Les Grands Esprits aka The Great Spirits by Ludovic du Clary and Olivier Ayache-Vidal
When seeing this good film, one is reminded of Entre les Murs, To Sir with Love and other classic features with a professor and his or her pupils at the center of the plot.
Denis Podalydes is very good in the leading role of Professor Francois Foucault, who is a teacher of French at Henri IV Institute, of the most prestigious establishments in France, but after a rather long career, he accepts the challenge of moving to the banlieues.
This is where teaching is hard and it requires a calling - psychology studies have demonstrated that in each profession, we have one group of people interested in the paycheck, another in a career - more or less - but the community you want to be in is that of those who have found their Calling and hence the ingredient of happiness.
It is not easy, plain sailing, for the students he now has have very little idea about almost anything cultural, artistic and seem to have been affected by the modern day plagues- always on mobile phones, a continuous presence online but little real life interaction and so on.
Nevertheless, the gifted professor would take the intelligent attitude, which has been again proved by psychology research.
The Pygmalion Effect, named after the sculptor of Ancient Greece that has asked the Gods to give life to his statue, Galatea, purports that a teacher who believes in the potential of his or her pupils will see them performance improve...the same is true for students that think highly of their teacher, managers of workers and in other circumstances.
Francois Foucault gives credit to his class, even when. They give the most absurd and outlandish answers and he sees them cheating, furthermore, he does this in front of opposition from fellow teachers.
Indeed, others are flabbergasted by the astonishing high scores, ratings awarded by the new colleague to known difficult cases, like Seydou and Chloe.
While they think that the professor is out, Seydou and a friend, walk to the desk, look into the briefcase of the teacher and use their phones to take pictures of the answers they have to give to their upcoming test.
Even if he saw that, the hero decides to ignore it, perhaps thinking that at least they took some effort, whereas in general they have seemed to be rather absent minded and disinterested.
This Superman, Wonder Teacher finds challenges for his reluctant pupils and he tells them the interesting stories behind famous novels, like Les Miserables, of which, alas, this rather backward class had never heard.
But now they learn that Victor Hugo had had an affair, he was exposed at a time when adulterous acts where considered a shame and a crime, therefore the author had to stay away from the world and thus created one of the most popular and appreciated novels ever written.
The protagonist decides to take his class on a trip that they hoped - and the skeptics in the teachers cabinet were right- to go to Disneyland or an Asterix park, only to find that it is Versailles for them.
They ask when they find their destination what is it?
A chateau? They are not happy with it, even if it turns out to be quite an adventure for at least a couple of them.
Francois Foucault jokes about the bedroom of the King, talks about the secret staircase through which the sovereign would visit la favorite and he has to explain what the term means and then makes what looks like a mistake with hindsight.
The hero says that the royals, King and Queen, took a selfie and the naive teenagers believe it and he has to state that this is just humor, they had no phones back then.
Nevertheless, this gives a crazy idea to Seydou and his friend Chloe, who are missing when the count is made at the bus and after checking the security cameras are found under the royal bed.
The council of the school decides to punish the girl with a suspended exclusion, but they are unjust and expel the boy, causing his teacher trouble when trying to reverse this harsh sentence, which would affect the life of the black boy and his family.
An impressive teacher, Great Spirits indeed and a worthwhile motion picture, which teaches values, morality, Character strengths and what teaching and education must be about.