What should I show for my Ethnic Studies Film Festival?
May 18, 2022 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Hey Mefites! What films could I show to 14-15 year olds to tell stories of marginalized communities?

I teach Ethnic Studies to freshmen in high school. My students are all 14-15 years old. The class focuses on systems of oppression, injustice, racism, and racial and ethnic groups who get marginalized from the mainstream US History classes. (For example, when we studied Japanese-American Internment during WWII, we read Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, we read part of They Call Us Enemy by George Takei, we watched Takei's TEDTalk, and we spoke to a woman who went to the camps at ~6 years old.)

The end of the year is upon us, and I will have a few empty days in the schedule, but I don't want to just 'fill the hours'. I would like to have the "Ethnic Studies Film Festival". I plan to show Summer of Soul on one of the days. I feel like I have not done enough to teach about the various Asian/Pacific Islander communities in the US (not sure what to include?) After each film, students will write a review (complete with number of stars). At the end, I want them to write a reflection of how the films added to their existing knowledge of the content. Or something. I'm not sure yet.

This is where you come in... what titles can you provide, with the following caveats:
  • PG-13 or lower (My admin are cool, but I am cautious about being "too controversial".)
  • Preferably in English
  • We have already seen Coco and The Green Book, so those are out.
  • Short films are fine! (I have already had a recommendation for Hair Love, and it is only four minutes long.)
  • I'm fine with documentaries, but fiction might do better with keeping the critters engaged?
What do you think? What might be good films to show a bunch of 14-15 year olds?
posted by dfm500 to Education (32 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Moana? They've probably all seen it but there was a lot of stuff about how they listened to the communities when they made it- for example initially they wanted to make Maui bald/shaved because animation savings and listened when it became clear that hair was important.
posted by freethefeet at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Namesake. (prescreen it; it's been years since I watched it. I think there might be nudity?)
posted by basalganglia at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: US focused?
posted by lookoutbelow at 4:58 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would argue for Paris Is Burning but it may be unlikely to pass the PG-13 test given the subject matter of sex work (and some nudity) in some parts, but IMO it's an important snapshot of the black and queer/trans experience in America during the last half century. Personally I don't believe there's anything in it that they won't already have seen or heard if they're remotely connected to the internet or any kind of queer lifestyle, and it might hit harder because a lot of the kids in it are the same age as them if not a little older. It's available for free on YouTube if you want to watch it to check it out before they do.
posted by fight or flight at 5:15 PM on May 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Namesake is great but imo 14 year olds won't relate to it.
I'd consider showing Smoke Signals. It was the first major Hollywood film by Native Americans/Canadians and -- unsurprisingly since the screenplay is by Sherman Alexie, who wrote one of the most impactful young adult novels of the late 20th C -- has a ton of themes to discuss with teens, both in terms of a specific history and culture (Couer D'Alene), and in terms of more universal struggles around becoming an adult.
I recently showed it to college students and though it's about 25 years old they didn't find it dated.

If it doesn't have to be U.S. I'd really consider showing Whale Rider. What a great movie, everyone loves it.

On edit: Paris is Burning would be indeed an interesting history lesson about the origins of the vogueing ball scene for kids reared on RuPaul.
posted by nantucket at 5:16 PM on May 18, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: This is a great question. I also teach this age range, so I’ll be following the suggestions closely.

Hundred Foot Journey

Which Way Home
God Grew Tired of Us

If you’re feeling really brave:
Hotel Rwanda
Malcolm X
(Both are somehow PG-13)
posted by gnutron at 5:19 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Googling “AAPI DVD” gets you to a few Library lists from their catalogs…
Also “Heritage Month dvd”
Also also check your campus and public library websites!
posted by calgirl at 5:25 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My standard rec of The Infamous T is on YouTube (officially).
posted by hoyland at 5:54 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if these are too contemporary:

Linda Lindas - Racist, Sexist Boy

The Claudia Kishi Club - the girls at least probably have read some version of the Baby-sitters Club, so this would be a nice documentary to place everything in context. Also the Linda Lindas make an appearance.

G**k - 2 Korean American brothers own a shoe store and strike up an unlikely friendship with an 11 year old African American girl. Set during first day of the LA riots. There was a lot of controversy over the title, but it was a compelling movie.

Eat a Bowl of Tea - funny romantic Wayne Wang comedy set right after WWII. You can refer the kids to the book by Louis Chu.

The Grace Lee Project - Grace Lee's documentary on all the other Grace Lees out there.
posted by toastyk at 6:01 PM on May 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Smoke Signals would be great, you may wish to preview it yourself first.

I also think that this documentary about modern young Diné weavers would be even better. It has some good history about the Navajo wool trade and some really great conversations around what it means to be carrying traditions on into the future. It’s not too much into the technical How To Weave, but more the philosophical “why we weave” and I think articulates some really meaningful things about being Native right now. The woman who produced it is reconnecting and comes at the interviews with a sense of curiosity and coming home that I think is good context.
posted by Bottlecap at 6:10 PM on May 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Fiction:
Hundred Foot Journey

Please no. It's an interesting premise, but as an Indian American (with family origin in the region where the main character is from) I hated this movie. Riddled with factual errors. This blog lists many of them, and places it in the Slumdog Millionaire tradition. I think that's apt: both are basically Western fantasies of Indianness.

I related pretty hard to both Interpreter of Maladies (published when I was 14) and The Namesake (when I was 17). I wouldn't discount them for a teen audience. The latter even got me reading Gogol!

I'd also encourage you to screen examples of joyful moments in these communities as well. It's easy to fall into the Nice White Liberal trap of "those people are so oppressed, I must pity them and/or be a White Savior." Give your students examples of Asian people just, like, being. I personally thought Meet the Patels was hilarious. His dad is such an uncle.
posted by basalganglia at 7:14 PM on May 18, 2022 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey Everyone,
These are great, thank you!
Yes, I am leaning towards US focussed. I teach the class so that students learn the stuff that is normally omitted in US History.

Keep them coming!
posted by dfm500 at 8:01 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Daughters of the Dust?

Can you get some of Eyes on the Prize?
posted by suelac at 8:03 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Salt of the Earth?
posted by eviemath at 8:04 PM on May 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: George Washington
posted by perhapses at 8:05 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Beasts of the Southern Wild would be on my list.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:35 PM on May 18, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Also: Passing.

Anything with Chadwick Boseman in it: Marshall, 42.

Hidden Figures
posted by toastyk at 8:57 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I feel like some suggestions here would not resonate with this age group. An episode of Reservation Dogs might be good. Or an episode from season 1 of Master of None (some specifically address race). Like, something short, contemporary, and funny but serious seems like a sweet spot.
posted by latkes at 9:18 PM on May 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The new West Side Story might work well. I was going to suggest Dustrict 9 for something a bit different but it's rated R.
posted by emd3737 at 9:20 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ovarian Psycos about a group of young Latina women who start a bicycle club in Los Angeles. 72 minutes, focuses on young people, f-bombs and talk of processing trauma.
posted by brookeb at 9:43 PM on May 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Big Dreams in Umatilla , about a high school robotics team in Umatilla, Oregon. Umatilla is quite poor so it's interesting to see the entire school cheering for the robotics team.

In My Blood It Runs about "Biases in Australia’s Juvenile Justice Reform".
posted by fiercekitten at 10:13 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pavee Lackeen [2005; 85mins] is available on youtube: Photographer Perry Ogden’s intimate portrait of Winnie, a resilient and spirited young Traveller, and her family who live in a dilapidated trailer on the side of the road in a desolate industrialised area of Dublin. The film looks at a marginalised community living in extreme poverty in Celtic Tiger Ireland.
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:02 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Taika Waititi’s comedy Boy is set in a Māori community. It’s hilarious and poignant.

His Hunt for the Wilderpeople is also really great.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:04 PM on May 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I would not screen Reservation Dogs at the end of the semester. It is heavily about grief and suicide and while it’s hilarious and wonderful and I want everyone to watch it, I don’t think it’s a great choice for the hard transition of semester to summer. (I say this as someone who lost too many friends in high school especially at semester end times.) it’s seriously and deeply heavy.

I hope you will take some of the suggestions above about showing BIPOC joy instead of just trauma. Leaving people feeling hopeful and seeing people as more than tragic figures is a really important part. History hasn’t just been one long tragedy for us.
posted by Bottlecap at 11:16 PM on May 18, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: The Namesake is an excellent film. It shows a couple beginning life in the US, and how the next generation reconciles Indian and American identity in some beautiful ways. It turns one family's story into an epic. The overall tone is joyful and "see the world" is a recurring theme.

Aside from the nudity/sexual content, the film includes a horrific train crash (not shown, but the aftermath and dead bodies are, as are the survivor's recovery, trauma, and resilience), infidelity, and the unexpected death of a beloved parent (not shown, the focus is on the family's shock/grief and the comfort they find in traditions).

I'd prescreen it, definitely.
posted by champers at 2:43 AM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Not exactly film, but I love Patrick is a Navajo. He is Diné, and a celebrated hoop dancer, and his segments frequently include reactions to depictions of Indigenous Americans in movies; reactions to memes that are specific to rez life (and rez humor); and often include short segments on ‘Indigenous people doing great things.’ It is consistently light, upbeat, and also shines with Diné social culture, powwow etiquette and importance, and how well they understand how the dominant culture sees them.
posted by Silvery Fish at 4:38 AM on May 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Crooklyn!
posted by Morpeth at 5:35 AM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Omg Shirkers!! Amazing film and would be perfect for this age group.
posted by prewar lemonade at 5:52 AM on May 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Step might engage them.
posted by maxg94 at 6:24 AM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dolores! About American hero Dolores Huerta.
posted by brookeb at 8:07 AM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Man Push Cart. Also, you might have a look at this repository / directory of films on exile, migration. and forced migration https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/82984/Films%20on%20Migration%2C%20Exile%2C%20and%20Forced%20Displacement%20-%20Not%20Even%20Past.pdf?sequence=2
posted by diodotos at 9:43 AM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey Everyone,

It looks like I have about six months worth of material for about five hours of class time. It's a good problem to have!

Tentatively, I will show Hair Love and Bao for some short films. I'm also planning to show Meet the Patels and Summer of Soul. I have On the Basis of Sex, and some episodes from The Mindy Project (have not screened yet).

I was thinking about an episode of Margaret Cho's American Girl, but it had dick jokes that would be distracting.

I've also got the new version of West Side Story, but some of the English teachers might have already shown that, as the kids are reading Romeo and Juliet.

I have 42 and King Richard, as well.

I will let you know the final playlist.

Thank you so much for your help!
posted by dfm500 at 12:41 AM on May 22, 2022 [2 favorites]

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