Director Sophie Chiarello has followed pupils of a primary school class in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood for five years with her camera. She's taken the opportunity to use circle time, where students sit in a circle on the floor along with the teacher, and the director, to speak on a regular basis over the five years to share their thoughts and feelings without judgement. Genuine and very real, this is not a documentary about children, but a reflection on the formation of our society in a space where children listen and grow.
Winner of Best Documentary at the 2023 David di Donatello Awards, writer/director Sophie Chiarello lets you into the world of today's children, what they think, and what they manage to decipher of the adult world, through her lens. The Circle is Chiarello's second documentary. Screening at the Italian Film Festival, it's 108 minutes long. The Festival runs from 19 Sep to 25 Oct, and you'll find the the full program here of other films that showcases the best of Italian cinema.
The Circle only solidifies the belief that children see, know, and hear a lot more than we give them credit for. The one thing that stands out is the school they're attending. It appears to have a very supportive environment that encourages children to air their opinions, and speak openly, and in so doing, seem to have developed in the children, a certain maturity, at times far beyond their years. Their level of understanding is surprising at times, always endearing and sometimes tinged with sadness. This film serves in two ways. The audience being privy to a very visceral reaction about what goes on in the minds of children, and the other - after witnessing what they have to say about their feelings and understanding - it gives parents a good look at where they need to step up to never have their children feel that way.
The children tackle all sorts of subjects like racism, divorce, Santa Claus and more. At all times, no matter what they're going through, they are very supportive of each other, seem to have found their tribe with each other, and are a shining example of what a great school they're attending. Children are disarming, cute and these ones go to far greater depths than you could imagine. It's no surprise it won two Awards and was nominated for another. The years flow seamlessly and you notice the passing years as the children's features grow and change. The film takes you right through to the pandemic and life changes for all. It's a great reminder we need to get to know our kids, spend time communicating with them on a real level and really hear and listen to what they have to say. This is an easy one to recommend. Be sure to check out other great films at the festival.