TextBook and Curriculum

image There is nothing so visual, so engaging, so true to life as film to transport students to unfamiliar worlds. This inventive textbook introduces foreign cultures and global concepts through 12 award-winning films from various continents and geopolitical areas.

Films discussed include Life of Pi (India) , Beijing Bicycle (China); Persepolis (Iran/France); Osama (Afghanistan); The Lady (Myanmar/ Burma); Spirited Away (Japan); The Counterfeiters (Austria); The Lives of Others (Germany); Chapter Nine: Madagascar (Madagascar); March of the Penguins (Antarctica); Wadjda (Saudi Arabia); The Other Son (Israel)                     

Each film acts as a launching pad for discussions in world history, geography, economics, government, world literature, media, creative writing, music, and art. By encouraging critical thinking and group activities, this multi-disciplinary primer offers an innovative perspective on international affairs.w

Table of Contents


One: Life of Pi
Two: Beijing Bicycle
Three: Persepolis
Four: Osama
Five: The Lady
Six: Spirited Away

Seven: The Counterfeiters
Eight: The Lives of Others

Nine: Madagascar                                                 
Ten: March of the Penguins                                         
MIDDLE EAST:                                                                                            
Eleven: Wadjda
Twelve: The Other Son                     


When I was a Fellowship student in France, my greatest pleasure was Wednesday evenings when the Faculté des Lettres turned out its lights and became a ciné club. From the projector's magic lantern came images from filmmakers like Truffaut, Fellini, Bergman, and Kurosawa, and I was trans- posed to worlds far beyond my imagination. For the first time, my mind opened to foreign cultures, which stimulated me to learn be- yond my limits.

Upon returning to the States, I prom- ised myself that one day I would try to recre- ate the same experience for other students. That time, strangely, came on a horrific day. It was September 11th. I was on my way downtown to teach at New York University's American Language School and I saw the sky shrouded in smoke. I feared for my students who were housed in quarters near the World Trade Center, and I immediately went to find them. I was also teaching E.S.L. at the United Na- tions. My students were diplomats, and de- spite their worldly experience, they too were afraid. On that sad day I kept thinking what could I do? The only answer I could give my- self was, "Help them understand."

It took me two years to implement a program that could try to explain. I wanted to create a "Global Classroom" in the United Nations — a meeting place where members of all countries could teach about the world and students could learn. What better class- room could exist than the United Nations, where "the world" is part of its daily activi- ties? And what better medium is there than foreign film to teach young people about global affairs and human feelings?

Now entering its tenth year, the Inter- national Film Festival has created in the United Nations a classroom where high school students can travel to places they have never known before. Their professors are am- bassadors and members of the Permanent Missions to the United Nations. Their in- structors are the tour guides. The subject matter is international events and universal understanding. Foreign film is the medium.

With the support of the United Nations Department of Public Information (D.P.I.), a "Good Neighbor Grant" from the Ford Foundation (2003–2007), and donations from grant makers and board members, the film festival has been able to invite more than 9,000 students from New York City's 100 public high schools to participate in our Global Classroom. As of 2008, we took our N.G.O. at the United Nations (International Cinema Edu- cation) directly into the classroom. We screen foreign films based on their timelessness and strength to "transport" students to new con- tinents, where they can learn about a coun- try's politics, culture and traditions. In post- film Q & A sessions, members of our board of directors expand on themes that the film addresses, such as human rights, relationship of politics and economics, and the country's position in today's geo-political world.

To enhance the screening of the film, we provide our teachers with a multi-disci- plinary curriculum. Each film engenders dis- cussion in eight academic subjects: world his- tory, geography, economics, government, world literature, media, creative writing, music and art. Each film is taught by a teacher in one of the following departments: English; social studies; film; humanities. Our pedagogy is innovative and creative, a new way of teaching and learning that encourages group activities and opens the individual's mind.

To reinforce and expand the global as- pect of our mission, we invite our students to the United Nations for tours and screen- ings; to U.N. Foreign Missions for private briefings; to Morgan Stanley for a seminar in Global Economics; and to programs about racism at the Simon Wiesenthal Tolerance Center.

Why is this Global Classroom beneficial to students?
• Studentsbecomeengagedincriticalthink- ing by learning visually, for they are visual learners.
• Studentsareintroducedtoglobalconcepts by using foreign film as a catalyst.
• Studentslearngeneralculture.Whilehav- ing fun, they are exposed to topics that can enrich their inner world.
• Students learn to understand the global marketplace and prepare to compete.
• Students are better prepared to go on to college and think creatively in our multi- cultural world.

As we teach our students about global issues through the voices and eyes of other cultures, they begin to unravel the reel of ma- terial and find tangential concepts. They are eager to learn how the film's country is inter- acting with other countries. What is the re- lationship between politics, economics and culture? And how, as students, can they help make the world a better place?

One of the most rewarding moments for me came after the screening of the Oscar- winning film Tsotsi, when I watched 150 stu- dents turn their face towards the rear of the U.N. theater to gape at Presley Chweneyagae. The actor, who plays Tsotsi, magically dis- appeared from the screen and reappeared alive on the podium to greet everyone with posters in his hands. He told the students to stay in school and prepare for the global world.

After showing the formidable film Osama, and listening to the Q & A session hosted by members of the Afghanistan Mis- sion, I realized how deeply a film can touch a soul. A student wanted to know, "Have the Afghan people found peace?"
Our students have taught me a lot, and I am grateful to them for giving me the op- portunity to share such provocative films. At each screening they remind me that the best gift of all is to stimulate a mind.

I hope the present work, which covers 13 of our most popular films can inspire each student, teacher and viewer who has the pleasure of seeing the movies. And as you travel to faraway countries, I hope you will find a place you have never before known.

Maps of Film/Country Location










Vialogues from Columbia University

Master Class Demonstration, Columbia University, Teachers College, (Video/Article)

Ed Lab, Columbia University, Teachers College

International Cinema Education

The Gift of Diamonds

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