Friday, March 25, 2011

August to June Goes Tri-Lingual

Tom and Amy Valens' wonderful documentary, August to June was completed at ZAP last September. Over the past six months, we have been in a raging national debate on the state of public education: the achievement gap between rich and poor, the role of teacher unions and school boards, the place for charter schools and other alternatives. Yet "August to June" examines an elemental part of this...the teaching process itself, focusing on one year in the life of a classroom as master teacher Amy Valens teaches the "whole child" for the last time and reflects on her career in a beautiful nuanced way.

After 30 years of watching the public open classroom where his wife taught, and admiring at a distance the model for learning that evolved, Tom Valens couldn’t miss the opportunity to film her last class from beginning to end. And so he was there the day school started and many days thereafter: one man with a camera and a tripod, trying to stay out of the way as kids skipped from one activity to another, listening on headphones for events in other parts of the building, and sometimes rushing, tripod in hand, only to arrive at the action just as it ended.

Slowly but surely kids came into focus. Tom captured their relations with each other, with their teacher, with learning. The film is not meant to suggest there is one right way to teach. Instead, it shows how one unconventional classroom puts schoolwork inside a larger picture, bringing into focus a broader vision of what education should and can be.

ZAP helped our old friends Tom and Amy with some film finishing details and we created a DVD edition in November. Recently, we helped the filmmakers prepare a special tri-lingual DVD version with subtitles in Spanish and French.

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