Etre Et Avoir - a Documentary Essay

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Pages: 11

Etre et Avoir.

Etre et Avoir tells the story of six months in the life of a small primary school in the Auvergne, a predominantly rural part of France. It is a documentary film, primarily operating through a fly-on-the-wall mode, that is to say without any discernable interference from the film maker. The camera appears quite simply to sit alongside the children and observe them as they go about their daily business in the classroom. What I want to do in the lecture today is discuss the ways in which the film both conforms to this idea of simply offering a window on the world, and the ways in which it is clearly constructed, using the same kind of ordering of material we would find in a fiction film. I will be concentrating firstly on
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The overall aim of the film, the director argues, is to communicate about how living in society forces each and every one of us to make compromises, to make moves towards understanding the other. The film's choice of scenes which stress conflict and the resolution of that conflict, usually through the intervention of the teacher, thus have a deeper meaning than merely illustrating ‘life in the classroom'. The reason why, upon editing, such scenes are given time and space in the film, is because they re-enforce the political and symbolic points the film wishes to make.
Editing is also key to the way the film communicates to its audience. The crew were in the classroom for six months, and clearly would collect much more material than would be needed in a 90 minute film. As the director says, ‘we're not there to simply film everything any old how' – this material will be carefully selected and ordered. The first few days in the classroom consisted of the camera crew familiarising the children with the equipment, in order that they would find it as unobtrusive as possible. A major problem of documentary film-making is the notion that the mere presence of the camera changes and provokes situations. The famous documentary maker Jean Rouch declared that it was impossible to film reality: you