EDUCATION: Claire Simon’s documentary about the admissions process at the French film school La Femis provides a fascinating insight into the competition going on behind the screens.
From his 1967 debut Titicut Follies, which portrays a mental hospital for the criminally insane, the American documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman has devoted a large part of his career to making movies about various institutions. With his studies of – among other things – hospitals, universities and military organizations, the well-known direct cinema-director created a school for observational “institution films.”
On these shores, Margret Olin is among the filmmakers who’ve followed in his footsteps. In Dei mjuke hendene and Ungdommens råskap she portrayed a retirement home and a secondary school respectively, while her latest and most consistently observational film, Barndom, shows how play unfolds in a kindergarten.
The French filmmaker Claire Simon’s latest documentary The Graduation is another such “fly on the wall”-movie about an institution. Simon has turned the lens towards a central institution in her own industry, the national French film school La Femis – and more precisely its intense, exhaustive admissions process.
The distributor should have chosen a more direct translation of the original title Le Concours (meaning “the competition”) than its misleading international title The Graduation. This is primarily because Simon’s documentary doesn’t deal with the school’s graduate level students, but with the process of selecting new students. Moreover, the film directs its focus precisely at the competition you have to go through to gain admission to this prestigious educational institution, which count luminaries like Louis Malle, Theo Angelopoulos, Costa-Gavras, Claire Denis, François Ozon, Sólveig Anspach and our own Eskil Vogt among its alumni.