Miss Kiet's Children

Miss Kiet's Children

Sunday, May 7, 2017 - 4:15pm
Trailer(s)
Screening Sponsor(s)
Petra Lataster-Czisch and Peter Lataster | 
The Netherlands |
 2017 | 
115 minutes

Meet Haya (bossy and manipulative), Leanne (who positively glows, even when flinching from loud noises in the playground), and Jorj (who casually jokes about post-war stresses, but still clearly suffers). They are three Syrian refugees between the ages of six and nine, now students in a small town in the Netherlands. And in the background, often as a disembodied voice, is Miss Kiet, their teacher. She is understanding but firm, working calmly and efficiently under extremely challenging circumstances.

Miss Kiet oversees her classroom with relentless positivity, even while acknowledging the traumas that lie in her pupils’ past. For the most part, the stress that these kids feel, any sense of danger or displacement, is almost invisible. The filmmakers achieve an intense and intimate relationship with their subjects through meticulous camera work, and this brings into focus the small changes of expression and hints of fear that suggest a previous life in a war zone. Much of the material, however, is not specific to the immigrant or refugee experience. Some scenes can be uncomfortable, for example seeing Leanne being pushed around by the domineering Haya, but it is so instructive to see how small moments like these shape the experiences of school.

This fly on the wall documentary by Dutch married couple Petra Lataster-Czisch and Peter Lataster cuts to the heart of the question: what is the purpose of school? And what does it mean to educate children and people? What does success actually look like? In Miss Kiet’s Children, we are privy to real-time events in the classroom, all from a child’s point of view, including moments of subtle disrespect, bad behaviour, learning to draw the perfect ‘d’, complaints about math, and also laughter, school pageants and playground games. -KR