________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 19 . . . . May 26, 2006

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Lifex538: A Year in the Life of Pierre-Dupuy Secondary School.

Céline Baril (Director). Colette Loumède. (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2005.
92 min., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: C0105 133.

Professional

Review by Alison Mews and Ursula Kelly.

**½ /4

This French language video (with English sub-titles) chronicles a year in the life of a Montreal secondary school and its 538 students. Pierre-Dupuy is located in an economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse neighbourhood and, despite an increasing school population, suffers regular program and teacher cuts and is seriously underfunded. Students' lives are often marked by the adverse effects of impoverishment, racism, and family instability and dysfunction. School is often a safe zone in which teachers remain committed to providing students a learning environment which allows them to dream and to succeed. At Pierre-Dupuy, classes are overpopulated, behaviour problems are routine, individual paths to learning are common, and dropout rates are high. Persistently low-ranked on standardized tests, success at Pierre-Dupuy more often means maintenance of hope and personal growth and resilience.

     Throughout the documentary, the viewer observes the interactions inside a classroom as lessons are proceeding. Interviews with individual students, teachers, parents, psycho-social workers, and administrators are interspersed throughout. The students speak candidly about their lives and the teachers are forthright about their working conditions. Both attest to the barriers of each to student learning. While the interviews feel unintrusive and uninhibited, without any visual presence of the interviewer, it is unfortunate that, with few exceptions, the interviewer's questions are excluded from the audio. As well, the impact of the video could be strengthened by a more rigorous editing for length and focus. However, for anyone interested in school culture (teachers, teacher educators, parents), this video is a stark alternative to more romanticized versions of school life and would be a useful resource to prompt insightful reflections about schooling, resilience, and hope.


Recommended.

Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Centre, Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in St. John's, NL.

Ursula Kelly is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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