EDUCATION: ‘Striking Gold’ with Global Lens

Richard Katz, AP Human Geography Teacher at Roosevelt High School, on understanding our ‘universal humanity’ via foreign film…

"We all laughed and came away feeling how universal the experience of film and laughter must be across cultures." -Rik Katz, after screening Global Lens film MASQUERADES to his high school students.

The first time my students and I viewed an international film together, it was eye-opening. We watched a film from Algeria entitled MASQUERADES—we were all prepared for a serious account of this country, but were happily surprised to discover the film was actually a satire! We all laughed and came away feeling how universal the experience of film and laughter must be across cultures. That was when I realized that we had struck gold, and I just had to share this with other members of our school community. The students could also not stop talking about the experience and how transformative it was.

The use of international foreign language films in my classrooms is such a great educational opportunity for my students to understand not only other cultures but also a different take on cinematography. There is now such a rich array of films from around the world that expose my students to different cultural views—as recently as ten years ago, this would have been unheard of.

This is important to me for a variety of reasons, one of which being the need to establish a better understanding of the wide variety of cultures that are prevalent today, as well as those that we are losing because of globalization and other forces that are pressuring some cultures to merge or even disappear from our earth. Not only does film give my students entrée into a different world, but it also hopefully allows them to see the universal humanity in all of our cultures through a medium that, too, is universal (well, almost!). Film also allows students to see others in a positive light, especially as they deal with many of the same issues that we deal with here in the United States. So often when we see cultures and societies that are foreign to us as Americans, we fail to see the similarities, let alone the differences that make each culture a special and unique part of our humanity.

Working with GFI and the collection of exceptional films they offer has been wonderful, and their great discussion guides foster the ideas that sprout out of our viewing experience. And since we get to keep the films after use, it allows other teachers to expose even more students to these great resources in the future. I cannot say enough what a great pleasure it is to work with this wonderful group of people who provide a great service, and are helping future generations to better understand our multi-cultural, richly populated world through film.

Richard E. Katz is a longtime participant of GFI’s educational screening programs, and is one of four AP Human Geography Teachers at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, WA. He has been a geographer since he was quite young growing up in Montreal, Canada. In addition to teaching at Roosevelt, he also continues to teach Social Studies Methods at Antioch University in Seattle. He recently created and developed the new Geography Curriculum MAP for 8th grade. His geographic interests include development, geographic information systems, blues music and inquiry research. He received his B.A. from McGill University in Montreal and his M.A. from Antioch University in Seattle.

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Interested in bringing MASQUERADES and other Global Lens films to your high school this year? Participate in our International Education Week screening program (November 12-16, 2012), or email education@globalfilm.org to arrange a screening today!

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