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.