, Angélica Sancio. IMDB. In French with English subtitles.
In The Class, writer and teacher François Bégaudeau stars as his own alter-ego, François Marin, a teacher of French in a racially diverse Paris school. His students, 14- and 15-year olds, come from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as well as the arrondissments of Paris; along with the regular chaos of teenagers he's confronted with cultural differences and expectations which he's not always prepared to handle.
Chief among his students are Wei (Wei Huang), a young Chinese boy whose parents have immigration issues, brittle Khoumba (Rachel Regulier) who bristles under Marin's authority, and troubled Souleyman (Franck Keïta), a discipline problem with a talent for photography. Every class is a little battle; the kids chafe against French and adult discipline while the teachers chat and gossip and complain to each other about how difficult the kids are. Things come to a head when the schoolyard grapevine gets wind of how teachers in a committee meeting scrutinized Souleyman's academic and personal prospects, leading to a misunderstanding and a confrontation in the classroom.
The main character of The Class is really the setting- the school with its contradictory and conflicting elements, and the movie, which is very talky, provides a detailed character study of the school. M. Marin and his colleagues are not Mr. Chips and the kids aren't adorable sprites who come to adore their teacher; these are tough kids and tough adults, too, all too aware of their relative positions and the power that comes with them. I thought The Class was a really terrific movie that showed how some fairly realistic conflicts might play out. The kids were terrific- and most of them, from what I understand, were not professional actors. There are no easy answers to be found at the end of The Class but it's a very satisfying film nonetheless.