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Archive for the ‘Chapter 6’ Category

In the currents and eddies of media making, popular culture, and idea flow, it can be hard to predict when and how messages become fresh or cool or accessible.  And among fortuitous, of-the-moment occasions, the return of Bill Nye could not seem more apt.  So here is a cross-curricular message for our friends from the world of Science: Bill Nye Saves the World is streaming on Netflix.  Not only that, but a documentary about the man and his career has been produced, Bill Nye: Science Guy, which premiered at SXSW.

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Decades ago, Princeton professor P. Adams Sitney first integrated these lessons into his work on cinematic history and its hidden lessons, along with adventures in the Avant-Garde.  Check out the embedded video above and your eyes (and mind) may be opened a bit more.

Speaking of dispelling illusions, here is a related recommendation — Race: The Power of an Illusion is an exceptional documentary referenced in Moving Images and which explores the complex story of what we call “race” in AmericaYou can learn more about it here.

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A moviemaker who blazed many trails, some of which that led to false paths and others that seemed to meander through Indiana Jones-styled jungle thickets or lost treasure labyrinths, Orson Welles continues to provide many lessons to directors, editors, sound designers, and everyone else involved in moving image creation.  Here is a highly recommended article on a lesser-known ahead-of-its-time innovation in his work: the video essay, as seen in F for Fake.  And the tale of rediscovering and rebuilding one of his “lost temples” of filmmaking (which was reported on in this blog a couple of years ago)— The Other Side of the Wind — goes on.   In a perfect 21st century twist worthy of the director of Citizen Kane, Netflix is the studio that has stepped in to finance this elusive, decades-old project through to fruition.

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nojoomDo you know the answer to the question?  If you are a teacher, do your students?  An earlier post on mediateacher.net presented the first female Yemeni director, Khadija Al-Salami — She is a Yemeni Filmmaker in France — and her highly educational and eye-opening movies, including A Stranger in Her Own City (which is featured in Moving Imagesand Amina, a portrait of an eleven-year-old Yemeni bride who was accused of murdering her husband at fourteen.  For further information from my earlier post, this excellent article titled For the Love of Her Country (by Olivia Snaije) provides powerful insights into the challenges of documentary filmmaking in the context of the intense conflicts that Al-Salami’s war-torn homeland and its people face today, particularly its women.

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Across countless societies throughout history, teachers have regularly occupied highly scrutinized positions relative to their impact on young people and the expectations of their roles in terms of what they can and cannot say to their students.

Among the issues that define our relation to each other, language is undoubtedly one of the most important.  It is vital that words are used appropriately and precisely.  The study of cultures and societies often can revolve around the use and impact of words to describe human behavior and social currents.

Fake = Fabricated, Intentionally Fictitious

Fake = Fabricated, Intentionally Fictitious

During the past year, a notable phenomenon has arisen that has some history in print journalism but has taken on new meanings and uses in the age of the Internet and digital social media: “fake news.”  The basic definition of this practice as it quickly evolved in recent times is that stories and articles would be fabricated and posted through fictional, anonymous, or proxy web entities.  The content is completely fictional in nature.  Made up.  Quite often based on the talking points, trending topics, and attack ads of the moment.  By now, this has been a highly documented practice, sometimes from blighted enclaves in Macedonia or from “Cameron Harris, a new college graduate with a fervent interest in Maryland Republican politics and a need for cash,” as reported by actual journalist Scott Shane.

To be literate means to understand vehicles of communication – linguistic, visual, mathematical, and much more.  When methods of communication are twisted and used to distort or blind to the truth or the search for truth, this is quite serious and potentially extremely damaging.  As history has shown us, it can, indeed, be fatal.  When one’s leaders twist, misuse, or distort words, and particularly those that describe vital topics of the day, this can also be lethal to societies and to democracy.

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A Free Press Classic by Sam Fuller

As Thomas Jefferson said, “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Language, words, and visual communication are very important, and so is our ability to interpret the various messages that are on the pages and various sized screens in front of us.  This is at the heart of what we call media literacy.  Teachers must continue to strive to enable our students to scrutinize the statements of those who represent us, of those with whom we engage in discussion and debate, and of those who research and report the stories that depict, interpret, and impact the world that we inhabit.

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A little touch of Caddyshack in the Oval Office?

A little touch of Caddyshack in the Oval Office?

Pictures can be worth many words, and as we reflect upon the close of this year, here are a few powerful ones from the White House (and its soon-to-be-leaving inhabitants).  Many lessons to be learned here.  There are so many legacies to this presidency, so much to be debated and learned and reflected upon for educators and students — and for all citizens of the world, in fact.  (And the full photo album by Chief White House Photographer Pete Souza is here.)

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clinton-trumpThe debate today between the Democrat and Republican candidates for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is predicted to be the most watched contest in the history of televised debates since the game-changing moment between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon on September 26, 1960.  Yes, it was 56 years ago to the day.  And in 2016, as summed up in the New York Times, “Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are spoiling for an extraordinary clash over race and gender that could come as early as Monday’s debate, with both presidential candidates increasingly staking their fortunes on the cultural issues that are convulsing the nation.”

As a tool for educators, here is a comprehensive article authored by Frank Baker and Karen Zill that can be very useful for navigating the issues of watching and analyzing the debates: “Media Literacy: How to Watch the Debates.”  It also features downloadable debate analysis worksheets (here is one of them).

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