THE FOOTBALL INCIDENT (Joris Ivens, Marceline Loridan, 1976)

Like The Pharmacy, Une histoire de ballon, le lycée Nº 31 à Pékin (César, best short film) is part of Joris Ivens and Marceline Loridan’s documentary series in China, How Yukong Moved the Mountains. The best film ever made about student-teacher interaction, it also honors the wisdom of China’s leader, Mao Zedong.
     The other day, past 7 p.m., by which time high school boys are supposed to have ended their soccer-playing, a teacher confronts a group still at play. One boy, at whose feet the ball happens to lie, however, kicks it hard, nearly hitting the teacher. There is to be a meeting of the entire class, both boys and girls, to discuss the matter and resolve the difference between student and teacher.
     In China, at least at that time, teachers and students are equals; a teacher moderates, but everyone in attendance is supposed to have an equal voice—and that includes being equally listened to by everyone else. Prior to the meeting, the two persons directly involved in the incident hold the same opinion: the other is being obstinate by not admitting that she or he was wrong! The boy, who seems like a brat, insists what he did was no big deal.
     What unfolds at this meeting is simply astonishing. People speak up, converse, and both invisibly and visibly change; even the moderator ends up admitting her own prejudice and impatience contrary to Chairman Mao’s call for patience in student-teacher relations. The boy who kicked the ball honestly and thoroughly analyzes his own motivation, which runs contrary to the excuses that the moderator early on feels that his fellow soccer players were making for him. Ultimately, teacher and student shake hands.
     Is the meeting a reconstruction? It’s hard to tell.

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