A child's path and access to education is fundamentally different depending on where you live in the world. G-7 experience ranges from walking across the street to a short bus ride to perhaps a couple to transit changes to complete the act. In other parts of the world kids travel for days to get to school sometimes taking dangerous paths or having to spend weeks at a time away from home to get their education. Lastly there are some that don't even get into the classroom as they have to work to support their family.
Sigrid Klausmann's film looks at kids road to school starting from the moment they get up, their family dynamic before the narrative moves on to their modes of transport to school. The piece touches on all of the subjects hopes for the future, themselves, their family and the planet. The kids are all very knowledgeable of the major stories in the world and have very straightforward solutions. Their frankness leads one to think that adult agendas must get in the way of settling many of the worlds conflicts. The narrative uses exceptional editing and transitions to shift in and out of each child's tale. At one moment your alongside Vincent and his father as they ski down from their Swiss mountain resort to his studies when the scene shifts from ski tracks to a dirt road in the desert where Ekhlas and her siblings are leading a donkey through a steep narrow mountain pass on their journey to school.
While all of the stories are compelling a few bubble to the surface resonating stronger that the rest. Alphonsine from Ivory Coast is at the top of the list. She wakes up on the dirt floor of her family hut each day at 4 AM. Her first task is sweeping as she explains that her parents are dead and she suffers beating from her grandmother if she does not do her chores well. She heads to school but does not attend. She balances pots and pans in a basked on her head that she puts out in the courtyard to serve food. Her foil is Sai in Flushing Queens. Her family moved from India when she was very young to give her the best opportunity to succeed. She attends a gifted school in Manhattan excels in her studies and music and expects to be a brain surgeon when she finishes school. Then the story shifts to Sanjana who is still in India living in the red light district in Forbesganj. She's connected to the area because it's her home but does not like it that the women there are often abused.
The two passages where the children talk about their hopes and their thoughts on how they see the world are the most compelling. Alphonisine heads to the cocoa tree plantation where children younger than 10 swing machetes chopping down cocoa when she comments that she knows they make chocolate with coco but has never tasted it because its too expensive for her or anyone in her village. Perla from Iceland sums up the hopes from the group. Children want someone that they can trust, can help them in life along side family or friends that can take care of them and love them as much as their parents do. The film is a wonderful woven piece with several diverse and compelling subjects that is well worth the watch.
*** 1/2 Out of 4
Not Without Us | Sigrid Klausmann | Germany | 2017 | 87 Minutes.
Tags: Education, Ivory Coast, Austria, Chores, Trains, Subway, Skateboard, Visually Impaired, Avalanche Detector, Donkey.