School Days with a Pig
Director: Tetsu Maeda
Cast: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Mieko Harada, Tomoko Tabata
A Pig + The Class Entre les murs
Based on a true story, "School Days with a Pig" is a moving, realistic and educational Japanese movie requiring the audience to ponder on the cycle of life and reflect on whether humans have the right to end other animals'lives.
The most special scenes are the 5-minute and 15-minute real-time, documentary-like and thought-provoking classroom debates in which students spontaneously discuss if they should eat the pig. While shooting the two scenes, seven cameras operated at the same time. Besides, the debating scenes were not rehearsed. Only given partial scripts without lines assigned to them, students had to discuss the issue with their own arguments, which makes the movie authentic and distinguishable from other typical animal movies. The debating scenes shot in a documentary-like style also remind me of The Class, a French movie with non-scripted classroom discussions.
Apart from eleven lovely pigs, the movie stars twenty-six pleasing children whose natural acting deeply moves me to tears. Tsumabuki Satoshi, who plays an inexperienced new teacher, gives a convincing performance. He really resembles a new teacher intending to establish close relationships with his students. As an authoritative figure, he also refrains from crying in the ending.
The first thing slightly puzzling me is that, in the movie, nearly all students actively participate in the discussions. I wonder if Japanese primary school students are generally passive and unwilling to voice their thoughts. Secondly, some people may complain that the reason for the teacher's decision in the ending is unclear and he should explain the reasons to his students. In my opinion, the director intends to highlight the teachers' words. In reality, model answers to moral questions are not always available and it is hard to view an issue in black and white. Indeed, both option A and B have their own pros and cons and therefore he probably plays safe and opts for a less risky solution.
On the whole, the movie reminds teachers that students should be encouraged to acquire and apply knowledge through real life experiences. They should also be exposed to different controversial issues and learn to express their own thoughts and feelings. I highly recommend this authentic and touching movie to teachers, parents and students.
Reviewed by: Kenji Chan