On Friday March 16 and Sunday March 18 Miss Kiet’s Children will be screened at the European Union Film Festival. This 21st edition takes place at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from March 9 to April 5, and also features the Dutch films Messi and Maud and A Real Vermeer.
Peter Lataster & Petra Lataster-Czisch | 115 min.
Kiet Engels is the kind of teacher one wishes every schoolchild could have. She is strict but never harsh. She is loving but never soft. Her patience is endless. Miss Kiet’s pupils have only just arrived in Holland. Many are refugees. Everything is new and confusing. Some at first are quarrelsome and headstrong. But Miss Kiet’s firm but loving hand brings calm and awakens interest. She not only teaches her pupils to read and write Dutch, but also helps them learn to solve problems together and respect one another. Slowly the children gain skills and confidence.
Haya is at first impetuous, yet fearful. Little by little, Miss Kiet helps her to find her friendly side. Leanne is quiet and lonely. But after a few months she able to tell everyone, in Dutch, that she loves Branche. Jorj has trouble sleeping and is unruly. His little brother Maksim has terrible nightmares. Miss Kiet’s tenacity helps Jorj discover that learning can be worthwhile and even fun. By observation alone, without interviews or voice-over, the film focuses on four children of different nationalities. Pursuing their perspective, the camera follows at close hand their struggles to learn a new language, their fights, their friendships and their first loves. By the end of the documentary, an affectionate community has grown – the fruit of a teacher’s patience and dedication.
The film’s view of this haven of compassion and civility suggests a host of questions concerning the assimilation of immigrants and the greater direction of childhood education itself. A must-see for parents, teachers, or anyone who was once a child.
In Dutch with English subtitles. Courtesy of Icarus Films. DCP digital. (BS)