School of Babel

Director Julie Bertuccelli (Since Otar Left . . .) documents one year at a Paris “reception class,” where immigrant children from all over the world (many of whose families are seeking political asylum) learn how to speak French and socialize in French schools. The movie is highly sympathetic in its portrayal of teachers and students, though it’s no exercise in sentimental humanism. Bertuccelli avoids generalizing about the immigrant experience, focusing instead on what makes her subjects unique. In fact the movie serves as an object lesson in how to use close-ups, encouraging us to “read” faces as we would images and to deduce psychological states through subtle expressions. In French with subtitles.