Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, master French director Laurent Cantet’s movie “The Class” is an absorbing journey into a multicultural high school in Paris over the course of a school year. François Begaudeau–an actual teacher and the author upon whose work the film was based–is utterly convincing as François, an openminded teacher in charge of a classroom of youngsters from a wide variety of backgrounds. Of course, the mere fact that he’s older and in a position of authority causes his students to challenge him on many occasions. François is stuck in the middle. In the teacher conferences, he butts heads with the harsher adults who don’t appear to have any sympathy for their students. In class, his attempts to be lenient and understanding are somehow misinterpreted and he finds himself arguing with the kids that he so clearly wants to help. As the school year progresses, tensions rise, until François finds himself in a position he never imagined he’d be in. Unlike his more formally written early films like HUMAN RESOURCES and TIME OUT, Cantet proves that he has an ability to work in a more improvisational manner. Shot on HD and working with a cast of young non actors, he allows “The Class” to breathe, resulting in a fictional drama that has the spirit and energy of a documentary. His startlingly assured ensemble brings the new, culturally diverse France of the early 21st century to striking life…and one of the best movies to hit U.S. movie theaters in 2008.