Journeys in Film harnesses the storytelling power of film to educate the most visually literate generation in history.
Most of the critical issues that the United States faces today are international in their scope and complexity, and our abilities as a nation to meet these challenges will be strengthened by a greater understanding of our global interdependence.
Aligned with various prominent national initiatives, Journeys in Film believes that helping America’s youth develop this kind of worldview and understanding should be a primary 21st century educational goal. Our educational program has proven to be effective in connecting cultures, broadening world-views, teaching for global competency and building a new paradigm for best practices in education.
Founder and Executive Director
Joanne Ashe’s parents were both Holocaust survivors who brought to the U.S. their Eastern European traditions and values. “I grew up crossing cultures daily,” she recalls.
Films became an important source of my understanding about the vast diversity in our world. I could reach out in my imagination and connect to countries so far beyond my own mental and physical boundaries, inspired by people so unlike me.
– Joanne Ashe
Shortly after adopting a five-year-old Russian orphan who spoke no English, Joanne returned to Russia with a friend with a movie camera and produced a documentary film on the experience of international adoption, “The Waiting Children”, which premiered in the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. That further fueled Joanne’s interest in foreign films. While attending the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Joanne had an epiphany: “Why don’t kids see these films? Why aren’t they shown in schools as a way of teaching children about other countries and cultures?”
How Journeys in Film Began
Joanne immediately began to research the idea of developing educational curriculum based on foreign-language films, cold-calling people who could help her and giving presentations. “I did things I never thought I could do,” she recalls. “I felt like I was guided by the spirits of my parents. Journeys in Film became the vehicle to educate people about cultural differences so that atrocities like the Holocaust would Never Happen Again.”
Within a year, she launched Journeys in Film with two films and curriculum guides. A year later, the program piloted in six cities around the U.S. and was evaluated for attitudinal change, by Amy Shea, of Brandkeys. In Albuquerque Public Schools, Journeys in Film was adopted as a district-wide project involving 20 middle schools. Fifty educators received a full-day of professional development, with special guests from the city and state education departments. A team of professors from University of New Mexico who specialize in intercultural communication practice and theory deemed the project worthy of their participation in the evaluation component.
To date, the Journeys in Film Program has reached nearly one million students nationwide with twelve films that address a variety of global issues. Students challenge traditional gender roles in New Zealand’s Maori culture, learn about refugees through young, soccer-loving Tibetan monks, explore compassion in the Middle East, experience unconditional love between a South Korean boy and his mute grandmother, and grieve the loss of family members from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa. We use film to engage students in meaningful examinations of human rights, poverty and hunger, stereotyping, environmental issues, global health, refugee issues, and gender roles, all while meeting today’s educational standards.
Joanne’s efforts and past connections have yielded some prominent spokespeople for Journeys in Film, including Liam Neeson (whom she met because he played Schindler), Tony Shalhoub, Harold Ramis, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr, Professor Rosabeth Moss Kantor and Professor Alan Dershowitz.
In 2015, Journeys in Film launched an official partnership with USC’s Rossier School of Education where they are seeking new funding sources in order to provide professional development to more teachers and make the program available to all schools. She remains firmly dedicated to her original mission:
My hope is that the impressions and lessons from the films selected by Journeys in Film will continue to echo in their hearts and minds for years to come, inspiring today’s students to become cross-culturally competent, productive and compassionate adults. – Joanne Ashe