ROBERTA SERET, FOUNDER OF INTERNATIONAL CINEMA EDUCATION, EXPLAINS:
OUR MISSION IS TO TEACH GLOBAL EDUCATION AND DIVERSITY:
Students are visual learners, and international cinema is an area that has been underrepresented in the canon of film curriculum for high school students. And yet, over the years with our work at the United Nations and in high schools, I have realized that foreign films have given thousands of students the experience of traveling beyond borders and limitations and to understand different cultures– all without a plane ticket or leaving their seat. Once they have been exposed to the different style of international cinema, with sub-titles, unusual settings, innovative techniques, and psychological character development, students want to see more. For students this is an opportune moment to teach them how to understand film as an art form as well as a vehicle to look at their world and their neighborhood with objective eyes, and to think how to make their society better. We teach them how other filmmakers from around the world, and they, can tell their story by using Film.
Our textbook, “World Affairs in Foreign Films,” serves as a guidebook to international cinema as well as a vehicle to visit unfamiliar countries and understand their diverse daily life. Seeing is believing, and to be transported into the middle of a foreign country as it is today, and then to discuss it with friends and peers, offers students the opportunity to experience different ways of living and to better understand their own country in the global community. Film has the power to show the relationship of geography with history, the interaction of economics and politics, and the unifying message of diversity.
In our textbook / curriculum, we introduce a new type of understanding international cinema based on a multi-disciplinary inter-related pedagogy. Each film is analyzed from 9 academic perspectives: World History; Geography; Economics; Civics, Citizenship and Government; World Literature; Media Studies; Philosophy; Art: and Technology. Each of the 9 lenses includes related background information, group activities, problem-solving concepts, and community outreach projects. The suggested topics for discussion facilitate critical thinking and retention of facts similar to how one would analyze and read literature, and to transpose those skills for an articulate discussion of film scenes and topics. All answers and information related to the activities are also found in each chapter.
To complement the film chapters of the text, we have created 17 FILMeds © with a five-year Ford Foundation grant, that I have implemented under the aegis of our NGO at the United Nations and in classrooms. This digital concept has never been used before. They can be viewed as an introduction to the screening of the actual foreign film, to review the film, or target key points and themes for discussion. FILMeds© are posted on our NGO website: www.internationalcinemaeducation.org.
FILMeds© are a digital, multi-disciplinary video using film clips and images with text to analyze an award-winning international film from a representative country using inter-related perspectives: Geography, History, Human Rights, Politics, and Media Studies. Questions for discussion are incorporated in the video and serve as a guide for group discussion and cultural exchange using global issues, which are then reinforced with the corresponding film chapter from World Affairs in Foreign Films.
To read about foreign countries and universal themes, also offers background information regarding human rights and diversity to young, future filmmakers. They benefit from studying models from diverse countries that tell stories, organically, of diversity.
OUR NGO at the UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSES THE FOLLOWING GUIDELINES:
- Promotes Diversity:
The exposure to human diversity and the encouragement to absorb the importance of diversity, can make our students better people and more productive. Diversity espouses tolerance, openness and optimism– all forces needed for creativity. Academicians are always searching for ways to increase students’ creative thinking to attain higher performances. Foreign film has the ability to do this as well as to show diversity in a subtle way on the screen: the diversity of protagonists, societies, cultures, religions, and ideas. Students of diverse backgrounds relate well to diversity. They realize that their neighborhood is underrepresented and yet, they recognize common links (language and culture) to many of the neighborhoods depicted in international cinema.
- Bridges the opportunity divide:
Many of our students in New York’s inner-city come from similar backgrounds that they see on the screen of foreign films. They feel comfortable seeing this, which instills hope inside them as well as motivation for creating their own stories. Immediately, they identify with the themes and subjects. It is logical to use this premise as a beginning to encourage empathy and understanding.
Students in the 9th-12th grades are ready to use film to facilitate critical thinking skills and fact collecting processes. Foreign film encourages cogent reasoning skills to better understand global issues and diversity. And students of this age group are ready to use their reasoning and creative skills to express themselves using filmmaking tools. Once they learn the craft of filmmaking, they can objectively look at their society and strive to improve what they see. PSA’s, is an easy and creative medium for them to begin filmmaking. These students are from an underrepresented, non-traditional background who represent potential future filmmakers who have a different optic than more privileged students. Our project strives through education and film to give students opportunities and tools to improve their life and to use their voice to better their community.
- Attracts and engages broad new audiences for theatrical motion pictures:
Our proposed program targets students from 9th-12th grades, 14-18 years old. They are ready to learn about global education using film as a vehicle. Students in these grades are ready to use foreign film as a text in conjunction with reading literature to learn and relate to the world around them. Our curriculum helps students “read” the film’s stories in order to develop their own narrative and filmmaking skills in storytelling as well as in analysis, problem solving, synthesis, and discussion– all skills that they need for success in college, in the workplace, and in life.
Students are eager to read film as they would literature and to understand cognitive structures: to analyze the story line, isolate scenes, and transpose these skills for an articulate discussion and logical conclusion. Students in the 9th-12th grades have been underrepresented in the canon of film exposure and scholarship to date. There is little material and content for this age group in a one-book format with digital component that teaches them about filmmaking, diversity and global themes. I have found that this age group learns visually and feels comfortable learning in front of the screen.
- Provides a platform for underrepresented artists:
International cinema is an area that has been underrepresented in the canon of film scholarship to date. And yet, over the years with our Global Classroom and International Film Festival at the United Nations, I have realized that foreign films have given thousands of students the experience of traveling beyond borders and limitations. Once they have been exposed to the different styles of international film, with sub-titles, unusual settings, innovative techniques, and psychological character development, students want to see more. For students in the 9th-12th grades, this is an opportune moment to teach them how to understand film as an art form and as a vehicle to look at their neighborhood with objective eyes as if it were a foreign community and make it better it by creating PSAs.
- Offers the full range of film genres:
In our programs, I utilize a variety of film genres made by foreign and American directors, animators, documentarians, Independents, and students. These are underrepresented artists in our canon of film. They are all motivated to use diverse and creative mediums to show their societies and express a message. I have taken films from the seven continents that contain artistic and human issues.
- 6. Offers a variety of viewpoints:
Foreign film encompasses diverse viewpoints that American students may not be aware of. By seeing the film and discussing points of view, technique, plot, narrative and character development, the American students are exposed to different perspectives. This gives the opportunity for the exchange of ideas as well as a way of opening up their horizons to global understanding.
Since 2003, our organization has invited more than 15,000 students from disadvantaged communities to participate free in our programs. We have given workshops to dozens of schools and teachers.
Offers a variety of approaches:
There are 5 levels of Learning that our pedagogy of combining the written and the digital can offer:
- Global Education: Each film is divided into 9 academic inter-related perspectives to teach about one country and then to relate that country to its geo-political global region.
- Global understanding: The foreign films chosen have young protagonists who are faced with problems to solve and overcome. These are problems that a YA audience relates to no matter where they live. By empathizing with these protagonists from diverse backgrounds, and their challenges, teenaged students understand themselves better and can relate to others around them in a global understanding. They become inspired, encouraged and motivated.
- General culture: The book also introduces students to general culture, through offering content about different religions, philosophies, customs, laws, art, literature, music, and foreign languages, as well as analyzing each film from nine academic perspectives.
- How to think and learn: The textbook and film used together, give the stepping-stones to the process of learning. We move from the approach of asking questions and then on to research and investigate these questions, how to analyze, summarize and synthesize, how to come to conclusions, and then on how to share, discuss and communicate diverse ideas. This process of learning serves as a model for future approaches to learning.
- Encourage filmmaking as a voice and vocation: Once students absorb the principles from above, they are inspired to tell their own story. With the help of a teacher and mentor, they are ready to get hands-on experience. They are excited to use the tools and craft of filmmaking as their vehicle for creative expression.