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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
In 2007 the following teaching model came out:
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.
(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)
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)
Segment 1: Religion and culture
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
Segment 3: Immigrant culture
Segment 4: Violence in the family
Segment 5: Talking about emotions
Post-viewing and going beyond the film (pp. 30-37)
This course material provides the participants with a lot of helpful questions for lively discussions. Among other things the students may discuss:
In addition there are interesting assignments for the students:
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)
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.
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.
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:
Basic characteristic features
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:
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):
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.
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?
A second set of questions may relate to the Khan children, which may perhaps be addressed to Rai James (Abdul Khan):
The following questions may be addressed to the film critics, who, of course, may also comment on the opinions voiced by Ella and Abdul:
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
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.
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).
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.
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" .
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:
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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 remaining units of this part are based on:
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.
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.
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.