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Susan O'Rourke | December 8, 2022

Looking for a way to develop students’ literacy and help see the world through another person’s eyes? Consider taking a look through a film lens!

Film offers educators the opportunity to develop students’ cultural competence as they examine issues—whether personal, social, political—through the eyes of characters from diverse cultures. The British Film Institute explains that film studies can engage students in “cultural[,] critical[,] and creative analysis” as they explore “context…. and….connectivity” between their experiences and what is being depicted onscreen. The BFI further explains that:

Evidence, such as the ‘Teach Using Film- Statistical Evidence’ report produced by Film: 21st Century Literacy, shows that where film education is implemented in a school, it engages every single child, irrespective of ability. Film allows students to bring prior learning from outside the classroom in, which in turn gives them confidence, as they are bringing knowledge to the tale.

Film thus can help students empathize with the universality of the human experience but also appreciate the distinct and diverse cultural practices of a people, country, or region. As students examine cultural differences and similarities, they get the opportunity to reflect on their own beliefs and cultural practices and perhaps challenge preconceptions of cultural “Others.” The resources below provide both contextual information and teaching resources to help educators incorporate film into global studies in their classrooms.

Teaching Globally Focused Films: Resources

  • Journeys in Film
    • Provides curriculum guides for a series of global films that explore topics like education, democracy, happiness, art, and sports
    • Guides include standards-aligned lessons with contextual information, discussion questions, handouts, readings, and writing prompts
    • Materials are free but some require (free) registration
    • Grades K-12
  • Global Oneness Project
    • “a free multimedia platform for educators and students. Through….immersive storytelling and curricula, [users] explore the deeper issues facing humanity. [Their] award-winning films, photo essays, and essays [teach] about social, cultural, and environmental issues from people and communities worldwide.”
    • Includes lesson plans, discussion guides, conversation cards, and assignment ideas
    • Grades 3-12
  • BYkids
    • “youth-created documentaries about pressing global issues to use as catalysts for empathy, connection and change”
    • Features 13 films available for streaming, such as Buddhism, Bhutan and Me; My Beautiful Nicaragua; and Fire in Our Hearts (India)
    • Addresses topics like refugees, girls’ education, and climate change
    • Includes standards-aligned school guides, BYkids Take Action guides, discussion starters, and additional online resources
  • Global Film (Perspectives & Ideologies)
  • Moving Images in the Classroom: Basic Teaching Techniques
    • Includes basic teaching techniques, key questions, and learning objectives for each activity (such as “Spot the Shots,” “Sound and Image,” and “Cross-Media Comparisons”)
    • Includes Modern Foreign Language Film Resources (French, German, Mandarin, and Spanish)
    • Middle School, High School, and College
    • Published by the British Film Institute
  • POV Watch Club
    • Includes a lesson plans, resources, and discussion guides to go along with selected films
    • Published by PBS Teachers Lounge

Region or Country-Specific Resources

  • KS5 French – La Haine schools resources
    • “Two lesson plans with associated clips and worksheets, and a scene analysis video resource” addressing “themes of immigration, diversity and relationships”
    • Grade 12 and College
    • Published by the British Film Institute
  • Teaching Korean Politics Through Cinema
    • Course overview/essay
    • Grades 9-12 and College
    • Published by the Association for Asian Studies
  • Politics and Poetics: A Brief History of Argentine Documentary Cinema
    • Published by the IDA
  • Latin American & Iberian Institute K-12 Film Guides
    • “The LAII’s Film Guides are lesson plans and activities that accompany a specific movie, each one chosen because it engages in some way with Latin America, the Caribbean or Latinos in the United States.”
    • Includes summary, “general guidelines for using film in the classroom,” lesson plans with reading, writing, and discussion activities
  • The Cinema, the Middle East, and the Transnational
    • YouTube video of a panel that “[brought] together leading curators, producers, filmmakers, and scholars from the Middle East and US to explore the present state of Arab/Middle Eastern cinema, the emergence of transnational trends, and prospects for the future”
    • Published by NYUAD Institute
  • Mahira Khan; Redefining Stardom and Trailblazing South Asian Storytelling
    • YouTube video featuring an interview with Mahira Khan, “one of Pakistan’s leading actors, whose work across television and cinema….has garnered both popular appeal and critical acclaim. This conversation with the UNHCR National Goodwill Ambassador touches on navigating the complex terrain of pop culture, cinema and television in South Asia, what stardom means in a Pakistani context, her experience of working across the border in the Indian film industry, traversing parenting and professional roles, and what the future of female voices of color, in global storytelling, might hold.”
    • Published by the NYUAD Institute
  • Experimental Art and the Arab World
    • YouTube video of a panel with Kenneth Goldsmith, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Poet Laureate and Founding Editor, UbuWeb; and Tiffany Malakooti, Head of Special Projects, Bidoun
    • Panel Description: “Join the people behind UbuWeb, the Internet’s largest site for the avant-garde, and Bidoun Magazine: Art and Culture of the Middle East for an evening of experimental work from the Arab world”
    • Published by the NYUAD Institute
  • A Century of Egyptian Cinema
    • Brief article that reviews the history of Egyptian filmmaking as the country “is among the oldest producers of films in the world”
    • Published by the Golden Globes
  • Popular Culture and Japan’s Gross National Cool
    • A lesson that includes activities, readings, film clips, and discussion questions
    • Includes Common Core Standards
    • Grades 9-12
    • Published by the Japan Society
  • Japanese Cinema (UG)
    • Model course on Japanese Cinema that includes list of suggested readings
    • College
    • Published by the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of London
  • Nollywood History: A Look at the Rise of New Nigerian Cinema
    • A brief article that provides an overview of the Nigerian film industry’s history, “notable Nigerian films…[and] filmmakers”
    • Published by MasterClass
  • The Women Blowing Up Ethiopia’s Film Industry
    • “Successful Female Writers, Directors, and Producers Set the Nation Apart from Hollywood, Bollywood, and the Rest of World Cinema”
    • An essay published by Steven W. Thomas, an associate professor of English at Wagner College in New York
  • Teaching India’s History and Contemporary Society through Film
    • Provides summaries and brief analyses of films
    • Published by Thomas Lamont of the Association for Asian Studies
  • “The Popular Culture of Bollywood in Teaching Hindi as a Foreign Language: Facilitator or Debilitator?
    • A journal article discussing how to implement Bollywood media effectively in Hindi classrooms
    • Grades 9-12 and College
    • Published by Sunil Kumar Bhatt, National University of Singapore, in the Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching