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A Movie About Maria Montessori Worth Watching

on July 8, 2008

Many of us spend parts of the day multitasking. I often find it easier to endure my time walking on the treadmill, by watching some informative television program. Usually, I watch some type of political programming; however, early last night, for some odd reason, I found myself channel surfing. With the remote control in hand, I sped by numerous channels featuring inane shows, Suddenly, my eyes briefly caught the intro to something that was actually astonishing. I saw the television title header María Montessori: Una Vida Dedicada a los Niños flicker for a second on the television screen. What did I just see? Quickly, my finger hit the back button on the remote, to make sure that I wasn’t seeing things. I wasn’t!! However, I still couldn’t believe my eyes.

My timing was indeed fortuitous. Within minutes, the dialogue validated that I was watching the opening scenes of the film, María Montessori: Una Vida Dedicada a los Niños (Maria Montessori: A Life Dedicate to the Children). I stood there for a while, just listening and observing. Within minutes, I could see that this production would fall into the genre of Masterpiece Theater rather than some poorly acted and scripted B movie. Fine. I had made the decision to watch. At this point, I was intrigued just enough to see if the film was an accurate account of Maria Montessori’s life or just a another docufiction.

What unfolded before me was a well acted, scripted and produced account of Maria Montessori’s life. I found myself being vicariously transported back into time. Throughout the entire movie, Maria’s genuine love and concern for children was permeable. Many of Maria’s struggles, heartaches and victories that we have read about were accurately and thoughtfully brought before the audience for the viewer’s contemplation. I kept marveling at Maria’s courage and determination. Aspects of Maria Montessori’s personal life, including her relationship with her son Mario, were also disclosed.

It was very evident that the writers, producers, actors and others concerned with the making of this film really took the genius of Maria Montessori’s life seriously and had taken precautions not to use an artistic license to distort facts.

Maria’s many struggles to adopt new pedagogy in various countries were examined, and her conversations, which were at times quite intense, underscored her desire to never compromise her beliefs. As we know, Maria was so ahead of her time. Consequently, her so called “radical” thinking was very difficult for the Bourgeoisie of that day to accept.

Scoffers who had dismissed the children running rampant through the streets of Rome as being uneducable, later saw a great transformation. What they later witnessed were children working calming and independently with Maria Montessori’s didactic materials. Her nemeses also saw these same children engaging interactively, showing courtesy and respect to each other as they washed and dried the dishes in a typical Montessori practical life setting.

Bits and pieces of Mussolini’s prevailing fascist doctrine and Maria’s refusal to make the children believe in a fascist mentality were exposed. To allow otherwise, would be contrary to what she advocated. After all, she believed in individuality and didn’t want children to live in a suppressed society where their voices would go unheard and their individuality lost.

The actress who portrayed Maria Montessori did so beautifully. I was amazed with her striking resemblance to Maria Montessori. I believe, the persona this actress displayed would be appreciated by Maria Montessori as well. The actress artfully captured Maria’s intellect, sensitivity and genuine love of children. She brilliantly portrayed the essence of Maria’s pure frustration in being unable to take action when, for example, witnessing firsthand children being abused.

Watching the scenes of children being beaten and otherwise abused, and seeing Maria’s reaction was difficult to sit through. All of us who have seen a child or children being physically or verbally abused can relate to that level of discomfort. Like Maria, whenever possible, we try to be proactive and stop the abuse. We try to follow her example.

If you know about Maria Montessori’s life, and understand some Spanish, you can easily sit through and watch the movie without feeling overly tired. It’s well worth watching and serves as a powerful reminder of our collective role as stewards in the lives of the many children who traverse our paths during our lifetime.

Indeed, Maria Montessori’s example for us, especially when acted out in a movie, becomes a vivid reminder of her legacy and how and why it has endured for more than a century.

Where to view –

Use to find out when and on what television stations this film will next be televised.

Some additional links to visit include:

The Sensitive Period for the Acquisition of Language

Walking the Line: Montessori Style

Homeschooling? Feeling stressed out? Let me offer a few suggestions…

Heidi Anne Spietz

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