Robert André lives in Paris. He has resided in France for the past 15 years. After studying literature in his hometown at the University of San Diego, California, he attended the University of Leuven in Belgium. A scholar in the Edmund Husserl Archives, he was awarded a degree in Philosophy. Mr. André then returned to the United States where he worked in the field of psychology for the State of California. He later decided to return to Europe and settle in France where he has focused his work in the arts.

In France, he studied acting and directing under Ludwik Flaszen who was co-founder, along with Jerzy Grotowski, of the Laboratory Theatre in Poland. Mr. André went on to study film and video with Philippe Ros and Jacques Pigeon. This led to his work as free-lance cameraman on a number of independent films. He has directed his own short films including Waltzing, filmed in wartime Bosnia and Herzegovina in collaboration with the Theatre of Tulza; and the documentary film Forbach Opus II, a lyrical ballad contrasting a festival of new music along the French-German border with the closing of coal mines in the region and the effect this had on the people of these communities. Mr. André’s documentary and fiction screenplays; include: L’Apero; Kiss Me I’m Serb; and You Are Here.

India has been his focus for the past four years. Robert André has worked on several film and video projects in Pondicherry and Bangalore as well as in the State of Orissa. In India, his work has been as a screenplay writer, director and cinematographer. School Without Walls is Robert André’s most recent documentary film project. It was produced by Mosaïque Films in Paris. The filming took place in the State of Andhra Pradesh, India.

To contact Robert André mailto:rhdiego@yahoo.com

30 mai 2005

School Without Walls - Synopsis

Modern India has become a major economic force in the world. Its rural communities must develop new methods for its people to participate in this growth. But ties to the past are difficult to break. The RIVER program in Andhra Pradesh is a school founded by the Krishnamurti Foundation to bring the traditions of India into this new society. Through the eyes of children, the games of men, and the tears of women, School Without Walls reveals a poignant tale of the past becoming the present.

There was once a time when children in a small village, deep in rural India, sang under the tall palm trees, ran across the green fields, danced amongst the most ancient of stones, and watched the moon and stars at night. They called that school…and still do.

School Without Walls is at one and the same time, both an enchanted voyage and an onerous story. Little Ashwini and her friends from the village take you by the hand and bring you into their homes and their school. This discovery of the villagers’ everyday life reveals their rich tradition, colourful folklore, and music. The men reunite, discuss, and drink. They have their own way of looking at life, and the changes taking place in their community. In a more intimate manner, the women confide the plight of their situation, their work, their married life, and their children’s education, wherein hope still reigns.

The RIVER program was started by the Rishi Valley School founded by Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986). Their challenge was to introduce education into this deep rural context. Through the children and their parents, you discover how this program adapts to their way of life and respects their traditions. The school becomes an integral part of their community where the villagers take part, the children enjoy learning, and the women have hope.

28 mai 2005

A Note on the Film by Robert André

My first encounter with India was via its village life; the fishing villages along the South East Coast, the rural areas of Orissa, and the arid hills of Andhra Pradesh. In all of the villages the first striking feature is the children. The children who freely run about and curiously come up and ask what your name is and where do you come from. They would often take me by the hand wanting to show me their small house or in some cases a simple hut. I stayed for some time. I watched in admiration the beauty, the grace and ingenuity of the people of this very ancient culture. It was as if I could see something of the fertile ground of humanity from which all else grows.

At a later stage I was introduced to Mr. Rao, principal founder of the RIVER program, I spent time talking with Mr. Rao about this teaching learning methodology that he developed together with other members of his team, taking into account all specificities of rural India.

Upon my return to India I wanted to see first hand the classroom dynamics between teacher and student as well as amongst the students themselves. In Jallavaripalle I spent hours sitting in the classroom, fascinated by the enthusiasm, motivation and interest of these children in their studies. I got to know some of the children and their families. Here I saw the impact of the program on their whole community. It was at this point where I thought back to my first experience in a small fishing village. I remember sitting there next to some simple wooden fishing boats, it must have been just after twelve noon and little Prakash, a child from the village, came up to me and he sat down. I had sat with him many times before in the late afternoon, he would often stay next to me until sunset and then return home. But on this day it was too early and school was in progress. I asked him rather reproachfully why he wasn’t in school, he understood the question and he grimaced like I had never seen before. Suddenly the free and joyful boy I had enjoyed spending time with on so many occasions frowned terribly and left my company. It is only recently I have come to understand why. And like children all over the world, his reaction is an all too common response to schooling in general.

Behind those school walls where one can only imagine the uniformed children parading in and out, under the supervision of a headmaster, lies the problem, a problem that appears common everywhere and has been researched endlessly. The irony or beauty is that here we are far away in a small village called Jallavaripalle in Andhra Pradesh India. Suddenly something so distant becomes so close; close to the concerns of each of us regarding the development of our own children and therefore our own society.

Mr. Rao lives and works in Andhra Pradesh, he oversees, with his team, a program which has developed answers to many universal questions on education. They are doing it with very few resources and in the very specific context of the children. They are including as matter-of- fact the full participation of the community. This program is growing and it is not coming from the North down to the South or West to East. Like the foundation of modern India, it is homespun. And each participant is spinning his or her own success, making it their own.