Making the Grades
Held back by German soldiers, a little boy is torn from the clutches of his crying mother (Maria Bonnevie) and struggling father (Adrian McCourt) when they are taken prisoner in post-WWII Bulgaria. All alone, David (Ben Tibber) labors at the Belene Prison Camp with a group of grown men. Caught in the aftermath of the war, the young boy loses his family, his childhood and his faith in humankind.
In the camp, David is befriended by a fellow prisoner named Johannes (Jim Caviezel). The older man tries to explain the outside world to David and convince him that peace and a freedom from fear can exist. But for the 12-year-old, who barely remembers life before internment, it's hard to comprehend. He has hardly any recollection of even simple daily realities like money, silverware or warm beds. All he knows are the angry guards (one of whom is played by Hristo Shopov) and their loaded rifles.
Then one night the young prisoner is given a secret, sealed letter and directions for escaping from the camp. Unsure if he should trust "the man" who offers him his freedom, David tosses and turns on his cot until the appointed time comes. Then he slips out of the bunkhouse, climbs the wire fence and runs for his life.
Outside the gates, he finds a promised knapsack filled with a few essentials. Strapping it to his back, he starts on an incredible journey that takes him south to the Mediterranean Sea, around to Italy and northward to his final destination of Denmark.
However for David, the personal discoveries he makes are much more important than the miles he crosses. Afraid to trust anyone, his dark, brooding face is always guarded. Terrified of uniformed officers--and rightly so sometimes--he is inept at accepting kindness even when it is offered. Only after Sophie (Joan Plowright), a gentle elderly woman, welcomes him into her home does David begin to find the courage to open his heart to others.
Already awarded several film festival honors, I Am David is based on Anne Holm's 1963 novel. It portrays the often-unreported costs of war, and the story of conflict and displacement as seen through the eyes of a child. The script also praises the resilient nature of the adolescent who pays a hefty price for the crimes of others.
The abduction of David's parents, a shooting in a prison camp and some beatings by the guards may upset younger audience members. Still, for older children and teens, this movie is remarkable in its hopefulness and it's undying conviction that even in the worst of situations there is good to be found.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about I Am David.
How did David’s mistrust of others affect his actions toward them? Why did “the man” tell David not to trust anyone?
Why did David finally feel comfortable confiding in Sophie? How did she help restore his faith in others?
How is civilian life disrupted during times of war? For stories of modern day refugee children go to the movie’s official site at http://www.iamdavidmovie.com.