Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Education > To Be And To Have (New Yorker)

To Be And To Have (Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Film: C+



There has been more than a good share of programs, filmed and taped, that have shown great teachers (fact and fiction), great kids and their interaction as charming.  The recent commercial success of To Be And To Have (2002) in France, where it became the biggest documentary ever shown in the country to that time (Fahrenheit 9/11 has not finished its run yet) shows the subject is never tired to an audience, as unlikely a commercial success as it may first seem.


The focus of director Nicholas Philibert’s work is of the single-teacher, single-classroom educator George Lopez, who has been teaching children in his “singer class” school.  They range from Kindergarten age to those just ready for Middle School.  The twist here is that such schools, as you may have guessed it, are dwindling and caring educators like Lopez are hanging in there to keep them alive.


The students are lucky to get such personalized attention, especially in an age where so many public schools all over the world are becoming more and more overcrowded.  Then they get to be in rural areas where they have more peace, all of which seem to be conducive of a greater leaning experience.  Despite all this, Philibert tends to make this too much of some kind of Dogme exercise, where we see the children too much, which can be cute, but is a focus that actually works against showing how effective Lopez is.  Though the children are very for real, the way they are captured and edited becomes a distraction for what could have been a more biting and powerful portrait in favor of teaching at a time when the profession is undervalued, union politics notwithstanding.  Still, To Be And To Have has its rewards, but the work is somewhat overrated in total.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image is odd, coming from a video source that looks not unlike analog PAL.  Even if taped digitally, it just distorts the images of everyone throughout, becoming very distracting and denaturing something very natural.  I constantly wished this were shot on film.  It gave me a new respect for the camera taping on the likes of vintage Sesame Street.  The Dolby theatrical release is presented here in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with some Pro Logic surrounds, with high doubts the theatrical sound was any better.  This is the strongest feature of the DVD, with the location audio decent.  Extras include two trailers for this program, four other New Yorker DVD titles, children doing poetry form the classes and an interview with Philibert on his “film” that goes on for over 20 minutes and seems confused.  If this is cinema, then I guess all the old PBS children’s programming would qualify.  Wonder what he’ll do next.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com