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VISIONS DU RÉEL 2020

Review: A Class Story

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- Valerio Jalongo’s documentary follows a professor who meets up with his students from the Roberto Rossellini school after 15 years. A reflexion on teaching, writing and the value of things

Review: A Class Story

This difficult period of lockdown caused by the virus shows like never before the role of school and of teaching, and the well-timed example of A Class Story [+see also:
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, the new documentary from Valerio Jalongo, playing in National Competition at Nyon’s Visions du Réel festival, only reinforces their urgency. From the infinitely small of the particles studied at CERN in Geneva, at the centre of CERN & The Sense of Beauty in 2017, Jalongo has moved on to the infinitely indefinite of the mind of our young people.

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By working alongside a retired Italian professor, Gianclaudio Lopez, the director has created a temporal short-circuit, travelling forward and backwards in time and in the lives of a group of young students, revealing their passions, weaknesses, dreams and frustrated ambitions in an almost lacerating way. Lopez finds, in an old school journal, a poem by Emily Dickinson, Water, is taught by thirst, which in her verses reveals how life teaches the value of things.

From there the journey begins, through all that Lopez has preserved of that 2005 class, assignments, homework, and the video diary shot with the pupils fifteen years earlier. Indeed, this school isn’t just any school, but the Roberto Rossellini Institute in Rome, which teaches filmmaking. Jalongo and the professor tracked down some of those students, now in their thirties, and their reality dramatically shows the failure of the "dream". None of them are working in cinema. Yari, Jessica, Lorenzo, Gianluca, Corinna, Alessio. Someone tried to work in the world of the audiovisual industry, but now they lovingly assist the elderly, work as an animator in  shopping malls, have created a kennel, or take care of the plants of the Roman parks. The “class story” of the title is also about “social class”, one that is forced to accept jobs paying 500 euros per month and who will later discover it is entitled to a worse than poor pension.

The skilful contribution to the script by Linda Ferri (The Son's Room [+see also:
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by Nanni Moretti) and the parallel editing (from Mirco Garrone and Lizi Gelber) between the images shot in the classroom in 2005 and those shot today reveal the details of often torn lives, and the failure of a school system unable to get in touch with children or to prepare them for life, despite the unshakable passion of teachers like Lopez.

But it is writing that makes this documentary precious. Those children, who flaunt safety at school and hide their creativity behind gestures of rebellion against the rules and provocations on the verge of hooliganism, reveal themselves without shame in those assignments preserved by the professor who loves Emily Dickinson, and the written word becomes a process of self-analysis and self-care. Family difficulties, aspirations, and hidden feelings come to light in these pages which contrast with the images. As they re-read those words with Lopez, today's restless thirty-year-olds find fragments of who they once were in sequences of moving bitterness, well photographed by Massimo Franchi.

A Class Story is a Swiss-Italian co-production between Aura Film, RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, Ameuropa International with RAI Cinema. The film’s Italian release, initially planned to come out in cinemas, is set for May on a digital platform.

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(Translated from Italian)

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