Documentary Production & Documentary Problems
By Shara K. Lange

Documentary Lesson Plan
By Shara K. Lange

"Ball Licky-Lickly!" Pedagogical Strategies for Interrogating Pop Culture Images
By Özlem Sensoy

Teaching Afghan Women: A History of Struggle
By Shoba Rajgopal

Creating Spaces for Community Engagement through Documentary Film: My Social Action Project
By Anna Zailik

Community Engagement Lesson Plan
By Anna Zailik



  issue 4.1 |  

Journal Issue 4.1
Spring-Summer 2012
Edited by Agatha Beins, Jillian Hernandez, and Deanna Utroske
Editorial Assistant: A.J. Barks
Editorial Intern: Vera Hinsey


Film, Pedagogy, and Film Pedagogy: Introduction

By Agatha Beins

"Who would I be if I didn't sing?" the Canadian, feminist, lesbian singer/songwriter Ferron asks in her song "Shadows on a Dime." A professor borrowed this question for her course on postmodern sexualities, which I took as a first-year undergraduate, and which continually stumped me in its theoretical density and abstractness. It wasn't just while reading Monique Wittig or Erica Rand or Marîa Lugones that I confronted the limits of my imagination and analytical skills but also in the films we watched almost every week. Ulrike Ottinger's Madame X (1977), Jane Cottis and Kaucyila Brooke's Dry Kisses Only (1990), and Ela Troyano's Your Kunst Is Your Waffen (1994), among others--these films left me bewildered as they used satire, parody, semiotic play, and the blurring of boundaries to question identity, power, and privilege. I tried my best to grasp something meaningful while watching and discussing them, but I didn't even know what I didn't know. This postmodern slipperiness and disorientation was not a friendly guide through a strange new landscape.
   As an instructor now, I'm not sure I would have taught my own 19-year-old self more skillfully. I understand that films can be powerful pedagogical tools. They provoke and evoke emotions, they decenter the instructor as the sole purveyor of knowledge, and, importantly, they can be fun. My training in print culture, moreover, has taught me that the relationship between form, content, and meaning matters. Films present material in ways that allow us to open to ideas and concepts that conventional academic writing may not. Describing her pedagogic practices, Sarah Hentges finds that films have created space for students to begin challenging not only representations of race, gender, class, etc. in the films they watch but also their own conceptions about these identity categories (2007, 16). Such practices set a foundation for us to push beyond mere tolerance of others and to create space for unruly bodies, for "angry, subversive, radical, promiscuous, nonhetero queers," through a "radical queer pedagogy in film and media" (Nair in Bronski et al. 2006, 124).
   However, my film pedagogy is a crude one. Almost without fail I show a film and then follow it with discussion and occasionally in-class freewriting. Coursework, writing my dissertation, going to conferences, trying to publish, moving and starting a new job all have kept film pedagogy as something that I continually plan to get to, sooner or later. Although, perhaps I am not alone. Paul McEwan, introducing a series of short pieces about teaching with potentially controversial or challenging films, writes, "Teaching is central to what almost all SCMS [Society for Cinema and Media Studies] members do every day, yet we spend surprisingly little time talking about how we teach film" (2007, 93). Through my work with Films for the Feminist Classroom I have realized more acutely that, in many ways, I have expected films to teach themselves. Surely students will realize that I am using Born into Brothels (2004) or The Beauty Academy of Kabul (2004) to interrogate the complexity of postcolonial, intercultural encounters, no?
   This special feature on film pedagogies has thus been a selfish project. I wanted to learn more about using films effectively, creatively, and purposefully in my classes. The scholars and activists generously contributing to this special feature of Films for the Feminist Classroom offer not only films and film clips that they found pedagogically successful but also instructions for using them. A lesson plan often emerges after much trial and error and through much time and energy, so I am especially grateful that Shara K. Lange, Özlem Sensoy, Shoba Rajgopal, and Anna Zailik have let us benefit from their insight and labor.


Design by Joanna Wyzgowska.
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.