This observational documentary follows a year in the lives of two inspirational teachers in the only primary-age boarding school in Ireland. Headfort, a school not unlike Hogwarts with its 18th century buildings, secret doors and magical woodlands has been home to John and Amanda Leyden for 46 years and a backdrop to their extraordinary careers.
For John, rock music is just another subject alongside Maths, English, Scripture and Latin, all of which are taught in a collaborative and often hilarious fashion. Tucked away in a cellar that’s home to the school’s two rock bands, John nurtures a special kind of youth revolution that teaches responsibility and independence in equal measure, wrapped up in heavy metal or pop or, as he tells the kids, they can play whatever they
want, as it’s their space.
For Amanda the key to connecting with children is ‘the book’ and she uses all means fair to snare the young minds. Her lair, a charming relic from the 1800’s with curved doors and old bookshelves, is packed to the rafters with thousands of titles from every genre and for every taste. The children sit transfixed as she takes them on magical journeys with fantastical characters from tales of all kinds. Past pupils who visit remind her of their shared literary expeditions with a sense of awe – Amanda just nods and smiles.
Is the school an anachronism in this global world or a clever remake of the flawed British public school model? It’s certainly a contradiction: the epitome of establishment, it’s presided over by a social democrat who eschews class in favour of achievement but retains the links that connect Headfort to the levers of power. It’s a skill the headmaster could have learnt from John Leyden who taught him, when he was a pupil at Headfort, just as he produced a slew of other high achievers, now captains of industry, famous artists and academics.
For nearly half a century John and Amanda have shaped thousands of minds but now the unthinkable looms: what would retirement mean they muse. Headfort School, spanning the ancient and the ultra modern has been their life and passion and so they’ve challenged the march of time by absorbing the endless supply of young ideas from their wards – who will keep them young if they leave?
School Life – Offical Trailer
School Life NOT YET AVAILABLE to watch online From exclusively at beamafilm
“Whatever part of the brain it is that responds to joy, it’s pulsating right now, maybe it’s glowing because I’m about to talk about a new documentary I found really charming…it’s called SCHOOL LIFE” – Jason Di Rosso ABC Radio National.
Hear the Jason Di Rosso interview with filmmakers, Neasa and David Rane
Sydney Morning Herald
“..a warm reminder of how important a dedicated teacher is to a child’s development.” – Craig Mathieson, Sydney Morning Herald
“Dormitories, the staff room and Hamlet rehearsals all illustrate this year of learning dangerously.” – Craig Mathieson, Sydney Morning Herald
“Endearingly eccentric” – Craig Mathieson, Sydney Morning Herald
E, 99 minutes. Cinema Nova, Dendy and selected cinemas opens Thursday.
Endearingly eccentric but keenly observed, this Irish documentary about the country’s only primary school age boarding school is a warm reminder of how important a dedicated teacher is to a child’s development. In this case it’s a couple: Amanda and John Leyden, who are in their fifth decade of service at Headfort School in County Meath, west of Dublin. “It’s done nothing to you, it’s just a piano,” Latin teacher John tells a student visiting his music cavern, “don’t hurt it”, and while he’s full of brisk challenges that encourage commitment, Amanda draws her pupils in with a love of books and shared self-improvement. Some of the best scenes in Neasa Ni Chianain’s film find the pair comparing notes on their charges, and individual storylines take shape amid a county house setting that has a whiff of Hogwarts to it. Dormitories, the staff room and Hamlet rehearsals all illustrate this year of learning dangerously.
“One of the best documentaries of the past few years…” Leigh Paatsch Herald Sun
“…a brilliant doco looking inside an Irish school as magical as Hogwarts itself” – Leigh Paatsch Herald Sun
Read the full review:
“Boarding school has rarely looked more appealing.” – David Stratton, The Australian
3.5 Stars David Stratton
“…a gentle, warm and enchanting…” Travis Johnson FilmInk
Read the full review:
“They teach an eclectic variety of subjects with good grace, endless patience and more than a little dry wit” – James Croot Stuff.co.nz
“…a terrific job capturing the chaos of school life as well as the effort and care teachers…put in” – James Croot Stuff.co.nz
Read the full review:
SCHOOL LIFE on Oscars longlist – Meath Chronicle, Ireland.
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