School of Babel (La Cour de Babel), Julie Bertuccelli’s observational documentary follows a group of newly arrived immigrant teens as they begin their studies at La Grange-aux-Belles secondary school in Paris and prepare for entry into the French educational system.
At the center of this dramatic transition is teacher Brigitte Cervoni, a wise and patient woman charged with guiding a diverse class of 11- to 15-year-olds hailing from countries including Tunisia, Ireland, Senegal, China, Serbia and Brazil. Part psychologist and part surrogate mother, Cervoni helps her students cope with problems ranging from homesickness to emotional trauma while instilling in her students a sense of self-worth and mutual respect. As the teens adjust—and some begin to blossom—the results are illuminating, moving and exhilarating.
School of Babel is screening as part of the Northwest Film Center’s Global Classroom program, which presents new international cinema for high-school students throughout the Portland, Oregon, metro area.