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To Be and To Have (2002)To Be and To Have (2002)—French

On the last day of school, teacher George Lopez dismisses his students for the final time with hugs and kisses. He is nearly in tears, and so are we the viewers. To Be and To Have, France's highest grossing documentary ever, follows Lopez and his class of a dozen elementary kids ages 3-11 in rural France for most of the academic year. The film is entirely without comment or narration, except for a two or three minute segment towards the end when Lopez explains how and why he spent 35 years as a teacher. The reason? Pure love and joy, which goes a long way toward explaining why he was a master teacher, and this otherwise slow-moving film is so powerful and even magic. We see the kids reading and writing, fighting and farming, baking, sledding and celebrating class birthdays. In my favorite scene, Lopez coaches little Jo Jo to discover that he can count to a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, and even a billion or more. You see his little mind reeling with the unfolding realization that numbers never stop! For the most part the kids are oblivious to the camera. The true story of a life well spent, the spontaneity of children, and spectacular scenery of rural France make this film a visual and emotional delight. In French with English subtitles.

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