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Filming at the Borders: School of Babel (La cour de Babel)

General Programming

dateOctober 26, 2016 timeWednesday, 6:30pm EDT location Buell Hall, Maison Française, Columbia University
  • Maison Française
  • European Institute
  • School of the Arts
  • Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought
  • Alliance Program
  • Institute for the Study of Human Rights
  • Institute of African Studies
  • Columbia Global Centers


School of Babel (La cour de Babel)
Julie Bertuccelli, 2013, 89 min.

Film screening followed by discussion with director Julie Bertuccelli and Professor Emmanuelle Saada

Genre: Documentary. French production. Filmed in Paris, France. Languages: French, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, Chinese and more, with English subtitles.

They are Irish, Senegalese, Brazilian, Moroccan, Chinese... They are between 11 and 15 years old and have just arrived in France. For a year they will be all together in the same adaptation class in a Parisian secondary school. 24 students, 24 nationalities... In this multicultural arena, we see the enthusiasm and inner turmoil of these teenagers who, caught in the midst of starting out on a new life, question our preconceived ideas and give us hope for a better future. School of Babel explores questions of identity, culture, the relationship to our native language and to the language of exile, through a character-driven script – Bertuccelli chose to make this film because she sees these teenagers as “real heroes.” Nominated at the French Césars Awards for Documentary, the film met with great critical and popular success in France, so much so that the school where the film was shot, until then considered an institution with “difficult students” to avoid, became an educational model. The film was then theatrically released in 8 countries. “We will never forget the smile of these teenagers, who are trustful and happy to be in France. But for how long?” (Le Monde)

  • Emmanuelle Saada Associate Professor of French and Romance Philology; Director of the Center for French and Francophone Studies Columbia University