2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: IN LOCO PARENTIS

in loco parentisIN LOCO PARENTIS
Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane introduce viewers to a singular elementary prep school.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

In the verdant village of Kells, Ireland, there’s an antidote to the dark times we live in – a worn and weathered boarding school with a special magic. At the heart of the school is a bemused elderly couple, John and Amanda Leyden, who have taught with equal parts seriousness and silliness for more than 40 years. The delight of IN LOCO PARENTIS is watching the pair undertake beloved pedagogical rituals, from performing the writings of great authors to coaching a fledgling rock band, like donning a favorite sweater.

The couple’s kindness and inventiveness usher elementary school-age children, hailing from around the world, through patches of loneliness and angst. Although the Leydens pretend to dread loud, screaming kids, the truth is they cannot go a day without them. But even the most beautiful traditions wane. As John and Amanda ponder retirement, unapologetically chain-smoking in their ivy-covered cottage, the film poses a quietly profound question: Will their intimate and caring cultivation of future generations live on, or will it vanish like so many community-centered practices?

Some Background:

  • Neasa Ní Chianáin
    This is Ní Chianáin’s first Sundance doc, which made its world premiere in competition at IDFA this past November. Her previous films have also debuted at IDFA as well as Locarno. Together with David Rane, she is a founder and director of the Guth Gafa International Documentary Film Festival in Kells, Ireland, the same setting as the Headfort School in their current film.


  • David Rane
    Rane also makes his Sundance debut with this film. His Soilsiú Films company has produced Ní Chianáin’s previous films in addition to BAFTA Award-winning animated shorts.


  • Angelo Orlando, Montse Portabello, Efthymia Zymvragaki
    This marks the first Sundance title for the doc’s co-producers.


  • Mirjam Strugalla
    Strugalla previously cut Ní Chianáin’s Locarno-debuting THE STRANGER, but this is also her Sundance debut.

Why You Should Watch:
Ní Chianáin and Rane were granted remarkable access to not only the Leydens but to their students, giving their observational portrait a true intimacy across various parts of Headfort’s environs, from classrooms and John’s music/art studio to school dormitories and Amanda’s stage. Demonstrating a light touch and a wise focus on just a handful of subjects, the filmmakers offer a loving appreciation of the unique school, its beloved teachers, and their lucky students.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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