Should every high school have a film club?

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jbuck919
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Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:17 pm

Yesterday I was substituting for a social studies teacher. Exams are over and most classes are killing time until the literal end of the school year, which invites worst expectations regarding behavior for a sub. But I've gotten pretty good at this, and with basically good kids things rarely go wrong. This class was watching the movie Gladiators, which is entertaining enough but contains almost no real history. (Read the Wikipedia article for a critique.) Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Commodus, was obviously using Marlon Brando as his model (unfortunately the worst, mugging Marlon Brando). So knowing that Marlon Brando might as well have been a character in Shakespeare for all these kids would ever have heard of him, I tried to elicit his name indirectly by working my way to a movie they might actually have seen on DVD. Eventually I got to The Godfather, which at least yielded Al Pacino.

Movies bridge the generation gap if any cultural form can, so it saddens me that these young people have not had exposure to The Waterfront or A Streetcar Named Desire. They'd enjoy it, I'd enjoy it, it would provide points for an interesting discussion, and maybe the school could spring for the popcorn.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jun 16, 2018 7:39 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:17 pm
Movies bridge the generation gap if any cultural form can, so it saddens me that these young people have not had exposure to The Waterfront or A Streetcar Named Desire. They'd enjoy it, I'd enjoy it, it would provide points for an interesting discussion, and maybe the school could spring for the popcorn.
Yes they should. My school is lucky to have:

-- an extracurricular film club (that's how the curricular process began about 15 years ago)
-- an English dept. film studies elective course (I designed it from scratch and have taught it for more than a decade)
-- an IB Diploma Film SL/HL curriculum focusing on history and production, now beginning its seventh year
-- an intro to film history and production course for non-IB students
-- a standalone film department with two full-time teachers

-- BTW, Streetcar, good as it is, is flawed by the fact that it softens the edginess of TWs dramatic masterpiece. The fact that the Grey boy's "offense" in the movie is writing poetry like Tom Wingfield instead of cheating on Blanche with an older man blunts the impact considerably.
Last edited by jserraglio on Sat Jun 16, 2018 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

John F
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by John F » Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:49 pm

If the initiative comes from the students, if they want a film club and will make a commitment to it, then the school should back them. My various schools had no such thing, but all three had a theatre club and put on at least one show every year. (Once it was Clifford Odets's "Golden Boy.") Seems to me much more worthwhile; doing theatre is active and you learn things about public performance and indeed about life, while watching movies is passive and depending on the movies of course, the students could spend their free time more constructively.

Of course if the film club had some faculty guidance and instead of the Harry Potter and Terminator movies the kids watched Bergman, Fellini, Truffaut, Lean, Kubrick, then they would learn something they couldn't get in their local movie house, unless it's in New York. :) But that might kill the club. But one showing of "Persona" or "Cries and Whispers" and the kids would probably stop coming.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jserraglio » Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:22 pm

John F wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:49 pm
Of course if the film club had some faculty guidance and instead of the Harry Potter and Terminator movies the kids watched Bergman . . . . But that might kill the club. But one showing of "Persona" or "Cries and Whispers" and the kids would probably stop coming.
Clubs like ours are led by freethinking kids in no need of a steersman to keep their ship clear from the Scylla of "Harry Potter VI" and the Charybdis of "Terminator II".

Watching a movie is passive if you compare it to putting on a play, just as watching a play is passive when compared to producing a film from scratch. And making a film is probably just as fulfilling as creating a new play, and arguably a lot more creative than simply staging somebody else's. Students today have the wherewithal to do both.

Belle
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by Belle » Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:59 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:22 pm
John F wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:49 pm
Of course if the film club had some faculty guidance and instead of the Harry Potter and Terminator movies the kids watched Bergman . . . . But that might kill the club. But one showing of "Persona" or "Cries and Whispers" and the kids would probably stop coming.
Clubs like ours are led by freethinking kids in no need of a steersman to keep their ship clear from the Scylla of "Harry Potter VI" and the Charybdis of "Terminator II".

Watching a movie is passive if you compare it to putting on a play, just as watching a play is passive when compared to producing a film from scratch. And making a film is probably just as fulfilling as creating a new play, and arguably a lot more creative than simply staging somebody else's. Students today have the wherewithal to do both.
Couldn't agree more!! Your school sounds like a very good one. Since film is the modern equivalent to the novel for most young people it stands to reason that they ought to be able to 'read' them and understand what's going on. More importantly, they need to be able to identify when they're being propagandized and manipulated.

I absolutely refused to show my students films they could see themselves at the Megaplex. In year 10 I showed a middle-bottom class "The Man with the Golden Arm" when our unit was exploring drug addiction. The reason I chose it was because of that brilliant scene with Sinatra having severe withdrawals - in no way did it 'glamorize' film addiction (none of them had ever heard of any of the actors). One girl complained, "miss; this is old and in black and white". I replied, "no fooling; I thought it was colour! But seriously, we can spend the lesson doing written comprehension if you didn't like the film".

"Oh no, miss - it's OK". Towards the end of the film that same girl (hardened and streetwise) turned to me with concern and said, "is he going to be alright miss?". It was then that I realized that if kids trust you then a teacher can show them anything at all and they'll go the extra mile.

Jbuck; that end of year after exams etc. is a nightmare not just for substitute teachers. I used to show (older) films and explore themes and techniques. One year I showed "El Dorado" - a cheesy western with John Wayne. The kids didn't have much exposure to westerns and I tried to explain to them that, despite the guns, they're really costume dramas. One dear young man said to me, "I loved that music in the film, miss" and another came up to me after the class and said, "miss; I think this is the best lesson I've ever had in my years at this school - thank you". They caught on to the values expressed in the song at the film's beginning. Howard Hawks: an absolute life hero of mine! Leigh Brackett wrote the screenplay for "Rio Bravo" and she complained to Hawks that she was actually writing the exact same story for "El Dorado". Hawks looked at her and said, "Oh well, if they don't like it tell 'em they can have their dime back!".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwF-vbvgvgE

So, yes, bring on the film club!!!

John F: those art films you mention would be aversion therapy to the average high school student. I only set "Roshomon" for Year 12 (matriculation) and a unit called "Comparative Texts: Telling the Truth", getting away with it by the skin of my teeth.

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