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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Directed by Michael Firth
Key Video 1986 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Not Rated

Sylvia Ashton-Warner was a pioneer in education who is usually mentioned in the company of Maria Montessori and Summerhill's A. S. Neill. Director Michael Firth has compressed many events in her life into a period of several months during the 1940s. In the opening scenes of the drama, she arrives with her husband Keith and her three children in a rural town in New Zealand. She will teach the young aboriginal children, the Maori, and he is to be headmaster of the small school. When her students evidence no interest in the English primers, Sylvia restructures the classroom and begins using music to draw out their feelings. Eventually, she assembles a reading book for the Maori children composed of the words most meaningful to them. Eleanor David gives a luminous and affecting performance as Sylvia. As a film biography, this Australian movies entertaining and informative. It reveals the difficulties creative people face in dealing with the establishment, the demands they make on their loved ones, and the burdens they impose on themselves by constantly aiming so high.


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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