, a few years ago. There was something fascinating about those classes. It was a patchwork of so many nationalities and personal paths, yet sharing a common goal: to learn French and try to fit in a place they don’t belong. “A place they don’t belong”: this was the idea that struck me the most. When I was their age, I had lived in the same Paris apartment since I was born and I had some pretty fixed and well-rooted landmarks. I wanted to get closer to these children, and the idea to film them became obvious. Very early on, I realised that I had to immerse myself among them for quite a while in order to understand what their life was about. For a year then, I followed the daily routine of an adaptation class in a Parisian secondary school. I wanted to convey the turmoil that exile represents, especially at this key age, when childhood is close to an end. I wanted to know more about what they’d left behind, their culture, their beliefs, their memories, their hopes as well as disillusions. How do they adjust to their new lives in France? What is their family situation? What is modelling their lives and imagination as teenagers? How do they feel about the integration that is expected from them, especially as they are simultaneously building an identity for themselves? Like ourselves when we were their age, what they’re going through is a pivotal time when their bodies change, when their thoughts are jostling around, when longings and desires become interwoven. But Rama, Youssef and Oksana are not exactly like ourselves. Despite their young age, these teenagers have already gone through a lot. Their past is often fraught with tragedies. Their dreams for the future are more than mere passing whims because they are set against an obligation to succeed. As for their present, some of them are having a tough time, considering their huge responsibility towards the whole household, since they are the only ones to speak the new language. Their future is open, they haven’t yet experienced the difficulties entailed by life in “tough” neighbourhoods, or the stigmatisation of their origins and how cruel relegation in hopeless areas can be. At the stage they are now, the dream of integration is still intact. Their joy for living and discovering a new world is a palpable thing. What interests me is their enthusiasm, and this class which seems to be like a concrete utopia where, despite of looming difficulties, everything remains possible. They’re aware that their lot in life is different from the French-born pupils’ they sometimes share classes with. And yet, they are driven by exemplary strength, hope and courage. They are heroes.






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