Kids see new cultures in film
By David Steinberg
Joanne Ashe of Placitas couldn’t be more pleased: The reactions have been nothing but favorable to her just-completed pilot project to promote cross-cultural understanding through the showing of a world cinema on the big screen.
Some 225 students and their teachers from four Albuquerque middle schools participated in the project, called “Filters – Crossing Cultural Boundaries through Film.”
A key element was a special screening of the film “The Cup” last week at the Madstone Theaters.
“All of the kids wanted to learn about other countries, and many said that on the big screen they couldn’t be distracted and reading the subtitles helped them to pay attention,” Ashe said Monday.
Rachel Dubois, a Harrison Middle School eighth-grader, remembered that boys in the film, young monks, wore clothing that was different than she had ever seen and professed a religion, Buddhism, that was unfamiliar to her.
Rachel’s classmates Alisha Flores and Pamela Soto in Jane Nedom’s Leadership class recalled a moment of gift-giving in the film.
“They gave a scarf to a llama out of respect,” said Alisha, 13.
Gift-giving was an act similar to what Americans do at birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and for people who are sick, the 14-year-old Pamela said.
Middle-schoolers from Grant, Ernie Pyle and Albuquerque Academy also attended the screening of “The Cup,” held just for the participants in this project.
The film, based on true events, follows two Tibetan boys escaping China-ruled Tibet to a Himalayan monastery. Their lives and those of the other teenage monks are transformed during the broadcast of the World Cup soccer playoffs.
Ashe’s goals are to teach cross-cultural understanding – in class and in the theater – as a tool in reducing prejudice and hatred and to promote media literacy by using film to tell stories of people in distant cultures.
“My personal evaluation is that it’s been an incredible success because kids respond to films. The comments from the teachers were so positive,” Ashe said.
“… the written word has been the main vehicle for learning and teaching. It’s about time that film – in the theater – is looked at as a teaching tool,” Ashe explained.
In at least five classroom sessions, teachers and their students used a curriculum with lesson plans specifically developed for this project.
Some teachers took the curriculum’s discussion topics a step further. In one case, Academy teacher Andrew Werth took his students to a Buddhist temple, Ashe said.
Ashe said she’ll decide in the next few months whether the project will expand to other cities. She’s encouraged by the responses from Madstone, a superintendent in a suburban New York City school system, and Hollywood and stage actor Liam Neeson, who Ashe said read the curriculum.
Ashe said she’s always been interested in other cultures.
“My parents were Holocaust survivors from Poland. They were from another culture from where I grew up in Beverly, Massachusetts. There were Italians, Greeks and Portuguese. There always were families I was drawn to – the home customs, the food. Their religious ceremonies were different than mine,” she said.
Ashe said a number of people and organizations donated their time and resources to the pilot project. Among them were Madstone Theaters, Shelle Luaces of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the New Mexico Foundation for Human Rights, Turtle Media and the Public Dialogue Consortium.
Tom Levine, an Albuquerque consultant to Ashe on the project, said Ashe “has a passion to make the world a better place.”