May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
January 15, 2010
Most of us at Filmwell – unintentionally so – either teach or work at universities (and in some cases, are finishing graduate degrees at them). And so we’re all at the top of a new semester, more or less ready to dive in.
While my own studies were finished in December, the small private college I teach at has just begun, and I’m in the classroom again. My research writing classes are going to be learning about film as they learn proper research techniques. As a professor in New York, I have the luxury of requiring them to visit places like the Museum of the Moving Image, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and Film Forum to do their research.
I also get to recommend films for their own viewing, and lately, I’ve been thinking about films about school-based learning, both on and off the beaten path. Here are a few that came to mind:
The Class – The recent French film based on the writer/director’s experience teaching in a classroom in a tough Parisian neighborhood. I liked this for its naturalism, its total lack of the traditional “teacher makes his class love learning” narrative.
The Wire, Season 4 – Not technically film, I know. But the fourth season – which I haven’t finished yet – spends a lot of time in an inner-city Baltimore eighth grade classroom. It’s a cousin to The Class, dealing with some of the same issues but in a far broader context.
Mona Lisa Smile – Not a very good film, admittedly. I like it for its cast, and for its setting – Wellesley College in the 1950s. It’s like Dead Poets Society with girls and a little less existentialism.
An Education – One of the better films of 2009, and one that is, ultimately, about the many kinds of learning we experience in adolescence – and the importance of all of them.
Mr. Holland’s Opus – I used to teach music, and this film has brought me close to tears nearly every time I’ve seen it. It’s kind of cheesy, I guess. But I’m not ashamed.
These are just a few of the films I’ve found myself contemplating recently. What are yours?
Alissa Wilkinson teaches at the King’s College in New York City and edits Comment. She and her husband Tom like the brunch at Dizzy’s in Brooklyn best.