Chevalier and Other Films For Your Summer Watchlist
For our family, summer is about movies! Blockbusters, stand-by favorites, the latest Spider-Verse movie, Marvel, all the biggies. But, over the years , I’ve learned that summer movies can also be about summer learning. I love finding films that are entertaining, enjoyable and that pull something into view that I previously didn’t know about, or didn’t know enough about.
Chevalier is currently available across all digital platforms. Inspired by the life of composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.), this narrative film pulls us into 18th century France. Bologne is the illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner. He rises to improbable heights in French society. Moreover, Bologne is a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer. The film captivates and engages with its rap-battle style opening. In this opening, Bologne faces off against Mozart, violin to violin. The film follows Bologne’s complex life, which includes an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (played by Lucy Boynton). Ultimately, Bologne’s experiences in a racial stratified nation moving toward revolution push him to reevaluate his life.
I was trained as a classical pianist and grew up playing Mozart, Beethoven, Bach. Additionally, I performed chamber music in college and took music history and theory courses. Yet, none of this training included Joseph Bologne. Despite Bologne composing ground-breaking concertos and quartets. Despite his influence on the musical world around him, I only discovered him through Chevalier.
Finally, parents should note that Chevalier’s love affair does play heavily in the film. Please view it first to assess appropriateness for your family. The film is rated PG-13 and most appropriate for older teens. Moreover, it’s 97% fresh (audience rating) on Rotten Tomatoes!
Expanded Learning About Joseph Bologne
- Otele, Olivette. African Europeans: An Untold History. Basic Books, 2021.
- Code Noir https://worldhistorycommons.org/code-noir-black-code, with this primary source, one can read the code as it was written.
- Joseph Bologne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges Violin Concertos – YouTube
- The most prestigious classical music festival in the Caribbean is dedicated to preserving and elevating the musical legacy of Joseph Bologne Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges. https://festivalsaintgeorges.com/
- A Journeys in Film Discussion Guide will be available for the film in mid-July. Learn more here.
More Summer Movies for Summer Learning
First, Summer of Soul, a film in which music plays a big role. This Oscar-winning documentary features performances from musicians that adults (and some teens) will recognize such as Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight and others. Summer of Soul, directed by Questlove of The Roots, tells the story of the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, an epic musical event that, until recently, was all but forgotten except by the thousands who attended it. Oh, and it’s 99% (critics) and 98% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Summer of Soul is streaming on Hulu and Disney Plus. Educators, Journeys in Film has a curriculum guide for this film.
Secondly, Marshall is a narrative film in which the late Chadwick Boseman (which many of our kids will know as the Black Panther) plays Thurgood Marshall. This biopic follows the career of Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice and features old-fashioned courtroom drama and, ultimately, an inspirational story of courage. I was lucky enough to see this in the theater in Los Angeles with the talented cast and crew present. Their commitment to Marshall’s important story shines through in this powerful film available on Netflix or to purchase on Amazon/Apple TV.
Finally, Mighty Times: The Children’s March is a 40-minute documentary available on Youtube is a film I wish I’d seen much earlier in my life. I only watched it recently as part of an educational program with the Harvard X Media Lab. Using powerful archival footage, the film documents the important role that youth played in the Civil Rights Movement when children, teens and young adults from Birmingham and surrounding areas flooded the streets in response to injustice as part of the movement to end segregation. This history is also recounted in the picture book Let the Children March written by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison.
What summer movies, summer learning are you excited about this summer?