The one-room schoolhouse, where one teacher instructs several grades at once, is generally regarded a quaint thing of the past and a symbol of obsolete and ineffective teaching methods. However, the documentary To Be and to Have offers an in-depth look at a small school in rural France where one remarkable man has been doing the job of a small teaching staff for 20 years, and has taught several generations of bright and capable children along the way. Georges Lopez is an educator at a small school in France's Auvergne region, where between December 2000 and June 2001 he taught 12 students between the ages of four and ten. Employing a curriculum that embraces both academics and practical skills, Lopez and his school represent a surprising mix of the old and the new, where computer technology and old-fashioned memorization of the multiplication tables sit side by side. To Be and to Have captured Georges Lopez near the end of his career in education -- shortly after the film was completed, he retired after 35 years as a teacher.
"The French documentary To Be and To Have is simply about teaching and learning. Filmmaker Nicholas Philibert trains his camera on one classroom in a small school somewhere in the French countryside for a semester, and he finds spellbinding drama there. To Be and To Have gets inside the lives of its young characters so deeply and so empathetically that every tiny academic setback feels like a tragedy to us, and every small step forward feels like a triumph." Rob Thomas, Madison Movie Blog