From the beginning, motion pictures have been America’s most influential, most persuasive and most pervasive art. In the 1930s, 82 percent of the American people went to the movies every week.
Fusing all the other arts – literature, music, acting, dance, the visual arts – into one surpassing art, they have extraordinary power. But even as they mesmerize, they instruct, chronicling America in all eras, in all its guises.
Though movies have been part of the landscape, the surround, for more than 100 years, there are still people who dismiss them as a passing fad or just another commercial product or trash or vulgar…anything but art. Such people understand nothing.
Of course, there are awful movies…just as there are awful novels, paintings, sculptures, sonatas, but hundreds of good movies and a remarkable number of great movies have been made in the last 100 years, and those movies are as integral to our lives, as vital as any great books and music and paintings.
It is a measure of the signal importance of movies that Washington periodically tries to shut Hollywood down, or shut it up.
For all this, relatively few universities and far fewer secondary schools offer substantive courses on the movies, though they reside at the very center of the cultural/social landscape and an ever-increasing number of movies, for good or ill, target the very young.
Now, in a splendid and unprecedented collaboration, Turner Classic Movies, the Film Foundation and IBM have created a new national program for middle school students, which they are offering to schools at no cost. “The Story of Movies” is the first interdisciplinary school curriculum to teach the aesthetic, historical and cultural significance of film.
“Movies are a door to knowledge – knowledge of society and its prejudices, knowledge of history, knowledge of art. ‘The Story of Movies’ opens the door, by teaching students to think critically about film and providing them with a deeper understanding of this uniquely exciting art form,” said Martin Scorsese, chair of The Film Foundation. “I am pleased to have both Turner Classic Movies and IBM’s generous support and hands-on involvement in helping us bring classic cinema to young people.”
“The Story of Movies” consists of lesson plans, student worksheets, an assessment package, a DVD featuring film clips and mini-documentaries, an interactive Web site which allows teachers to download supplementary materials and communicate with others using the program, as well as a DVD of the featured film. The curriculum was first made available nationwide to public and private middle schools in the winter of the 2004-2005 school year, and provided teachers with a choice of three films for study: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, directed by Robert Mulligan); Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939, directed by Frank Capra) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, directed by Robert Wise).
Each film focuses on different historical and social issues – from civil rights to citizen advocacy to political tolerance – in a way that reflects the relevance of these issues in today’s world.
Lesson plans are designed to support three fundamental principles: film as an art form to be appreciated and preserved, film as a cultural document through which we can explore values and social issues, and film as a collaborative art.
The overall goal of the program is to help students learn to “read” film and understand the unique language of the medium.
“This is a ground breaking program, and we’re very pleased to be working with The Film Foundation to bring it to fruition,” said Tom Karsch, Executive Vice President and General Manager, TCM. “To use film in the classroom to teach across all disciplines is something that has never been done before, and will give educators a new medium to generate interest and excitement about learning among their students.”
The lessons and activities contained in “The Story of Movies” are based on National Film Study Standards developed by The Film Foundation, working closely with American filmmakers, scholars, national educational organizations, and teachers.
For more information about “The Story of Movies” curriculum, go to www.storyofmovies.org.
IBM technology, along with IBM Research expertise, plays an instrumental role in bringing this first ever school curriculum to the classroom. It has created an online portal, based on WebSphere Portal software, that will provide educators with access to a teachers’ manual, lesson plans, and tools that will enable teachers nationwide to communicate with their peers on the best teaching practices for “The Story of Movies” curriculum. Lotus Sametime and Quickplace will provide the collaboration and instant messaging capabilities.
The Film Foundation was created in 1990 by Martin Scorsese and nine other eminent directors – Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg – to preserve and protect America’s cinematic heritage. Through educational programs, national campaigns and public events, the foundation is dedicated to fostering greater awareness of the urgent need to save our motion picture history.
The Film Foundation provides substantial annual support for preservation and restoration projects at its member archives – the Academy Film Archive, George Eastman House, Library of Congress, Museum of Modern Art, UCLA Film & Television Archive – and affiliated organizations – the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the AFI and the National Film Preservation Foundation. These institutions have mounted ambitious programs of preservation and restoration and serve as a vital link for public access to our nation’s film treasures. The Film Foundation’s efforts have saved over 300 endangered films to date, including Hollywood features, silent films, independent, documentary and experimental films, as well as newsreels and other historical films whose titles may not be widely known but whose importance to our film heritage is no less significant. For more information on The Film Foundation, visit: http://www.film-foundation.orgTurner Classic Movies, currently seen in more than 70 million homes, is a 24-hour cable network from Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner company. TCM screens the greatest motion pictures of all time from the largest film library in the world, the combined Time Warner and Turner film libraries, from the ‘20s through the ‘80s, commercial-free and without interruption. For more information, please visit the TCM Web site at www.turnerclassicmovies.com.