Human Rights Day
Using film as a pedagogical tool in the classroom involves treating films (or clips of films) as texts. As with other texts such as novels, plays or newspaper articles, films are constructed for a specific purpose and are aimed at a certain type of audience. All texts, be they written, visual or multi-modal, construct and present specific meanings that readers may interpret differently.
When using film texts with students, it is helpful to introduce some key questions that will support them in deconstructing and analysing meaning within a film. In the context of exploring the theme of human rights in films, it is particularly important for students to be aware that the world presented in the film is not real and they should interrogate the text in order to evaluate the authenticity of the representations. This aspect of the work will involve research and evaluation skills.
Before watching the suggested films, encourage students to reflect on films they have already seen that might deal with human rights themes. You might want to refer back to some of the extracts from the Declaration outlined above.
- What films have you seen that deal with an individual’s rights being abused or where someone fights for his or her rights?
- How do these films represent the main characters?
- To what extent do the films you have mentioned feel like an authentic representation of someone’s experience of human rights abuses or struggles?
Questions that will help students understand the idea that a film is a construct, might include:
- What is the purpose of the film and who is it aimed at? What do you base your answers on?
- What devices are used to engage the audience?
- What do you think the central character(s) is feeling at key points and how has the filmmaker shown the audience their point of view?
- What is the setting and why do you think the filmmaker chose it?
- How does the soundtrack affect your viewing of certain sequences in the film?
- What do you think is the message of the film and how has it been communicated?
- What do you take away from the film on a personal level?
Remember, if you don’t have time to watch a whole film with your class, you can work with clips in the classroom. Working with your students on key scenes to explore how the struggle for human rights is represented - how sound, lighting and editing might impact on how we view the content – can inform discussions about this topic in more meaningful ways than consuming a whole film uncritically.