With the documentary “Being a teacher”, director Emilie Thérond takes us to the 4 corners of the world to meet determined and courageous teachers. The film hits theaters this Wednesday.
seven years later My school teacherdirector and journalist Emilie Therond returns with the documentary To be a teacher which follows the journey of 3 teachers.
In Burkina Faso, Sandrine Zongo does not hesitate to leave her family to teach 600 km from her home. Svetlana Vassileva travels through eastern Siberia to teach Evenk children to read and write, while in Bangladesh, the young Taslima Akter travels through the Sunamganj region with her school boat so that children who have dropped out of school because of the monsoons that flood the land and block access, can have access to education.
3 portraits of women who devote themselves entirely to others in order to change things and leave the choice of a different future to children.
Meeting with Émilie Thérond, passionate and fascinating director.
HelloCine: 7 years after “Mon maître d’école”, you are directing the documentary “Being a teacher” which reveals the lives of 3 teachers around the world. What made you want to pursue this theme?
Emilie Therond : My school teacher was a film about transmission that was very personal. That was happening in France and I wanted to broaden the subject a little, dig deeper into this theme and continue to explore what teachers could have that was decisive in the life of a child.
Quite naturally, I wanted to know how things were going elsewhere, in more complicated countries with fewer means, different traditions. JI wanted to understand what obstacles the teachers of the world encountered in their journey, how they managed and above all what impact had on the children, these teachers from the end of the world…
be a teacher required a long preparatory work, I worked with a journalist, Lucile Hochdoerfer, during almost 6 months and then I went on a scouting trip to Bangladesh, Burkina-Faso and Lebanon because I was looking for a teacher who teaches Syrian refugees living in camps. It took almost a year to get the story and the characters.
The film takes us to Burkina Faso, Siberia and Bangladesh. How did the filming go in these parts of the world that are sometimes difficult to access?
Luckily well! Jhad one hell of a film crew, a team All Terrain ! The director of photography, Simon Watel and sound engineer Michael Adamik are not only very good professionals, but also great traveling companions.
We shot in extreme conditions: it was 40° in Burkina, -25° in Siberia. For the technique it was not easy, to operate the generators in the cold, to be careful that the cables did not break…
The shoots were long and we lived with the locals, very close to our teachers. It was hard but we were aware of living extraordinary moments by filming these women up close.
The most complicated: Siberia
The hardest part to shoot was the one in Siberia. It was wonderful but physically difficult. First, the trip lasted 5 days to get to the Evenk camp: 2 planes, 2 trains, truck and snowmobile. The preparations before the departure by snowmobile and sled were also long because life in the forest in Siberia is dangerous. Without fire, without wood, death is very rapid with these temperatures.
We were guided by Alexandra Lavrillier, anthropologist, researcher and professor at the CNRS, who has been studying the life of the Evenks for decades. I had not been able to meet Svetlana before, we had spoken by videoconference.
When we got back to the camp, we didn’t have much time to get to know each other and trust each other. Then we had to adapt to the way of life and the temperatures… We slept in Evenk tents in which the morning temperature had dropped to -20 degrees.
Which teacher in the film impressed you the most?
I have great admiration for Sandrine, Svetlana and Taslima but I can still say that Taslima is the person who impressed me the most.
At first, I met a frail, discreet and shy young woman and as the days passed I realized that she was a rock, unshakable in her convictions and deeply devoted to the girls in her class.
She is the one who will change mentalities in her village. Gently but without compromise. She manages to convince parents to overcome prejudices and traditions. She tries to give them hope, convinces them to believe in education and in the abilities of young girls to be able to be independent.
I knew that Taslima had succeeded in convincing her father and her mother not to marry and I knew that this came up regularly. I attended this conversation which comes up systematically: “Bon Taslima maybe you should get married” but I didn’t know how she was going to argue in front of the camera.
When we shot the sequence, I didn’t expect her to stand up to her parents with such solid arguments: she wanted to be theîborn that her parents did not have, she wanted to be able to take care of them, bring back money and prove to them that she is not inferior to a man!
“Change will come from women”
If young women in Bangladesh begin to understand that they are also capable of earning a living, of having a job, of possibly choosing it, it is the beginning of a new freedom and of an education for girls. different. If young women understand that being educated can change their destiny then they will educate their daughters differently.
Taslima’s battle for girls to continue in school and avoid early marriage echoes what is happening in the world today: in Iran, in Afghanistan where another bomb exploded a few days in one of the last mixed universities in the country.
Women fight all over the world to have access to education and for their freedom, Taslima fights in her own way for her own and that of the young girls of her village.
The change will come from women, so obviously we have to support them, but it’s not by tackling Western ideas, by imposing our ways of thinking that it will change, it has to come from them, from home. Taslima made the right choice, but she has to be supported by the NGO that employs her, by this film, by UNESCO, by international organizations.
The film shows the difficulty of having access to education in certain parts of the world and the dedication of these teacherses to be able to educate children and offer them the possibility of a different future. Was this your intention from the preparatory work?
Yes, I wanted to show that when teachers have the vocation to transmit their knowledge to the body, they work miracles!
I wanted to capture that moment when the child’s gaze lights up, eyes in which appears a spark, a glow, where suddenly, they understand, they gain self-confidence, a beginning of autonomy, of freedom can be put in place for them, the doors open.
“In the transmission, there is affection and that is what makes it possible to move mountains.”
I wanted to show it, to be able to film it so that the spectators, whether children, families, teachers, realize that it works, that it’s real, that it exists and that we must continue and go beyond …
The teachers know it well: when they go beyond what they have to do – which is already a lot like learning to read, write, count – that they go out of the frame, the children react. In the transmission, there is affection and this is what makes it possible to move mountains.
Give back to this profession a little strength
There is an interesting parallel to be drawn between these women who travel kilombeings to educate in remote areas, while in France it is difficult to recruit teachers. How do you explain that ?
There is a recruitment problem in France. We have witnessed a start of the school year where 4000 teachers were missing, it is huge and it will not stop getting worse, but in reality this problem is global.
For primary and secondary education to be universal in 2030, 69 million additional teachers would be needed worldwide. This means that a very large number of children do not have access to education because the teachers are not present.
It is therefore very important to restore some strength to this profession. I don’t do politics but I testify to this vocation and what it manages to change in the world, the importance of this profession which is the keystone of the construction of the men and women of tomorrow.
In a way, I am alerting to this essential and necessary need for the construction of our children and for the functioning of the world in general, so it is a cry from the heart, a cry of love.
In any case, what seems essential to me is to act, to continue to fight so that young people want to do this job, we obviously have to, if we go into the details, raise salaries, give them a feeling of freedom while accompanying them, letting them take initiatives…
I am here to tell them: you are doing miracles, we believe in you, we need you so above all don’t give up and continue to bring us this freedom.