The documentary School Life is a charming portrait of a year in the life of the only primary-age boarding school in Ireland and the two inspirational teachers at its heart. Directed by Irish husband-and-wife filmmakers Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane, the documentary was a favorite of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival (where it was known as In Loco Parentis). School Life will open in New York at the IFC Center on Friday, September 8, with additional cities to follow.
Headfort, a school not unlike Hogwarts with its 18th century buildings, secret doors and magical woodlands, has been home to John and Amanda Leyden for 46 years and a backdrop to their extraordinary careers. For John, rock music is just another subject alongside math, English and Latin, all of which are taught in a collaborative and often hilarious fashion. For his wife Amanda, the key to connecting with children is the book, and she uses all means to snare the young minds. The level of attention and the concern the Leydens have for their students lead to some remarkable developmental transformations as the children journey from being homesick and afraid to confident young people, tearful upon realizing that school is over and they must go home. As John and Amanda ponder retirement, the film poses a quietly profound question: Will their intimate and caring cultivation of future generations live on, or will it vanish like so many community-centered practices?