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4. Films for intercultural learning (part I)

Table of contents

1. My Beautiful Laundrette (1986)
2. Do the Right Thing (1989)
3. The Crying Game (1992)
4. East is East (1999)
5. Monsoon Wedding (2001)
6. Red Dust (2004)
7. Crash (2004)

1. My Beautiful Laundrette (1986)

This successful film was directed by Stephen Frears and recommended for foreign language instruction by Rainer Schüren as early as 1994 (cf. below). At that point of time, films were hardly ever regarded as subjects suitable for advanced Foreign Language Teaching (FLT) in their own right. Against this background, the author's concept is of considerable interest even today.

The script for My Beautiful Laundrette was written by Hanif Kureishi, an Englishman of Pakistani descent and author of the successful novel Buddha of Suburbia; the film script is supplemented by a long autobiographical essay entitled "The Rainbow Sign", in which Kureishi depicts the cultural roots of the film. The production itself, which is not based on a literary text, deals with intercultural problems, the identity formation of Pakistanis in Great Britain, stereotypes, racism, etc.; in this respect it is similar to East is East (cf. below).

Schüren intends first to present the whole film to German learners at one sitting and then to show them small segments again (p. 44). Neither does he analyse the linguistic difficulties nor does he mention the problems of comprehension caused by the length of the film. After the first reception, the students are asked to write a short summary of the events (no longer than 150 words) and compare this to a much longer official version of it which was meant for the press (p. 44). It is also thinkable at this stage to make a first attempt to characterize the message of the film (p. 44).

However, according to Schüren, the major difficulty for the learners is to understand its cultural background (p. 45). An approach to this problem is based on several excerpts from the above quoted essay which should be made known to the learners. Next they are expected to find out in what way the film's aesthetic structure is in correspondence with its thematic complexity: an analysis is based on the kernel scene of the film in which the "beautiful laundrette" (cf. title) is set up (p. 45); for an in-depth study of this scene, the author offers questions, tasks, hints, etc. to show how this aim may be achieved in practice. Ultimately the students are confronted with excerpts from two secondary sources in which examples of positive and negative criticism of the film are put forward (p. 46).

For classroom work of this kind, the author offers a lot of additional material (pp. 47-54), which, on the one hand, is nicely arranged in as many as 11 boxes as it seems to be typical of the journal in which it was published. On the other hand, the teacher should make a careful use of it, as it has a great many printing errors. Anyway, it seems that classroom work mainly deals with written texts; the tasks required may be done in small groups, whose results will have to be discussed by the entire class, however.

To conclude: this is an article about an important topical subject, which focuses on additional material rather than on methodology.

Rainer Schüren, "'My Beautiful Laundrette': Multikulturelle Aspekte der Filminterpretation im Englischunterricht der Oberstufe", in: Der fremdsprachliche Unterricht 28:2 (1994), pp. 44-54.

As to the film script by Hanif Kureishi, it was first published by Faber (London) in 1986 and may now be bought from Langenscheidt (München):
Michael Mitchell, Hanif Kureishi (eds.), My Beautiful Laundrette. München: 2005. [Viewfinder]

2. Do the Right Thing (1989)

This motion picture was directed by Spike Lee, who also wrote the script for it. In 1997 it was recommended for FLT by Lothar Bredella, who gives a rather detailed interpretation of it.

Bredella starts from a theoretical question, namely what role literary texts and films can play in understanding a foreign culture. Generally speaking, texts from social science may be better tools for gaining insights in that respect, literary texts, however, are easier to understand since they appeal to the recipients' emotions. At the same time, they illustrate the conflicts of a multi-cultural society. Thus literary texts as well as feature films may be selected for FLT purposes; of course, they may be supplemented by texts from the field of social science.

Do the Right Thing refers to the well-known colour problem in a specific context, which is determined by conflicts between Black Americans and Italian Americans. Yet it is a complex film which calls for the viewer's cooperation. The central problem is: what does it mean to be American? In the U.S.A., any answer to this problem includes descent. In Do the Right Thing, emphasizing one's own ethical identity becomes the cause of the tragic conflict (p. 166). Emphasizing the value of one's own group, so it seems, means the devaluation and possible rejection of other groups. If people are discriminated against, they develop a negative self-image. In the long run, this state of affairs can only be replaced by a policy of equal recognition.

The motion picture describes a racial conflict in a multi-ethnic community in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Here the African Americans are in the majority; but Italian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Irish Americans and Korean Americans are also part of the community. In Lee's pizzeria, there is a "wall of fame" on which only Italian Americans are shown. As might be suspected, the Italians' pride becomes a problem for African Americans since they feel they lack the respect of the whites.

First there is a boycott of the pizzeria, then it is put on fire by the African American Mookie so that it burns down. And now for the audience the problem arises: what is the right thing to do (cf. title)? Many viewers keep their distance when violence is used to fight against racism. Yet one critic draws a very interesting parallel to a famous scene from American literature: he compares Mookie to Huck Finn who has to decide whether he wants to shield or to betray his friend Nigger Jim. In the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the title hero is confronted with the norms of the society he lives in, according to which slaves are white men's property and according to which helping them to escape is a crime. Huck comes to the conclusion that it is necessary for him to defy the laws of his time and to follow his conscience even if he is told he will go to hell for it.

Morality, then, in a sense, has a voice within, which also implies that intercultural learning is characterized by a moral dimension. Is it right for Mookie to show solidarity with his own group? Obviously Mookie suffers from a lack of self-esteem, but is it acceptable to understand him as a catalyst for hate? Such an interpretation would detract from his individuality. And one might also say that Mookie is not responsible for racism, but becomes its victim. Lee, on the other hand, may be called a racist: even if he is not conscious of it, he has internalized the conviction that Blacks are inferior.

It is obvious that this film has a large potential for discussion. Bredella offers a few didactic considerations how to make the students aware of some of its problems. First of all, he suggests the use of the tape script of some selected scenes for a discussion (p. 177) so that there is a combination of written fiction and filmed fiction. The students are expected to compare the central moral question to Huck Finn's dilemma (p. 178).

The last scene consists of a meeting between Lee and Mookie after the destruction of the pizzeria. Before it is shown in class, the students are asked to write down their expectations concerning the outcome of the film. Then the students' ideas should be compared to the film version (p. 178). This could be supplemented by a creative task: a journalist might write a report about the destruction of the pizzeria and interview some of the witnesses (p. 178).

Next, the students should discuss whether they think violence to be legitimate or justifiable as a weapon against racism. In doing so, they could have recourse to the positions developed by Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Moreover, the course members could analyse the function of music, symbols and camera movement (p. 179).

The article by Bredella does not say anything concerning the film's running time (125 minutes) and its linguistic difficulty: in the dialogues, many dialect forms occur for example. Bredella does not say either at which stage he feels the film to be appropriate for instructional purposes and whether he thinks that a reception of the whole film is advisable. Anyway, the demands put on the students concerning the discussion of its content and/or meaning are very high since the film does not have a clear-cut message. Moreover, classroom procedure is described in a general way, some steps are listed rather than described. Thus it is for the teacher to develop practicable lesson plans.

Nevertheless this motion picture represents an attractive choice, which relates to the students' understanding of the world and of themselves.

Lothar Bredella, "Interkulturelles Verstehen im Fremdsprachenunterricht: 'Do the Right Thing' von Spike Lee", in: Günther Jarfe (Hrsg.), Literaturdidaktik - konkret. Theorie und Praxis des fremdsprachlichen Literaturunterrichts (Heidelberg, 1997), pp. 163-181 (= Anglistik & Englischunterricht, Bd. 61).

3. The Crying Game (1992)

This film was directed by Neil Jordan and released in Great Britain as early as 1992. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only film recommended for FLT which deals with Northern Ireland, i.e. with the conflicts between the so-called Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the British soldiers. On the one hand, one may perhaps argue that this subject is no longer quite topical: there has been some hope for peace since the Good Friday agreement in 1998. In the meantime, the IRA has proclaimed the end of the civil war and recognized the official status of the British police. At the beginning of March 2007, general elections were held, and, at the end of the same month, the leaders of the Unionists and the Nationalists, Ian Paisley and Jerry Adams, have agreed to form a government in order to replace British administration.

On the other hand, in all likelihood, it would be too rash to assume that a stable peace between Catholics and Protestants has now been reached in Northern Ireland. The learners should be informed about the fact that the conflict has not been caused by different religious doctrines. Basically, it is a political struggle between two parties or perhaps a fight between two different nations: there are the Unionists (mainly the Protestants) who want Northern Ireland to remain a part of the United Kingdom, and there are the Nationalists (mainly the Catholics) who want Northern Ireland to become unified with the Irish Republic. Thus the civil war in Northern Ireland has been a long and bloody fight between a minority and a majority, which involved many casualties among the combatants as well as among the civilians. At the beginning of the 21st century, however, there seems to be a growing conviction that finally the time for peace has come.

The film "The Crying Game" was recommended for FLT by Burger in 1998, i.e. more than ten years ago. This means that he pleaded for the use of feature films in the foreign language classroom much earlier than this became fashionable. And he has always proved to be a didactician who sees the practical problems of film teaching realistically. Although feature films may be very motivating in FLT, he insists on the fact that it is necessary for the teacher to proceed in small steps in order to avoid frustration on the part of the learners (p. 202). He starts from the assumption that the class do not know the film because otherwise certain creative tasks like speculations or predictions about the following scene(s) or about the outcome of a conflict would not make sense (p. 205).

Since Burger feels that the problems in film comprehension are often underestimated, he recommends a successive presentation of the film in class: he divides the 112-minute-production into 13 segments of different length (p. 204). At the same time, according to his concept, the teacher is supposed to use excerpts from the film script as homework tasks or as silent class reading material for the students (p. 203); thus the viewing of film scenes is preceded by the reading of the corresponding texts to make comprehension easier. Still Burger thinks it is necessary to test comprehension (p. 203). He also suggests the learners should view scenes without sound or that they should watch a scene while reading it in a script simultaneously (p. 206; this device anticipates the use of L 2 subtitles when films on a DVD are available).

A few hints may suffice in order to characterize the complicated plot of "The Crying Game". In the first scene, a coloured British soldier called Jody is kidnapped by the IRA and kept prisoner. The IRA member Fergus is told to keep watch over him. However, Fergus does not really hate his enemy, and when Jody tries to escape, Fergus is unable to shoot him. Ironically, Jody is run over by a British tank and killed. In the course of events, there are many more examples of violence, assassinations and casualties: they show that the film is also interesting in the context of intercultural learning.

For Burger, the film contains a large potential of meaning which does not call for one interpretation only (p. 203). As a consequence, he recommends the use of creative tasks like writing follow-up texts, role plays, letters or written comments on a sequence of shots (p. 203, p. 206). Or the learners could be asked to form a dialogue out of a few fragments which could serve as a starting point for text production (p. 206).
Another possibility is to have the students find a number of adjectives in order to characterize a person and to choose those five for example they think to be the most important (this could take place as a pyramid discussion; cf. p. 205). All in all, the author develops suggestions for classroom procedure for 16 lessons (pp. 205-206). Finally, he suggests organizing a 180-minute period in which the presentation of the whole film will be followed by a general discussion of it (p. 206).

To conclude: this contribution foreshadows the positions Burger was to develop in later years (2001 and 2002: cf. "Chinatown" and "Welcome to the Dollhouse": they are also discussed on this homepage).

Günter Burger, "Die Arbeit mit einem Spielfilm im fortgeschrittenen Fremdsprachenunterricht", in: Udo O. H. Jung (Hrsg.), Praktische Handreichung für Fremdsprachenlehrer (Frankfurt/Main: 1998, 3. Auflage, 2001), pp. 202-207 [about "The Crying Game"].

4. East is East (1999)

The film East is East, which was produced in Great Britain (director: Damien O'Donnell), is based on a drama by the same name. It refers to intercultural learning exemplified by the life of a Pakistan family in Salford, where the social environment becomes a dominating force for immigrants of the second and third generations in their search for a personal and cultural identity. The film may be understood as a comedy which presents clichés only in order to ridicule them.

This production, which is also available on DVD now, was suggested for instructional purposes by Kestermann in 2002 (cf. note below). The author points out that in linguistic respect the demands for German foreign language learners are rather high. But for them there is an easy access to basic problems because of a similar situation in our country. Besides, the adolescent characters of Pakistani origin provide the German learners with a high potential for identification (p. 25).

George Khan, and his British wife Ella, who run a fish-and-chips shop, and their seven children are in the centre of the film. Mr Khan tries to stick to the Muslim traditions of his country while his children want to become British, which is tolerated by their mother. Their oldest son Nazir is expected to marry a Pakistani girl, but turns out to be homosexual. Meenah, their only daughter, is fond of playing football; cf. Bend it Like Beckham. One of the Khans' neighbours is a British nationalist who dislikes the Pakistanis. However, he has to witness that his grand-children are fascinated by Pakistani customs. Generation conflicts, then, relate to both cultures.

According to Kestermann, classroom procedure may start in the following way. As a visual stimulus the cover of the film is shown to the learners, and they have to describe what they can see on it, namely young groups of different ethnic origin (p. 27). The results achieved by the students are written down without being commented upon right now. This pre-viewing activity is meant to pave the way for viewing in class a scene of the film itself, namely the one where Nazir's marriage is prepared.

Next, there is a presentation of the film in three sections, which consist of 15, 30, 25 minutes each (pp. 27-28). The first section is to be pre-read by the students in the screenplay so as to facilitate film comprehension. While-viewing tasks given by the teacher are meant to bring about a change of perspective and to sensitize the learners for the understanding of a foreign culture. Lists of questions and adjectives in order to describe some of the characters show how such an objective may be be achieved in class (p. 30). This is a part which is clearly dominated by the teacher.

In the second section, the students are expected to be familiar with the context and the language so that they may comprehend this part of the film without pre-reading its text. Single scenes should be viewed once again for close inspection, group work is recommended, after which the students have to compare their results, report back to their fellow students and develop a poster or a wallpaper for all course members. In a role play they may take over foreign perspectives or write diary entries from the point-of-view of different characters. This part is obviously much more student-orientated.

The third section concentrates on Mr Khan's problems (p. 30): he is torn between two cultures, basically helpless and does not know how to respond to the development of his children.

As the next step, the author expects the teacher to put the events in their political and cultural contexts (p. 29). The learners are supposed to find some material concerning Muslim immigrants and their view of themselves on the internet. This is certainly an attractive task which requires some degree of personal involvement. Once again the students have to report back to the class. And again Kestermann shows what may be expected from the students: he makes suggestions concerning six different articles for a cover story in a magazine, to be written by one group each (p. 31). Finally, the author makes some suggestions concerning a written test and the use of additional material (p. 29).

This film is undoubtedly an attractive choice. In his article, Kestermann does not say for which stage of FLT it is supposed to be appropriate. Nor does he make clear how to put it into the context of the curriculum. Apart from that, his contribution is characterized by useful stimuli and helpful material.

Thomas Kestermann, "Identitätsfindung zwischen Fremd- und Selbstbestimmung in 'East is East' (1999)", in: Der fremdsprachliche Unterricht - Englisch 36:59 (2002), pp. 25-31.

In 2007 the following teaching model came out:

Porteous-Schwier, Gunthild/Ingrid Ross, 'East is East'. Film Studies in the Classroom. Berlin, Cornelsen, 2007. Including a CD-ROM called "At the Cutting Edge. An Interactive Introduction to Film Analysis."

Introductory remarks
Many publishing houses want to make their books sell by offering several publications which possess similar characteristics, i.e. by making them an integral part of a series. The teaching model under consideration is no exception to this rule. Like other film studies in the Cornelsen repertoire, East is East has a summary of the plot (p. 5), guiding questions on the film (p. 8), a detailed scene index (pp. 9-16), suggestions for written tests (pp. 58-64), a selected bibliography (pp. 65-66), a chapter called "Film Studies Extra" (pp. 67-71) and a CD-Rom entitled "At the Cutting Edge - An Interactive Introduction to Film Analysis."

Apart from the standard elements already mentioned, the teaching model consists of suggestions concerning pre-viewing, while-viewing and post-viewing activities and a section entitled "Going beyond the film." Before these sections will be considered in some detail, I would like to describe some general principles of the teaching model under consideration.

General characterisation
(1) The students are supposed to have learned the use of a reading log in form 11 at the latest; now they should transfer this knowledge to using a viewing log. However, this term is used in a more extended sense than the original one which referred to note-taking during the reception process only. In this publication, viewing log is meant to cover notes concerning all essential aspects of the film, including personal impressions as well as comments on background material, and homework tasks (WS 5 A and B, pp. 20-21). This log can also be used in a written test, which will certainly increase the students' secondary motivation. So this procedure may well worth be a try.

(2) There is no uninterrupted presentation of the film in the beginning: with 92 minutes it is said to be too long to be shown in a double period in class (p. 21). To my mind, the problem of length is of minor importance. The crucial problem is that a non-stop presentation of this film - because of its particular variety of English that the learners are unlikely to be familiar with - is probably too difficult, especially if the learners are still inexperienced viewers of full-length feature films. And there is no initial reception of the whole film in several successive lessons either. As a consequence, the contextual function of film-stylistic devices can be interpreted in the context of specific scenes only, which, of course, would be a very limited approach. Later on, it can be seen that the authors want to have the close viewing of some kernel segments supplemented by an extensive viewing of the complete film (cf. p. 30 and p. 32).

(3) According to Ross/Porteous-Schwier, after the previewing phase, the students right away start viewing the first segment of the film closely. In dealing with a short segment, the authors recommend asking for essentials: who, where, when, what? to be followed by how? - which are time-honoured questions, of course. Besides, the authors maintain that observations concerning film technique have to be seen in the context of the content of the segments selected, in other words: the authors expect the learners to establish links between content and film technique because these are inextricably connected (p. 20). Moreover, advanced ELT is said to mainly refer to language, i.e. to learning new lexical items, to distinguishing between different registers, to developing listening comprehension, etc. (p. 22). For these teaching aims, the students have to do exercises for oral and written practice. On the whole, this is an acceptable procedure.

(4) The authors also offer many photocopiable worksheets (in the following called WS for short; cf. pp. 38-57). Including the information about selected terms for film analysis (pp. 67-71), they make up more than one third of the whole booklet. As a matter of fact, in this teaching model, the teacher will find one worksheet per lesson at least. This material goes together with suggestions for classroom procedure. Of course, the worksheets contain different tasks for which the authors offer solutions in the English language. Obviously, everything is done for the teachers' convenience.

Previewing (pp. 17-19)
It has become the rule with teaching models for full-length feature films that the authors distinguish between a pre-viewing phase, a close inspection of some segments from the film itself and post-viewing activities. The suggestions and the material offered for this initial part (cf. WS 1-5) are so comprehensive that it is necessary for the teacher to select some aspects for critical attention in class. Some worksheets refer to the technique of working, e.g. the ones about how to deal with a feature film (p. 38) or how to work with a viewing log (p. 42), which may be very useful for inexperienced viewers of films but which will be dispensable with more experienced classes. Besides, the authors point out that it is the function of this part to build up expectations (p. 17), i.e. to motivate the learners for the following lessons.

As to film content, the teacher may choose between either a psychological or a sociological alternative: in two patchwork sequences, either Ella Khan, or the Anglo-Pakistani family in Great Britain in the 1970s may be in the centre. For each option, several scenes from the film are recommended which, however, are not discussed in detail. Thus there is a certain scope for decision, but this means that the teachers (or the teachers and the students) have to prepare some of the lessons by themselves. Anyway both are meant as an introduction to the interpretation of the film.

The film itself (pp. 20-29)
There are six worksheets for analysis of the film segments proper. The authors argue that a close inspection of the film in segments is less demanding than viewing the whole film at once (p. 22); thus it will help the students learn to view films carefully. This part is divided into the following five segments which are said to deal with topics "central to the film" (p. 44):

Segment 1: Religion and culture;
Segment 2: Circumcision;
Segment 3: Immigrant culture;
Segment 4: Violence in the family;
Segment 5: Talking about emotions.

Segment 1: Religion and culture
The first scenes of the film, which are to be shown in class, deal with a Catholic procession and a Muslim wedding. Some of the Khan children take part in the procession, probably encouraged by their mother Ella, who is a Catholic. However, the children do know their father should not see them. This is the only ritual of the Catholic religion that is mentioned in the film and in the teaching model (on a later occasion, the priest comes to collect flowers for another procession). The first scene is something like a funny hide-and-seek game; yet the problems in the bi-cultural family caused by different religions are not discussed in this context.

In this phase the authors concentrate on some characters of the film; this goes together with worksheet 6B: it contains several assignments, e.g. a classification of given vocabulary, which may either belong to the Christian or to the Muslim religions or which may also include neutral terms. Such a task is undoubtedly attractive, yet it is hardly justifiable that it is exactly at this point where classroom work stops. All the lexical items classified should now be used as a foundation in order to start a comparative discussion of the two different religions: what about their ideas of God, the value of the Bible and the Holy Koran, basic moral principles? A brainstorming phase might be extremely useful in this context.

Segment 2: Circumcision
The second segment concerns one particular aspect of Islam which is said be a taboo subject. In a short transcript from the film on WS 6C it can be clearly seen that George is embarrassed to talk about it (using the word "tickle-tackle" for "foreskin"; cf. p. 24), yet he insists that the operation is also done to his youngest boy - as has been the case with all his other five sons and as circumcision is prescribed by his religion. The analysis of register is limited to swear words like "bloody" (George) and "bleeding" (Ella); (pp. 23-24); thus again focus is on two major characters of the film, and, rather than content, language practice is in the centre. Again I would argue that the scene is not without comical and humorous aspects; later on, it is shown that for the Khan children, circumcision is no taboo subject at all. Yet the approach to this segment is somewhat disappointing since, apart from a basic definition of circumcision, the students do not learn anything about its origin, its tradition, and the reasons for it in Islam and other religions like Judaism for example. It could be very motivating for the students to do an internet research into this subject.

Segment 3: Immigrant culture
This segment deals with the setting, the social background of Great Britain in the 1970s against which the lives of the Khan family have to be seen. This is also regarded by the authors as a possible patchwork segment for the pre-viewing phase (cf. above), which would very likely to lead to some overlapping with classroom procedure in the while-viewing phase. However this may be, again focus is on language work: the students have to find collocations from given vocabulary (cf. WS 6D, p. 25). In addition, the learners have to realize that Bradistan is a term coined out of Bradford and Pakistan and that Bradford has a large Pakistani community. This aspect may be interesting in itself, may even be central to the theme of the film, yet it does not become clear whether the reality of the 1970s is still the same at the beginning of the 21st century.

Segment 4: Violence in the family
Now we are back in the Khan family (WS 6E, p. 26). This segment refers to the climax of the film which cannot be understood without a knowledge of a larger part of the plot in the film. The students have to find out how an atmosphere of violence is created in the family. In addition, they have to distinguish between violence directed against things and against people, between violence with deeds and with words. It turns out that George is a tyrannical ruler in the family: first he beats up his innocent son Maneer, and when his mother wants to protect him, George knocks Ella down to the ground. This scene has far-reaching implications for the evaluation of the roles played by husband and wife and for the structure of the Anglo-Pakistani family, which will be dealt with below.

Segment 5: Talking about emotions
This part focuses on the last scenes of the film, the conversation between the Shahs and the Khans, another conflict between Ella and George and Saleem's work of art. However, once again the main objective in this segment is language study: the students have to combine verbs and nouns, i.e. to learn film-specific devices for describing their own reactions (cf. WS 6F, p. 49). Apart from learning new lexical items, the students have to write an analysis of the final sequence, that is written text production is required.

Critical comment
The five segments are presented in chronological order. In general, the authors' focus of attention often is on vocabulary; they offer linguistic aids to improve the students' proficiency in the foreign language. However, these topics which are said to be central to the theme of the film (p. 44) are more or less arbitrarily chosen and hardly form a coherent whole. So far, the film has not explicitly been discussed as an entity. Nor do the authors define what, according to their view, the central theme is. Thus it is for the students to piece the different elements together in their minds, and I wonder what the result will be like if they have not seen the whole film. So this chapter which deals with the while-viewing activities in class is somewhat disappointing.

Post-viewing and going beyond the film (pp. 30-37)
Fortunately, these sections of the teaching model are much more attractive. They imply that the students are now familiar with the whole film (p. 30), although the authors never explain when and how the learners are going to acquire a sound knowledge of it. All of these sections are characterized by outstanding additional texts:

  • The first, which is taken from the DVD version of the film, refers to an interview with the scriptwriter Ayub Khan-Din (WS 9, p. 52).
  • Another one consists of a very good review of East is East by Damian Cannon; this has lexical annotations as well as interesting assignments (WS 10).
  • A third annotated text provides an example of academic prose; it is entitled: "You can't go home again" and deals with the "profound change for Muslims in Europe", its author Tariq Ramadan being a teacher of Islamic science at Fribourgh University (WS 11).

This course material provides the participants with a lot of helpful questions for lively discussions. Among other things the students may discuss:

  • the autobiographical roots of the film (the boy Sajid is the young scriptwriter himself, George and Ella are his parents);
  • the role of George (he is said to betray his roots, to be hypocritical ...);
  • the role of Ella (she is more understanding, torn between her love for George and her desire to protect the children);
  • the Pakistanis as victims of racism, riots, and unemployment in Great Britian (the social and political background of the 1970s, exemplified by Enoch Powell);
  • the gulf between Pakistani parents and children (children born in Europe; only Maneer wants to obey his father through religion; all others are different, wanting to be themselves; they take the best of each culture and leave the rest; Ramadan pleas for respect, tolerance and common values and hopes for a development from simple integration to mutual enrichment).

In addition there are interesting assignments for the students:

  • they are told, for example, to compare WS 9 and WS 10 as to their contributions to understanding the film;
  • they are asked to link Tariq Ramadan's description of change to the character and the behaviour of George with the help of their viewing logs (p. 56);
  • the learners are expected to prepare a presentation on the fate of Pakistani people in Great Britain today (WS 12, p. 57);
  • they may also write a poem or an acrostic on any character chosen by them, for example on George's identity (WS 12, p. 57).

No doubt, this section which is based on worksheets 9-12, would be a pleasure to work with in class. The additional material offered is a considerable enrichment of the problems presented in the film. Moreover, the authors point out that it is also possible to use literary texts together with the film, for example by Meera Syal or Zadie Smith (p. 36). Since hardly any teacher is likely to know these writers, it is awkward they do not offer any biographical information about the two. Anyone who wants to find examples of specific texts is advised to consult another Cornelsen volume, entitled Across Cultures (2003), edited by Porteous-Schwier/Reinders/Ross/Schüttauf. According to the bibliography, this volume appeared one year earlier (cf. p. 66).

Test papers (pp. 58-64)
There can be no doubt about the fact that the two suggestions for written tests have been carefully planned: each test includes a scene from the film and a text, and the students are faced with three tasks. Since the combined use of textual and audiovisual parts in a Klausur may imply new problems for the teachers, the authors are careful to work out the premises. They point out that a careful inspection of some scenes in class before (cf. WS 7) is indispensable.
The following steps are recommended for procedure during the test itself: the students are asked to watch the scene selected for gist and make notes about the essentials, i.e. the elementary questions mentioned above. Then they may view the scene again and concentrate on film-stylistic elements; they may now also look at aspects of the film's content and analyse how they work together in order to create an impression on the viewer. Perhaps they may also watch the scene a third time to check their findings. There can be no doubt that this is a reasonable and effective preparation for the tests and that the demands put on the learners are justified.

The first test consists of the film scene "Violence in the family" and a brief extract from another review in which the reviewer describes the characters in the film as "believably human" (p. 63). The second test is made up of the film scene "The Engagement" in which George, seeing photos of Mr Shah's two ugly daughters, after some hesitation accepts their engagement to two of his sons. This is supplemented by a text taken from an interview with the actor Om Puri who plays the part of George Khan in the film. Om Puri believes that George is something of an innocent: born into century-old traditions; for him he is neither strong nor educated enough to break out of it; thus he thinks him to be not only authoritarian, but also gently comic (p. 64).

There are suggested answers (Erwartungshorizont) written in English. Undoubtedly, the assignments are well adapted to the practical steps described in the teaching guide: the students have to apply to the different tasks what they have learned in the course of the teaching unit.

Selected bibliography (pp. 65-66)
So all might be well that ends well were it not for the selected bibliography which is a standard element of Cornelsen films studies. This consists of a number of entries both in print and online. However, it is unsatisfactory as to the list of printed media. As a rule Faulstich, Hickethier, Monaco are mentioned, these could be replaced by Kuchenbuch or Maltby/Craven (as to the bibliographical details cf. "films for intercultural learning, part II", no. 4, and the substance of the teaching model would be the same. In other words: the list which is there fulfils an albi function at best since the books themselves are never quoted. In the whole teaching model I found only one quotation from a book; in this the authors participated as editors, and it was not quite correct (cf. above).

I have pointed out elsewhere that the team's article on Forrest Gump (2000) was not used by Nelles/Witsch in their teaching guide to this film; cf. "films critical of society", no. 3". Now Porteous-Schwier practice the same procedure by ignoring Kestermann's contribution (cf. the above review). This article contains quite a useful concept for teaching. In Porteous-Schwier/Ross, there are neither comments on similar or identical procedure, nor reasons for deviations from it; it is not even part of the bibliography. Since I belong to a generation that was taught to believe in the community of scholars and teachers, it is very disturbing for me to realize that this notion now turns out to be an illusion. More and more authors do not quote print media any more; if they use any sources, they are taken from the internet.

In the teaching guide as a whole, I detected a few errors only. Apart from the fact that the Cornelsen anthology Across Cultures either appeared in 2002 or 2003, the correct name of the film director is Damien Donnell rather than Damien Donell (p. 5). In the headlines of the five while-viewing segments, the term culture is once spelled with a small c, another time with a capital C (p. 22). In the following sentence, German grammar is wrong: the participle has to be replaced by the infinitive so that it runs "Die Schüler sollen sich ... daran gewöhnen" (not "gewöhnt"; p. 30). In general, however, the linguistic dimension is correct. As to the methodological level, the teaching model under consideration certainly has its merits as well.

The students are given much practical help: they are taught how to practise close viewing , how to organize a viewing log, how to write a review, etc. In addition, the fact that the authors describe the premises of their suggestions for methodological procedure is on the plus side. Thus the demands are certainly appropriate for inexperienced viewers with their focus on language learning rather than on content. The problems inherent in the understanding of the film, though, should not be underestimated. As the first full-length feature film to be discussed in class, East is East is certainly not an easy choice. In the present teaching guide, the authors do not make any suggestions to facilitate the comprehension of the film segments: neither do they use annotations of relevant lexical items nor do they recommend the use of subtitles nor the pre-reading of scenes in the filmscript.

The idea of the viewing log is central: this is much more than a log for making notes during the first reception of the film. It is something like a systematic file to be kept, i.e. a tool in order to structure knowledge. Thus it is a useful long-term measure in order to improve both memorization and text production.

The supplementary material (interviews, reviews, academic prose) is excellent. Therefore it is no real disadvantage that no concrete examples of literary texts are given. The post-viewing activities partly concern independent activities by the students, e.g. a students' presentation and examples of creative writing. On the whole, however, autonomous learning and the concept of learning by teaching play but an insignificant role in the teaching model: to a high degree, classroom procedure is guided by the tasks and the assignments to be found on the worksheets.

To my mind, the following aspects are negative. The shaping principle of the whole model is not described. This is particularly unfortunate because the kernel scenes chosen for close viewing do not make up a homogeneous whole and because Porteous-Schwier/Ross do not use the chance for a contrastive study of Islam and Christianity. As a consequence, their while-viewing segments bear ambitious headlines but they are nevertheless disappointing. Moreover, the model lacks an underlying theoretical concept for identity formation. Since this is the problem of all members of the bi-cultural Khan family, it might have served as the unifying principle of the teaching guide as a whole.

All in all, there are many good ideas in it, yet many improvements are desirable, too.

In 2007, another teaching model about this film was published as well:

Peter Bruck, Film im Englischunterricht. 'East is East', ein Film von Damien O'Donnell, Drehbuch: Ayub Khan-Din. Unterrichtshinweise und Kopiervorlagen. Stuttgart: Klett, 2007.

Basic characteristic features
Film teaching has become an established subject in the FL classroom during the last few years, and it no longer means to isolate individual scenes or film clips for critical discussion. Instead, the focus is on the complete film, which implies at least three- or four-week-teaching units on it. East is East is very likely to become important in this respect because the film has been chosen as an obligatory subject for the final examinations (Abitur) in North Rhine Westphalia and Lower Saxony. Perhaps this is the reason why teaching guides by both the Cornelsen (cf. above) and the Klett publishing houses have been brought out almost simultaneously.

In his teaching model quoted above, Peter Bruck starts his argumentation with some didactic and methodological considerations concerning the film East is East right away. In this introductory chapter (written in German) he summarizes the plot in order to arrive at a characterization of the theme, i.e. the different conflicts dealt with in the film.

As to its presentation, Bruck does not recommend the kind of stop-and-go procedure which is still being widely practised and which he also suggested in his teaching model concerning The Truman Show published some years ago (2001); cf. "films critical of society", no. 4. Rather than that, he now pleads for an alternative approach: he wants to deal with the first two scenes in a whole-class discussion, which is more or less teacher-dominated. This phase is to be followed by a non-stop presentation of the rest of the film, i.e. the next 79 minutes of it are shown uninterruptedly within a double period. Before this takes place, however, the teacher has to take the following steps in order to organize work.

The students form groups who get worksheets concerning the five themes which are recommended for while-viewing activities (cf. below): thus they may take notes while viewing the rest of the film, after which they have to find the solutions for the tasks on the worksheets at home. Then selected scenes are shown once again, and next, the groups report about their findings to the class. Finally the students view the entire film as a coherent whole (p. 6).

To my mind, this is a very demanding procedure particularly if East is East is the first full-length feature film to be discussed in FLT. Bruck does not give any explanation how to overcome possible linguistic obstacles; he does not say anything either concerning pre-teaching lexical items, the use of English subtitles from the DVD version or a possible combined use of reading some scenes from the dramatic version by Ayub Khan-Din and viewing their correspondent parts in the film ("sandwich method"). A particular problem may be caused by the many deviations from Standard British English as they occur in George Khan's speech for example. Nevertheless the approach is a very straightforward one, which may be motivating for more advanced students. Teacher dominance is quickly replaced by students' activities even if these are guided by the tasks on the worksheet.

Later on Bruck also offers some projects for students' work, for example a comparative study of East is East as drama and film or an analysis of reviews of this film which may be found on the internet. In the latter case the students may be asked to categorize typical features of criticism. Of course, they could also be asked to write their own reviews. [A useful worksheet for such a productive task may be found in: Susan Stempleski/Barry Tomalin, (p. 87); a lot of practical hints are given by Alan B. Teasley/Ann Wilder, (pp. 30-43; cf. note below).]

It is the purpose of Bruck's teaching guide to achieve two aims:

  • to analyse the thematic conflicts in East is East and its film-specific features and
  • to interpret the film against its historical and topical backgrounds by using additional material (p. 6).
For these aims the author devises pre-, while- and post-activities, all of which are based on worksheets (in the following to be called WS for short). All in all, the booklet contains 17 of them (pp. 37-68). The first two are meant to introduce film terminology, while the other 15 relate to the film under consideration, and, as a rule, they are undoubtedly a great help for the teachers' planning purposes.

Pre-viewing activities
These set in with a kind of brainstorming. The students are asked how difficult they think it may be to live in a mixed-religion relationship or family; in addition they are expected to discuss a quotation and a few stills from the film, concerning which they have to answer a few questions on WS 3. These are practicable assignments which may serve as an attractive warming-up for the teaching unit as a whole.

While-viewing activities
This phase is ushered in by a classroom discussion concerning the first two scenes of the film which are not to be found in the above mentioned dramatic version. They show right from the beginning that there are conflicts within the family – between George and his wife, but also between George and his children. This insight may be derived from the procession scene (WS 5) and the wedding scene (WS 6). These worksheets are not only photocopiable for instructional purposes, but, like the following ones, also contain open questions and assignments and sometimes creative tasks. They are written and answered in English so that almost everything is done for the teachers' convenience.

WS 7 is the only one which deals with an analysis concerning some aspects of language. The author argues that the use of language reflects the social position and the ethnic character of the speakers. There are many deviations from Standard British English particularly as far as George is concerned, which, the author admits, are unfamiliar to the students. In my opinion, it would be a good idea to discuss these – with the help of some excerpts from the drama - before a non-stop presentation of the film in order to facilitate comprehension. This unit is followed by a series of topic-related activities. All in all, there are five of them in number during the while-viewing phase (cf. WS 8-12):

  • the generation conflict: the culture clash;
  • the conflict between George and Ella Khan;
  • the Khan brothers;
  • hooded Sajid;
  • overt and covert racism.
These activities share the following characteristic features:
  • with the exception of WS 12, all themes focus on different members of the Khan family: all of them including the children are carefully individualized;
  • teacher dominance is replaced by group work and the students' presentations;
  • classroom procedure is organized by photocopiable worksheets: questions and tasks on them also include film-specific assignments, for example concerning camera work, camera angles, perspective, etc.;
  • the copymasters also contain useful words and phrases, which are a practical help for the students;
  • some of the themes cover as many as five or six sequences from the film so that the students get a good overall impression of it.
This procedure means a guided analysis rather than independent students' work. Therefore it may be useful to understand all the tasks on the worksheets as suggestions which may be used in a rather flexible way. For example, the teachers may allow the students to find their own categories for analysis in order to adapt classroom procedure to the interests and to the needs of their particular course members. Moreover, these activities by the students may become paradigms of close viewing and careful analysis. Taken together, they represent a reasonable choice which leads to coherence concerning the teaching concept and probably concerning classroom procedure as well.
The last topic (WS 12) refers to the role played by the Conservative MP Enoch Powell and his racist attitude in the 1970s: there are three rather comical references to him in the film, and therefore it may be discussed in class whether these may be regarded as an effective protest against such a racist standpoint. In sum, these activities are meant to realize the first teaching aim.

Post-viewing activities
Now the focus is on the second teaching aim: to put the film into a double political and cultural context, i.e. the 'historical' background of the film in the 1970s and its topical relevance for today's reality. To integrate the film with follow-up activities, five additional texts may be chosen all of which have been annotated so that they are easily to be used as homework assignments. They represent a wide variety of material ranging from a review of the film, to an interpretation of some statistical data concerning integration and the Muslims' attitude towards Great Britain, to a text reminiscent of an agony aunt column (concerning mixed-faiths relationships) and a newspaper article (taken from The Independent, which deals with a new proneness to Islamic fundamentalism after recent terror attacks in Great Britain).

As a final activity, a 'public' talk show for TV is organized in order to evaluate the film as a whole. At least five members take part in it: a host, two actors from the film (playing the roles of Ella and Abdul), and two film critics. Some course participants may act as "phone-in-viewers": that is the host confronts the members with some additional questions from the "audience" (p. 35). In addition, Peter Bruck describes the task of the talk show members with the help of role cards.

It may be an unusual and attractive activity to introduce an actress and an actor from the film as members of a talk show, however, their roles are rather difficult. I would like to make this suggestion easier to practise in class by listing some tasks for the host which s/he may ask the other participants. Thus some of the following questions may be addressed to the actress Linda Bassett (Ella Khan) in the first place:

In the very first scene it is obvious that you want to keep it a secret from your husband George that some of your children take part in a Catholic procession. Doesn't this mean that there is no basic sense of trust among the Khan parents?
Doesn't this behaviour set the tone for the fact that there are serious conflicts within a mixed-religion family?
Do you think it is believable that Ella and George have been married so long, that work and money have functioned as satisfactory bonds between the two?
Can you imagine she will be able to forgive him that he resorted to physical violence towards their children and herself?
Do you feel that there will be any/sufficient common ground between Ella and George in the future?
Do you think that George is basically intolerant or helpless?
Would you say your acting was a valuable experience for you? Is there anything that demanded particular efforts from you in acting Ella?

A second set of questions may relate to the Khan children, which may perhaps be addressed to Rai James (Abdul Khan):
In the film it becomes obvious that George and Ella as parents provide no models of behaviour. Did it have any consequences for your acting that you were supposed to have been brought up without anybody to confide in?
In looking back on your performance in the film would you say it is possible for children to learn any basic sense of trust if so many communication barriers exist within the family?
What about the consequences for your acting that you were supposed to be torn between different cultures and different religions? Did it make you think about the problems in a mixed-faith family?
Would you say that acting the part of Abdul was particularly difficult or was it a highly enjoyable experience after all?

The following questions may be addressed to the film critics, who, of course, may also comment on the opinions voiced by Ella and Abdul:
Try to abstract from the concrete level of the film: has the film got a message? If so, what does it communicate?
What is implicit in the film as an audiovisual text? What can be read from between the lines?
Do you think that the basic mode of the film is serious or rather comic?
Do you think that in spite of the individual interests of its members, the Khans are/will be a happy family in the future? Try to evaluate the director's, the actresses' and the actors' achievement/the entire film as a work of art.

Such a discussion may help the students to realize that the film's story is far more complex than it seems at first sight. To conclude: Bruck's teaching model announces a programme, develops a theoretical concept, offers many feasible steps for classroom procedure in order to realize it.

Suggestions for test papers
As is the case with many teaching models concerning written texts as well as filmed fiction, Bruck also makes two suggestions for written tests. One consists of the analysis of a (favourable) film review. The second refers to a combined approach to textual and film analysis. First the students watch an excerpt from the film Yasmin which is about the experiences of a young Muslim woman living in Yorkshire. Then they are confronted with a review of this film. Both tasks are in accordance with the guidelines. The first test is particularly appropriate if a film review has been discussed in class. The second is somewhat more difficult since it implies a transfer from one film to another, yet it is not too demanding.

No book is without errors. I found a few of them only which have been collected in the following list:
p. 19: in the proper name "Enoch Powel" the last "l" is missing;
p. 22: space is missing between "unterschiedlichen" and "Aktivitäten";
p. 23: "Tariq wants to be English rather a Pakistani"; a correct version should run: "rather than a Pakistani": here the syntax is elliptical;
p. 26: "er blickt von außen in die Geschäft ..."; the correct article in German would be "in das Geschäft";
p. 27: "12 year old Sajid"; here the hyphens are missing: "12-year-old Sajid";
p. 70: "a good Muslin wife"; the correct spelling would be "a good Muslim wife".

There are a few aspects I would like to criticize. As to WS 1 and WS 2, the author does not inform his reader about the fact that they are identical with the first two worksheets in his earlier published teaching guide concerning The Truman Show (Stuttgart: Klett, 2001), pp. 17-19. Apart from that, he does not mention other sources for film terminology, e.g. Susan Stempleski/Barry Tomalin, pp. 141-145 (cf. note below).
Concerning the first worksheet for the start of this teaching model (WS 3), the author claims to offer solutions which do not deserve that name. Rather than solutions, the teacher finds some hints at possible key aspects only, a few stimuli which might help the students to find the answers to the tasks; this procedure is somewhat disturbing.
WS 4 refers more or less to all the characters in the film: 9 members of the Khan family and 5 others. For them Bruck presents a diagram in which one may find their names and those of the actors. I wonder what is the purpose of this worksheet whose function is never explained in the teaching guide. Certainly the author cannot want the class to do 14 characterizations because sooner or later this procedure would become extremely boring. Moreover, in that case this procedure would imply some overlapping with WS 10, which deals with the Khan brothers. In this form, then, WS 4 is dispensable.
Moreover, Bruck tells us that his teaching unit is based on the DVD without giving any information concerning the film company and its year of release which are indispensable data to locate the film. To my mind, it is highly regrettable that there is no bibliography in the end of the booklet, no hints for further reading, neither for traditional print media nor for internet sources. Neither does he mention Kestermann's article (cf. above), although there are some similarities in his concept (cf. above).
Eventually, the book is partly written in English and partly written in German. I think that many reasons exist for writing such a publication for teachers by using the target language only. Particularly in this case it should have been no problem for the author since he has shown time and again that his command of English has a very high standard.

Final evaluation
Bruck announces a clear didactic concept which is systematically put into practice. I would use Bruck's ideas for close viewing: he offers a careful analysis of important topics including film-specific devices. Thus he comes up to his own demands: the suggestions for the teachers' and students' activities represent a sensible selection and make up a coherent whole. In this part the teaching guide under consideration is superior to the Cornelsen model (cf. above). On the other hand, I think that the supplementary material offered by Porteous-Schwier/Ross is preferable. Still Bruck's additional texts cover a wide variety of thematic and formal aspects. A selection concerning them may depend on the time available for discussion.

Moreover, I think that here a basic principle comes in: no teacher should ever follow the suggestions developed by other colleagues down to every detail, attractive though they may be: they should never give up their methodological autonomy. Teachers will always be at their best if they make their own personal decisions concerning practical classroom procedure. But even with this caveat, one has to conclude that Bruck's teaching model is doubtless useful both for intercultural learning and for developing film literacy.

Susan Stempleski/Barry Tomalin, Film. Resource Books for Teachers. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Alan B.Teasley/Ann Wilder, Reel Conversations. Reading Films with Young Adults. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1997.

5. Monsoon Wedding (2001)

The film Monsoon Wedding (director Mira Nair) was released in 2001. It may be described as a very enjoyable film, a pleasant feel-good movie, which in spite of hidden conflicts is ultimately characterized by an optimistic tone and an atmosphere of harmony. It shows an impressive picture of an Indian family seen against the background of social transformation: on the one hand, it is determined by tradition while, on the other hand, it is characterized by modern trends such as globalization.
By interweaving both levels the director manages to let her country in general and her beloved Punjabi culture in particular appear in a light never seen before. It is not surprising, then, that the film won the golden lion ("goldene Palme"), i.e. the highest prize at the Biennale Venice Film Festival. It was Monika Grau (cf. below) who first recommended using this film for foreign language instruction. It is her purpose to discuss certain thematic aspects of the film in class which are placed in a multicultural and multilingual context.

Thus there are three levels for discussion: firstly, there are so-called 'universal' themes like relations between parents and children, children and other family members, between men and women, etc. (p. 34).
Secondly, there is the multicultural level (p. 34f): the viewers will realize that the husband and other families have been living abroad for a long time and that they come back home for the last-minute arranged wedding. Love is shown as a feeling which crosses boundaries of class, countries and morality (the bride has a secret affair with a married man). However, after frantic wedding preparations, the monsoon rain finally comes, and that is a relief from the relentless summer heat for everybody.
Thirdly, India is characterized by the use of many different languages (p. 35). English may still be an official language in many parts of the country, but there is also Hindi and Punjabi; and the passages where those languages occur are subtitled in the film. The author suggests studying the languages of India with the help of a guided web-based research (p. 38f): of course, the native Indian languages influence the development of English, and it may be discussed whether such influences mean changes only or also imply a decay of English. The same question may be discussed concerning the influence of English on the German language: does the development of German English (so-called 'Denglish') imply a decline of our mother tongue? This question, of course, may build a bridge to the students' experience of life.

As to practical classroom procedure (pp. 37-39), Grau starts from the assumption that it is not always easy to use this film in class. It is a production which has many different characters and several intersecting subplots which may turn out to be obstacles to understanding. The teacher could use the trailer for example as a pre-viewing activity. Then the author recommends a close viewing of the introductory scenes and offers several tasks as while-viewing activities. Among other things, the students get a worksheet for characterization with a number of columns to fill in, concerning physical appearance, actions, interactions with other characters, etc. The learners are expected to choose one character, collect evidence for each character chosen in small groups. Next the teacher may have the students predict the course of the action, which is followed by a presentation of the rest of the film. Of course, the students will now be motivated to compare their expectations to the actual events in the film. In addition, the different groups comment upon the events from the perspective of the character chosen by them.

In the end, a critical discussion (p. 39) concerning the quality of the film is supposed to take place in class. The students are expected to compare several reviews from the internet in order to show them that there is a wide range of critical opinions concerning the film. Finally, they are expected to write a review of their own. Undoubtedly, Monsoon Wedding may be an attractive choice for experienced viewers of demanding films.

Grau, Maike, "Indien im Film: 'Monsoon Wedding'", Der fremdsprachliche Unterricht. Englisch 38 (2004), pp. 34-39

6. Red Dust (2004)

The events are located in South Africa, and the film version of Red Dust was also produced in that country. Whereas the novel Red Dust by Gillian Slovo was published in 2000, the film by the same title (director Thomas Hooper) was released in 2004 and is now available on DVD. In 2007 it was Peter Bruck who recommended the film for FLT purposes (cf. note below).

Both the film and the book deal with elements of South Africa's recent history: Red Dust may be used as a starting point for a teaching unit about post-Apartheid South Africa. It deals with the investigations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission led by Archbishop Tutu. About 31.000 cases concerning violations of human rights were examined by it. One can learn both from the book and the film that, even in post-Apartheid South Africa, there are racial conflicts. The victims of white torture are still being traumatized. The whites feel their loss of power and possibly regret it. Thus, the events are located in a period in which a search for orientation takes place.

In the film, the story is told with the help of many flashbacks. If crimes in the past are motivated by racism, the responsible people will be sent to prison. If they ask for amnesty and tell the plain truth to the Commission, however, they will not be punished for their crimes. In South Africa, then, no politics of reprisal is practised, which only leads to counter-reprisal and permanent conflicts as it may be seen in the Middle East for example.

Certainly this film is an interesting alternative to mainstream Hollywood cinema since it comes from an English speaking country which also has made many contributions to the New English Literatures: this can be seen from the fact that in the last 15 years two winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature came from South Africa, namely Nadine Gordimer and John M. Coetzee. Besides, Gordimer's July's People and Markus Behr's novel The Smell of Apples have been recommended for FLT - and with good reason: for a brief description of both novels cf. "Schwerpunkt Roman, Knapptexte 10". Such works may widen the students' horizon and thus may well be used for intercultural learning. Perhaps the learners will realize that the aim of South African politics is reconciliation, which may be the foundation of a new modus vivendi.

Bruck's hints concerning possible lesson plans for the film are rather brief (pp. 35-36; cf. note below). As to its presentation in class, the author suggests that - apart from the first eight minutes - the students are asked to watch the whole film and to take notes during a 90-minute-period (p. 35). Thus a kind of pre-viewing takes place which is supplemented by comprehension questions. In addition, while-viewing tasks are given by the teacher which refer to the leading characters (p. 36).

In doing so, a knowledge of basic film terms is taken for granted. This is understandable if the students have some experience concerning film analysis already since technical terms are to be found in different publications. Bruck himself deals with this problem in his earlier published teaching model on The Truman Show. Moreover, all the film studies published by Cornelsen are accompanied by software which contains an introduction to film analysis and a glossary of film terms.

In his Teacher's Guide, Bruck starts from the assumption that the novel is discussed at some length and that the film is shown after that (cf. below, pp. 75-76). In this case, film comprehension is rather easy so that the students may compare the book and the film, and in the end it is even possible to have them do a written test which is partly based on a scene from the film. The number of lessons devoted to the film depends on the time available; however, the film should not function as a mere supplement to the novel. This is a plausible standpoint.

In 2007 - mirabile dictu - Bruck's approach is quite different: now he pleads for an exclusive use of the film whereas he himself is the editor of the novel and the author of a Teacher's Guide. Although under such circumstances textual knowledge can be no help for film comprehension, he pleads for a viewing of the film at one sitting (p. 35). In his model concerning The Truman Show his procedure is just the other way round: the film is split into different segments, and it is only at the end of the teaching unit that an uninterrupted presentation of the film takes place (p. 8). This is a change of opinion for which I cannot see any justification. What is quite obvious anyhow: his didactic reflections for the book are much better worked out. If a teacher wants to rely on help that way, he cannot but choose the novel. For a brief characterization of it cf. "Schwerpunkt Roman, Knapptexte 10" .

Gillian Slovo, 'Red Dust'. Annotations by Peter Bruck. Stuttgart: Klett, 2006.

Gillian Slovo, 'Red Dust'. Teacher's Guide by Peter Bruck. Stuttgart: Klett, 2006.

Peter Bruck, "Der Film 'Red Dust'. Ausgangspunkt einer Unterrichtsreihe zu Südafrika", Praxis Fremdsprachenunterricht 1 (2007), pp. 33-36.

Peter Bruck, 'The Truman Show', ein Film von Peter Weir. Unterrichtshinweise und Kopiervorlagen. Stuttgart: Klett, 2001.

7. Henseler, Roswitha/Stefan Möller, Film Studies. 'Crash'. Berlin, Cornelsen, 2007. Including a CD-ROM called "At the Cutting Edge. An Interactive Introduction to Film Analysis."

General characterization
The film Crash is a Hollywood production which was released in 2004 and won three Oscars in 2006: those for the best film, the best cutting and the best script. At the same time it is the debut work of the Canadian director Paul Haggis, who is also responsible for the story and the script. The film is about the living together of human beings in the multicultural city of Los Angeles. It is very realistic, authentic and reflecting the mood of American citizens after the terrorist attacks of September 9th, 2001. At the same time it tries to show that people who commit acts of violence are human, after all.

The publication by Henseler/Möller is another contribution to the Cornelsen film studies which has also got a number of standard elements of this series:

  • it begins with an appeal to the "dear colleagues" which serves as an introduction (p. 5); first of all, this consists of a list of reasons why to use this film in advanced FLT;
  • again there is a summary of the plot in German; strictly speaking, the events consist of individual episodes only (p. 6). As a consequence, the film has many characters, but none of them is of minor importance;
  • there is also a scene index (pp. 9-16), i.e. a survey of the film and a division of it into individual chapters, which is rather useful as a practical help;
  • as usual, the teaching guide has a great number of photocopiable worksheets - a procedure which is very convenient for the teachers (pp. 49-67);
  • there is a passage entitled Film Studies Extras (pp. 75-80), which is identical with that to be found in other volumes of the series;
  • added to the teaching guide is a CD-ROM entitled "At the Cutting Edge - an Interactive Introduction to Film Analysis".
Crash in the classroom
According to the authors Henseler/Möller, several reasons may be given to use the film Crash in advanced FLT (p. 7). It is said to be useful for several areas, that is for an improvement of foreign language proficiency, for intercultural learning, for the development of media literacy as well as for learning methods and strategies. These claims are supported by quotations from the Einheitliche Prüfungsanforderungen (EPA, 2002) and by an overall reference to a recent didactic article (Blell/Lütge, 2004, cf. note below). The authors' concept is illustrated by a diagram (p. 8) which consists of the factors contributing to media literacy and which is very helpful for a quick orientation.

After the scene index (pp. 9-16) there is a list of methodological suggestions for pre-viewing, while-viewing and post-viewing activities (pp. 17-19), which may be used together with this film but which may also be applied to other full-length feature films, generally speaking. It is followed by another helpful diagram (p. 20), which consists of the ingredients of the teaching guide. This again is not only an example of a good lay-out, but it also offers a quick survey of the authors' concept. However, it is only later the user realizes that the opening scene of the film is also to be discussed in class at some length, yet it is left out in this survey. Personally I cannot detect any reason for this gap. In the following I am going to discuss the individual elements of the teaching model as such.

Pre-viewing activities
According to the authors, work with the film is to be accompanied by a so-called viewing folder; this is meant for taking notes in class and at home and for collecting material about the film in general, e.g. hand-outs. Work with such a folder is described on worksheet 1 (p. 49; in the following called WS for short). So far I have never come across the term viewing folder. However, the concept of it is not new: other didacticians speak of a viewing log in which the students may write down everything that relates to the teaching unit as a whole (cf. for example the above review of the teaching model on East is East by Porteous-Schwier/Ross). Such a log may obviously be helpful for repetition and memorization; thus to use one in a comprehensive teaching unit is a decision dictated by common sense. However, the thesis advanced by Henseler/Möller that this is to increase the students' autonomy and their individualization (p. 21) is incomprehensible to me. To introduce advanced students to the use of such a log or folder with the help of a worksheet, in my opinion, is absoutely dispensable.

As another pre-viewing activity, working with the trailer of the film is recommended (cf. p. 21; cf. WS 2, p. 50). The students are offered a script so that an analysis of it in class may take place. This is certainly an acceptable possibility of paving the way for a discussion of the film itself. Again the authors use unfamiliar terms for familiar things. By buzz groups (p. 21) they mean the formation of small groups, e.g. groups of three. The method of "think, pair, share" (p. 21) is supposed to express that individual work is followed by pair work before there is a classroom discussion. The fact that for the teacher's convenience expected answers (Erwartungshorizont) are offered in the English language has to be mentioned on the plus side.

While-viewing activities before and after presenting the whole film
The first part which is supposed to take place before the presentation of the whole film includes WS 3-5 + possibly WS 20. The part after the presentation of the whole film, the second one, is based on WS 6-14 + WS 20.

The first part includes an analysis of the opening scene, two more scenes from the film (entitled "Blind Fear" and "Sobriety Test") and the so-called "production notes". In discussing these scenes, the authors reduce the complexity of the medium film by isolating the visual images and the sound. They divide the class into listeners and viewers; the listeners form hypotheses concerning the content, the others comment upon, modify or correct them. And the students may change roles for the second part of a film clip. Thus the authors plead for a reasonable and motivating approach to film-specific features; at the same time they also use scripts from the film and offer language support by making technical terms available.

The "production notes" (cf. WS 4) are probably the most attractive material of this part. In it director Paul Haggis explains the origins of the film: he remembers an incident which happened ten years ago when his Porsche was car-jacked by two black men. Together with WS 3 the students may achieve first answers concerning the major themes of the film: racism, discrimination, stereotypes, prejudices. The students are also asked to quote examples from the text. The only problem is that in the solutions you do not find any textual evidence; I will come back to this problem below (cf. WS 8).

The presentation of the film
The authors plead for an uninterrupted presentation of the film at a rather early stage so that the students may see the functions of individual scenes in the context of the whole. This is a clear and acceptable standpoint. If the students are also asked to choose film scenes for analysis, this may be regarded as a real methodological contribution to learner autonomy - much more so than the use of a viewing folder.

Since the whole film is too long for a double period (cf. below), its reception is supposed to take place at home. The authors remain silent concerning the problem how this is organized: do they take it for granted that the students have got a copy of their own? If so, the teacher should realize that it is possible for them to use German subtitles all the time so that the medium is no longer a means of developing viewing comprehension in the foreign language. In order to avoid this, it is perhaps possible to organize a special occasion for a public presentation of the film outside the English lessons.

Anyway, once the students know the entire film, they are to write down spontaneous reactions, associations and first impressions. A questionnaire may turn out to be helpful in this context. And again there is language support. If there are any linguistic difficulties, the students are expected to take notes of them so that they may be clarified in class. For director Paul Haggis, it is important to put the right questions, not to know the answers, which may be an encouragement for the students.

While-viewing activities
One crucial difference concerning methodological procedure is that the authors now suggest long-term viewing tasks, which for example may concern the individual figures. All in all there are 14 figures (cf. the cast of the film, p. 6), and their constellation is determined, as indicated by the title, by a number of crashes. For easy identification there are photos of all characters on the worksheets. The students are expected to express the relationships of the figures with the help of arrows (cf. WS 6 and 7).

The next worksheet (WS 8) first of all contains quotations by director Haggis and actress Sandra Bullock concerning prejudices. Moreover, there are definitions of prejudice, stereotypes and racism (p. 57), which brings us back to the main subjects of the film. And this is precisely where the real problems of this teaching guide start.

From the definitions the students may learn that prejudices are "usually negative" while stereotypes are "often negative". However, what the difference between the two may be like is not discussed. To my mind, there are no exceptions to the fact that prejudices have to be classified as negative; however, examples of favourable stereotypes do exist. Neither is there any information on the origin of prejudices: frequently they are handed from one generation to the next, or they are based on insufficient knowledge or even ignorance, and in many cases they are caused by fear and/or hatred.
As to stereotypes, they are usually caused by human narrow-mindedness or by a lack of differentiation so that judgement may be clouded or even suspended. In other words, a desire to belong to a group, a feeling of solidarity with one's own group often implies a rejection of other groups so that there are insiders and outsiders in society. These or similar insights may easily be traced in sociological or sociocultural sources.

If such patterns of human behaviour are to be derived from the film, three steps are indispensable: finding evidence, classification and evaluation of it. These three steps are not applied in the teaching guide under consideration. As a consequence, the authors' claim that the students are to learn the forms, the cause and effects of prejudices is too ambitious by far. In this booklet, procedure is merely reproductive rather than analytical: the students just collect examples of stereotypes in the text (cf. the solutions for WS 8 on pp. 34-35) which are not discussed any further. Since this is one of the central scenes, it is highly regrettable that there is no argumentative level.
The same is true of prejudices and racism: the explanations of the terms are mere labels which are not utilized for analysis in order to arrive at further insights. Discrimination for example could easily be classified as one way of acting out prejudice: thus it belongs to the effects of prejudice. In the present teaching guide, however, the meaning of discrimination is taken for granted. Moreover, in the introduction the authors mention the connection of the film to the American Dream (cf. p. 7, cf. also back cover). This is the context where it would make sense to discuss it. However, no mention is being made of it.

The remaining units of this part are based on:

  • quotes from the film: the students are expected to identify the speakers and to put them into the context of the film (WS 9);
  • the characterization of two other figures, namely Ryan and Cameron (WS 10 + 11);
  • an analysis of more cinematic devices, e.g. the soundtrack or the music (WS 12), and a discussion of their functions including the song "In the Deep" by Kathleen York which was written for this film.
Practically the authors focus on the film only. Since it takes place in Los Angeles and since the students are advised to view other films about this city, one might expect that the question whether the film possesses a generalizable message is discussed. This is not the case, however.

Post-viewing activities
First of all, these include a characterization of Officer Hansen who is another important figure in the film. It is somewhat ironic that he shoots Peter Waters since both of them are no racists. The next unit deals with a negative description of the film's theme which is entitled "what the movie isn't about" (WS 15). It also contains a suggestion for a creative task (the only one in the whole teaching guide): the students are expected to write an interior monologue from Officer Hansen's viewpoint; for this assignment the authors offer some some helpful "tune-in-questions" (p. 45). Another suggestion for a post-viewing or also for a while-viewing activity is to find at least one word for each letter of the alphabet which relates to the film dealt with at some length (WS 16). Some of the keywords are either discussed in class or explained in a written way. This is a device that I have not met in any other teaching model so far; undoubtedly it is a motivating procedure for the reactivation and consolidation of relevant knowledge.

The last two worksheets (WS 17 and WS 18) deal with the reading and writing of film reviews which has become a standard element in many publications concerning film teaching. To begin with, the text of a review is read. The one chosen by Henseler/Möller is not easy and, unfortunately, has not been annotated. Such an analysis is meant to prepare the students for writing a review of their own, which is the only example of written text production in the entire model. If necessary, both guidelines and language support (phrases for review writing) may be used as a free download from the Conelsen film studies website.

Test paper
As a rule, guides for teaching films or novels contain two or more suggestions for test papers (Klausuren). The present one offers one suggestion, which, however, is partly based on an alternative (pp. 68-71). This aims at a comparison of the film with a poem entitled "On the Ave" by the Trinidadian writer Mervyn Taylor (published in 1995). Undoubedly, the assignments in the test are in accordance with the demands to be found in the Einheitliche Prüfungsanforderungen and with the content of the teaching model. As is the case in the entire publication, the expected answers (Erwartungshorizont) are offered in English. So this part will probably be welcome by many teachers.

Selected bibliography
The bibliography added to this teaching guide is a rather extensive one (pp. 72-74): it contains both internet sources and print media. However, I would like to criticize some aspects.
First of all it is striking that the same sources are listed several times in the Cornelsen film studies: this concerns references to basic books about film analysis such as those by Hickethier, Kamp, Monaco, Stempleski/Tomalin, which may be found for example in Weißling's teaching model about Bend it Like Beckham as well; cf. "films for intercultural learning (part II)", teaching model, no. 3.

In the present guide, recent articles such as those by Blell/Lütge, Surkamp, Thaler or the chapter about film studies in a recent monograph by Nünning/Surkamp have also been included (cf. note below). However, apart from one general reference to Blell/Lütge, none of these has been quoted by Henseler/Möller. If there are new methodological devices, unfamiliar terms or questionable statements, the reader cannot learn which sources they are taken from. The only book from which specific pages are quoted is written by a team of three authors, and Henseler/Möller are two of them. I think it is an annoying habit to quote from one's own books almost exclusively: the duty of academic documentation and publicity for personal publications should be two different things. Moreover, it is difficult to see why the book by Grieser-Kindel/Henseler/Möller is put into a category of its own (Methoden); it could easily be placed with the above quoted didactic contributions about film teaching.
And last but not least: Günter Burger's excellent bibliography about feature films in foreign language teaching (new address: http://www.fremdsprache-und-spielfilm.de/) should have been listed with the Filmdatenbanken.

I found a few errors only which either refer to language or to content. In the following sentence the German syntax is very clumsy. The authors speak of: "Hypothesen aufstellen anhand visueller Vorgaben ... oder akustischer" (p. 17). Obviously, it would be better to place the noun behind the second adjective: "Hypothesen aufstellen anhand visueller ... oder akustischer Vorgaben". In the expected answers one statement runs: "It seems as if there is much violence in this film" (p. 22). Since the next solution almost is a literal repetition of this ("There seems to be a lot of violence in this film"), the second statement should simply be left out. And after a semicolon you do not use capital letters in English: "the music recreates a feeling ..." (p. 29).
Two pages later the running time of the film is said to be 113 minutes (p. 31). According to the scene index its running time is five minutes shorter, namely 1:48:16 (p. 16). Later on you find: "The audience believes they are sharing something personal with the characters" (p. 41). Since the introductory noun ("audience") is taken up by a personal pronoun in the plural ("they"), in my opinion, it is at least better to put the verb in the plural as well so that the statement runs: the audience believe ... Perhaps this is a debatable point even among native speakers. On the same page the hyphen in "close-up" has been left out.

There can be no doubt about the fact that the guide under consideration has its attractive characteristic features. To begin with, it is good to know that the teaching suggestions have been tried out in practice, and in addition there are many methodological suggestions which are motivating and attractive for the students. However, in the whole teaching model, there is one imaginative extension only, namely the task to write an interior monologue. In many other teaching models you find suggestions for voice-over commentaries, for writing scenes from a different viewpoint, for developing storyboards and filming sequences from the film in small groups, etc. In a similar way, it may be promising to have the students write their own follow-up texts, particularly if there is an open end to a film or to a book. In this field, to put it mildly, the present booklet is not very imaginative.

Yet one has to describe it as an advantage that all the tasks/questions/assignments and their expected answers are given in English. Moreover, the language support (technical terminology) which is given more or less regularly is also valuable for the learners. The analysis of film-specific features, on the whole, may be called satisfactory since it successfully includes the discussion of functions and effects of cinematic devices.

To my mind, it is regrettable, however, that the authors do not include any supplementary texts (e.g. about the problem of violence in today's life or in literature). Neither newspaper articles nor examples of academic prose are to be found in this teaching guide. There are only some suggestions for watching other motion pictures. The film "Do the Right Thing" (director Spike Lee) may be quite a good choice (cf. the summary of Bredella's article in this file, no. 2 above), however, the authors do not suggest separate scenes for comparative or contrastive studies. Practically the model by Henseler/Möller is no more than an example of close film viewing.

And as I have pointed out above, the thematic analysis is unsatisfactory in several respects. Possible patterns of prejudices and stereotypes, their causes and effects are not derived from the film in this teaching model. Once there is a list of stereotypes in the film (cf. above), however, they are neither classified nor analysed nor evaluated, and therefore the result for intercultural learning in class is bound to be somewhat disappointing. For this part I would like to recommend a careful revision.

To conclude: The film Crash may be very moving and appealing to the students, since it is certainly both topical and successful, at least in the U.S.A. Yet Henseler/Möller do not comment upon its aesthetic quality. How do the individual episodes/aspects/levels combine to make an artistic whole? This is what I deeply missed in this teaching guide.

Blell, Gabriele/Christiane Lütge, "Sehen, Hören, Verstehen und Handeln. Filme im Fremdsprachenunterricht", Praxis Fremdsprachenunterricht 1:6 (2004), pp. 402-405 und p. 430.

Nünning, Ansgar/Carola Surkamp, Englische Literatur unterrichten. Grundlagen und Methoden. Klett, Kallmeyer, 2006. [cf. particularly pp. 232-275]

Surkamp, Carola, "Teaching Films. Von der Filmanalyse zu handlungs- und prozessorientierten Formen der filmischen Textarbeit", in: Der fremdsprachliche Unterricht - Englisch 38, Heft 68 (2004), pp. 2-11.

Thaler, Engelbert, "Film-based Language Learning", Praxis Fremdsprachenunterricht 1 (2007), pp. 9-14.

Last Updated by Dr. Willi Real on Friday, 13 June, 2008 at 9:45 AM.

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