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"Once in a Lifetime" - A personal film about a society forgetting something important. - CinemaDave

Oct. 21st, 2016 09:15 pm "Once in a Lifetime" - A personal film about a society forgetting something important.

It has been 21 years since I produced A Tribute to the Men and Women of the World War II Generation with 133 6th graders at Loggers’ Run Community Middle School. The presentation featured big band numbers, a chorus inspired by the Andrew Sisters and testimonials that induced a few tears from some very hardened middle-aged teachers and 12-year-olds. I’m proud of this program and the fact that some of my former students have remained in touch with me via Facebook. A French film with English subtitles, Once in a Lifetime took me back to my experiences from two decades ago.

Based on a true story and filmed at the actual high school where the movie was originally filmed, Once in a Lifetime introduces us to Anne Gueguen (Ariane Ascaride), a history teacher. Talking to her diverse student body, Ms. Gueguen informs her jaded students that she is entering them into a contest. The subject is the Holocaust and students balk about learning “ancient history.”

Co-written by Ahmed Dramé (who portrays one of the students), the French high school looks and sounds like an American classroom. There is multiple rivalry between the diverse cultures that create tension. Gueguen allows her students their moments to speak, but she carefully crafts their arguments into understanding. Once the boundaries of mutual respect are established, Gueguen brings in a guest speaker, Léon Zyguel, a Holocaust survivor.

In an age when educational socialization is emphasizing pressing the buttons on the latest technology (that may be obsolete in five years), Once in a Lifetime is a reminder of the importance of classroom debate and discussion. This is a riveting motion picture for nearly two hours.

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