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Playground [Un Monde] cover image

Playground [Un Monde] 2021

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Film Movement
Produced by Creative Europe Media
Directed by Laura Wendel
Streaming, 72 mins

High School - General Adult
Bullying; Children; Drama

Date Entered: 07/12/2022

Reviewed by Giovanna Colosi, Librarian for the School of Education, Subject Instruction Lead, Syracuse University

Laura Wandel’s debut feature and multi award winning film, Playground (the original French title Un Monde, translation, A World) is a very uncomfortable but powerful film to watch about the very universal childhood and sometimes adult experience of bullying. While watching the viewer can’t help but feel a sense of impending doom and dread. The film is shot in a very no-frills way. The camera pans to the children’s faces for the most part capturing the raw emotion. The adults are shot from the torso down, making the viewer see what the children see with their own eyes. There is no score. The scenes all take place within the school’s gates. All this adds to the feeling of uneasiness and claustrophobia while watching.

The story focuses on two siblings starting a new school. There is shy Nora, played by fantastic actor Maya Vanderbeque, and her older brother Abel. Abel, played by Gunter Duret, suffers violent bullying from older boys. Both child actors are marvelous in these roles. We see Nora try to help her older brother by enlisting the help of teachers, which makes matters worse for Abel. Later in the film Abel pushes Nora away, not in malice, but to protect her, and himself, since the bullies make it worse for him while she is around.

Nora begins to make friends of her own, but then these friends to join in the mean-spirited bullying, teasing Nora for being Abel’s sister and we see her lash out. There are other scenes that show bullying is a never-ending cycle of harm. At the end of the film, Wendel gives the viewer a sense of what bystanders can do when they have the courage to speak out.

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Education released the first federal definition of bullying. The definition includes three core elements: Unwanted, aggressive behavior, observed or perceived power imbalance and repetition or high likelihood of repetition of bullying behaviors. We see all these elements played out in the film.

For academic libraries serving elementary and secondary education departments, this film is highly recommended.

Winner, FIPRESCI Prize: Un Certain Regard, Cannes Film Festival; Winner, Best Debut Feature, Int'l. Cinephile Society Awards; 2022 Winner, Sutherland Award, First Feature, London Film Festival; Winner, Best Debut Film, Haifa Int'l. Film Festival; Winner, Best Actress, El Gouna Film Festival; Winner, Best Film, Guanajuato Int'l. Film Festival; Official Selection, San Sebastián Film Festival; Official Selection, Palm Springs Int'l. Film Festival; Winner, Prix du Jury Jeune Best Film 2021, Amiens International Film Festival; Winner, Best Film 2022, Crossing Europe Audience Award; Winner, DFCC Best Cinematography, Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards 2022

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.