The Class (2008)—France
In this movie adapted from his autobiographical novel, François Bégaudeau plays himself as a French teacher in a middle school in a rough blue-collar Paris suburb. Real students and teachers, not professional actors, play the roles in the film. Among other things, the film is a study of the ripple effects of immigration in France as seen through the lens of its public schools. The class has students from Morocco, the Caribbean, China and more. In addition to their raging hormones, slang vocabulary, personalized dress codes, identification with sports teams, and overall disinterest in school, the students struggle with race, class and religion. Then there are the poignant parent-teacher conferences and collegial faculty meetings. In a major part of the class drama, the sulk, sass and sarcasm of a student from Mali named Suleyman provokes a class crisis. The Class is not a documentary, but it's so authentic that it feels like one; it was the official French entry for best foreign film and won the Palme d'Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. In French with English subtitles.