thu 26/11/2020

LFF 2012: Normal School | reviews, news & interviews

LFF 2012: Normal School

LFF 2012: Normal School

Observational documentary in an Argentine school gets subtly under the skin

'What we’re watching is not just a school, but a microcosm of the country itself'

Argentine Celina Murga’s two feature films to date, Ana and the Others and A Week Alone, mark her out as one of the most original voices in a country chock full of talent.  Those films are concerned with individuals – respectively, a young woman and a group of children – in search of an identity, in a society that is giving them little direction. Her first documentary, Escuela normal, investigates this question at source.

Argentine Celina Murga’s two feature films to date, Ana and the Others and A Week Alone, mark her out as one of the most original voices in a country chock full of talent.  Those films are concerned with individuals – respectively, a young woman and a group of children – in search of an identity, in a society that is giving them little direction. Her first documentary, Escuela normal, investigates this question at source.

Murga follows the day-to-day chaos of a provincial high school, buckling under the weight of too few teachers and resources, and far more kids than the building can bear. There is no voice over, no exposition, Murga trusting us to follow her camera as it prowls the corridors, making our own assessments of what it finds in classrooms, staff rooms, hallways teeming with life. There’s the principal running around to keep the school working during a strike, a lively class discussion in which the kids question the value of having God in the Argentine constitution, heated hustings for the student council elections, where the youthful practice of democracy is a glorious mess. What we’re watching is not just a school, but a microcosm of the country itself.

Only once does a child acknowledge the presence of the camera, which is quite astonishing. But even for a fly-on-the-wall documentary, Murga’s presence is slight. Some might desire more information, but her approach feels akin to real experience, our being left to our own devices surprisingly relaxing, and rewarding.

Follow Demetrios Matheou on Twitter

Even for a fly-on-the-wall documentary, Murga’s presence is slight

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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