Review: ‘Just a Beginning’

Only in France would they try to teach philosophy to nursery school kids, but that doesn't necessarily make for a thought-provoking experience.

Only in France would they try to teach philosophy to nursery school kids, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a thought-provoking experience in “Just a Beginning,” a verite-style account by helmers Jean-Pierre Pozzi and Pierre Barougier. Following a class of toddlers over a two-year period, docu offers up raw footage of the kids tackling some deep questions with extreme cuteness, but otherwise provides few graspable insights. Compared with Nicolas Philibert’s successful 2002 schoolhouse portrait, “To Be and to Have,” “Beginning” won’t make the same grades locally, while offshore biz will be grounded in fest play.

Though some of the tykes depicted make progress over the course of shooting, their responses are often on the level of, “Mommy never puts Nutella in the fridge,” which is what one girl answers when asked, “What is intelligence?” Rather than trying to explain this unique educational program, the filmmakers seem to be milking their subjects to attain the maximum amount of aww-ing from viewers. Crisp HD lensing alternates classroom scenes with exteriors of the school’s surrounding multicultural ‘burb. Music by Anouar Brahem provides a soothing bridge between lessons.

Just a Beginning

France

Production

A Le Pacte release of a Ciel de Paris Prods. production. (International sales: Le Pacte, Paris.) Produced by Cilvy Aupin. Executive producers, Frederique Albrecht, Isabelle Gripon, Jonathan Martinot, Laurence Hiribarrondo Palmer. Directed by Jean-Pierre Pozzi, Pierre Barougier.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Pozzi, Barougier; editor, Jean Conde; music, Anouar Brahem. Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Les Halles 8, Paris, Nov. 19, 2010. (In Rome, Hamptons film festivals.) Running time: 103 MIN.

With

Isabelle Duflocq, Pascaline Dogliani.
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