I first came across this film club through a friend in my Globalization and Culture (CULT 320) class last year who was specializing in South Asian relations. The Dhanak Film Club is sponsored by the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies in Pakistan. The Institute is a community supported voluntary effort for the attainment of a peaceful society through non-violent means. The Dhanak Film Club is one manifestation of this effort. According to it’s promotional poster, it’s a “film club which goes beyond the black and white categorization of our usual cinematic experience. Dhanak represents a rainbow of ideas, theme and issues thus providing a unique experience every week” (http://peaceandsecularstudies.org/?p=333). One university student, Umer Latif, said “the basic idea behind Dhanak is to raise social and political awareness among the masses as well as underline the importance of common human heritage transcending the bounds of caste, creed and nation” (http://myclassiccollection.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/cinema-for-peace-building/). The club, hoping to promote empathy and peace through the movies, briefly introduces each movie and follows it with a 15 minute discussion (http://peaceandsecularstudies.org/?p=333).
This concept of promoting alternative discourse through popular movies is definitely transposable to all cultures. I believe film clubs would not only be applicable to U.S. educational settings, but would also be very popular among students. Who wouldn’t want to watch a movie? There is also a natural desire to discuss the movie with friends afterwards. I think the key is the way in which that discussion takes place. This peace-building activity would be very useful in the high school setting where teachers often eliminate most forms of creative learning from the curriculum in an effort to increase the efficiency of lecture-style teaching. Using popular films in the classroom to engage students in thinking about the nature of societal issues would encourage many students-at-risk in conflicted urban neighborhoods to continue coming to school instead of dropping out.
Logistically-speaking, the teacher could spend one-third of class lecturing on the historic context and educational knowledge needed to understand the film; one-third on watching the film; and the final third of class on discussing the implications of the themes in the film. Considering it is impossible to watch the whole movie in class, the scenes selected could be used to promote a full-length screening of the film after-school in a film club meeting. With the use of a TV, a DVD player and access to a public library’s DVD collection, the teacher could easily incorporate this concept into the classroom.
The key is using the film for educational purposes rather than simply making it a free day with no work. It’s important to use this resource as a pedagogical means to encourage critical thinking on the values promoted through film. The teacher should make equal time in passively watching the film and actively discussing how the film could be viewed through a peace-building lens rather than a violent one (as is often the case). The teacher may also choose a film that specifically highlights problems also present in the students’ environment to not only give students alternative endings, but to make students question why these problems are present in their community. The application of film can be used to promote first empathy and then, community building. The goal of using this film concept is promoting human rights education in the classroom by teaching students the skills (critical thinking and public speaking) to fight for democratic justice in their own community. I think both high school teachers and film students/human activists could benefit from starting film clubs in their schools/communities.
http://peaceandsecularstudies.org/?p=333 – The Dhanak Film Club website
http://myclassiccollection.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/cinema-for-peace-building/ – An article from the January 2011 edition of “Trail Blazer” (An Indian youth magazine) describing the power of film screening as a peace pedagogy