Film Buffs Go Back to Class At Festival Opening

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During a sober time in America, the New York Film Festival opened on a serious note, with “The Class,” a French film about the struggles between a teacher and his students, directed by Laurent Cantet.

And so while the festival’s opening night is traditionally the most glittering, red-carpeted affair of the year for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, instead, it was an evening and celebration that remained focused on, well, the important things.

The film’s examination of how students from immigrant families adjust to a new culture and the demands of school is just as relevant to America as it is to France. Just as important is the strain on teachers. In “The Class,” the students — who are Arab, Chinese, Moroccan, and Malian — accuse their teacher of being a “Camemberter,” meaning, someone who is white and French.

Education was not a prominent issue in the presidential debate on Friday, and the film will not be released in America until December 15, after the election. But it has the potential to spark conversation about what’s really taking place in schools, day to day, and that’s a good thing.

Of course, with the presidential debate taking place the evening of the opening, many die-hard festival-goers skipped the movie, some attending only the supper beforehand, others attending only the party at Tavern on the Green afterward. Their behavior suggests that the society’s audiences are as eager for substance as they are for glitz.


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