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Last Updated: Monday, 13 October, 2003, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
French film star teacher sues
Teacher Georges Lopez in documentary Etre et avoir
Lopez's patience touched audiences

Controversy is raging in France after a teacher portrayed as a paragon of educational virtue in an acclaimed documentary said he was suing the film-makers for compensation.

Primary school teacher Georges Lopez who gave a touching performance in fly-on-the-wall documentary Etre et avoir has started a legal battle over the film's rights, demanding 250,000 euros.

Georges Lopez touched French and international audiences with his gentle manner and endless patience with a class of pupils of all ages and abilities in a rural school in central France.

I've spent days in cinemas answering questions from the audience, in interviews, travelling abroad, and all they do is thank me nicely
Georges Lopez
Mr Lopez, now retired, has shocked fans by suing for violation of his ownership rights to the film's images. He says the film-makers are exploiting his image without authorisation.

His move prompted many vitriolic editorials attacking the former teacher for trying to cash in on the film's success.

Mr Lopez is also seeking payment from local authorities for time he spent helping promote the documentary, reports say.

In an interview with a local newspaper La Montagne, Mr Lopez said he was angry at the "lack of recognition... I've spent days in cinemas answering questions from the audience, in interviews, travelling abroad, and all they do is thank me nicely.

"I do not want charity. It was the production company that first raised the idea of money and made me a financial offer," he said.

Cannes appearance

But the director's lawyer said Mr Lopez had turned down an initial offer of 37,500 euros for his help in promoting the film and had given his consent to the making of the film.

"Nicolas Philibert did not wish to reproduce Georges Lopez's lesson, but to portray him among his pupils," director Philibert's lawyer said.

Mr Lopez's lawyer told Le Monde newspaper that as his client's class was an original creation, the film was a creation based on another creation and therefore by law a counterfeit.

After being shown at the Cannes film festival last year - which Mr Lopez attended with some of his pupils - the film encountered unexpected success at home and abroad.

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