A report from the pupils in « Troisième EURO » :
The story of The Butler begins in the twenties. Cecil Gaines works with his parents on cotton fields in the south of the USA, until the day when the landlady’s son murders his father. To protect him from her son the landlady hires Cecil as a servant. A few years later he decides to go away from the plantation and to get a job somewhere else in order to escape from the landlady’s son. As he has been walking for days he’s starving and steals some food in a house. The black butler who works in this house decides to give him a chance and teaches him how to be a very good butler. Later this man gets a very good job offer in a luxury hotel in Washington D-C but as he thinks he’s too old for this job, he offers to it to Cecil. Later, Cecil is finally hired to work at White House as a butler. He will serve 8 presidents.
Through Cecil’s life we are told the history of the USA and particularly of the Segregation (although the movie refers neither to Martin Luther King’s famous speech delivered in front of Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, nor to Rosa Parks.) Louis, Cecil’s elder son wants to fight for the Blacks’ Civil Rights despite his father’s opinion. He joins Martin Luther King’s movement, has to face with the Ku Klux Klan when he takes the « Freedom-Ride » bus with his friends. After the murder of Martin Luther King, Louis joins the « Black Panthers ». We can also see him demonstrating with other Americans against the War in Vietnam (1956-1973) (but the case of Daniel Ellsberg is not mentioned.)
We all agree that The Buttler is a brilliant and touching movie about Segregation, even if some important events are not shown.
Cecil says something that makes us think a lot « People have talked a lot about concentration camps but here (in South Dakota) they have existed for 200 years ».
We enjoyed going to the cinema and watching this film in euro class, because it’s another way to learn about the culture. This film makes us realise much better what “segregation” implies. It makes us think a lot about Human Rights and opens our minds. Some of us have decided to do their Arts files about this topic. It also allowed us to get to know the new pupils better and to do something as a class.