School of Babel
Directed by Julie Bertuccelli • Documentary • 2013 • 89 minutes
Welcome to one Parisian school's program for newly arrived immigrant children from all over the world. At 'La Grange aux Belles' school in the diverse 10th district of Paris has a program for newly arrived immigrant children that provides intense language lessons in French alongside the core curriculum, so that the children can make the transition to mainstream classes. SCHOOL OF BABEL follows the story of one class of students ranging from eleven to fifteen years of age, as they come to terms with a new language and a new life. Hailing from countries across the globe including Ireland, Brazil, China, Ukraine, Tunisia, Venezuela, Guinea and Libya, the students in the reception class find the transition challenging as they juggle learning French, along with homesickness, familial responsibilities and memories of hardships in their home countries. Very few of the students have lived trouble-free existences. Many are asylum seekers, while others are escaping social and economic disadvantages in their home countries or have experienced family separations and breakdowns. Their teacher, Brigitte Cervoni, demonstrates extraordinary patience, skill and care in teaching and counselling the students, and in her interactions with their parents and guardians. She guides them through a rigorous school year and prepares them for the transition to mainstream classes. In addition, she helps them to remain resilient, as they negotiate schoolyard conflict and their complicated lives outside of school. Learning French is difficult but integration is just as challenging. While the students begin the school year struggling to find the right words, in the final term they undertake their examination feeling nervous but also well prepared. Along the way, they master French and gain ground lost...