2. THEME: A WAY OF TELLING
He said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bed? No, it is put on the lampstand. Nothing is hidden except to be disclosed... "
(Mark 4, 21-22)
We know that when Jesus was teaching, when he proclaimed the Good News of Salvation, he would speak in terms of ordinary daily life and convey his message using narrative forms and techniques that made his story entertaining and therefore easily acceptable.
For example, he knew fishermen and talked to them of the Kingdom of God through stories related to their everyday life. In a simple, direct way, with many images and decriptions close to their own daily experience.
We can compare this kind of reality with our modern experience of the motion picture, a wonderful invention which is now one hundred years old. A medium which has allowed twentieth century man to draw near to remote traditions hitherto beyond his compass; even the Gospel message has been brought to him with exceptional clarity.
Since the cinema, however, can also be a bearer of negative messages, a preparation is needed to enable the viewer to extract and appreciate the true values, to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The proposal that follows involves films on both the large and small screen, to the accounts prepared by groups of schoolchildren, and to the values presented by the Gospel (which frequently makes use of stories).
As can be seen, the main objective of the work will be the comparison of values. This can be achieved by a double process, comparing the underlying values in the film with those of the group, and then with those of the Gospel.
How to work on values?
In our post-modern context, it is quite common for a group of children, particularly adolescents, to reject certain values when they are presented in abstract form. Sometimes, when the subject is self-denial or solidarity, they even get on the defensive. There is no doubt, however, that these values are greatly respected by the same group when they are presented in a context of eye-witness accounts, real events, life-stories, etc. Young people can be caught defending self-denial when they see it in a character they admire, in a story in which they can picture themselves, or in circumstances they know.
In all cases, we suggest that three things be borne in mind
1) How things are told: this concerns films, or tales and legends associated with the group's own environment or daily life.
The films selected should be the kind that provoke discussion. Some age-groups could present accounts of them using sound and pictures, that is, with audio-visual language. In this case, the discussion that follows will be particularly important.
2) The techniques used: both in the analysis of the film chosen to be discussed and in the creative techniques employed to present the narration, the use of audio-visual teaching materials is recommended.
3) How they grasp the message: recognizing the values it contains is a decisive step in affirming certain values as higher than others.
Only a few guidelines are suggested here. Every teacher can make changes or try out all the combinations and extensions that circumstances and his or her own creativity permit.
The more chance we give children to talk and be listened to about what they feel when they see a film or how it compares with real life, the more chances we give them to exercise their own judgement, decode messages, question behaviour models and, together, find new meanings in things. Then at last we can give them opportunities for growth with freedom of expression and the affirmation of human and Christian values.
* Discover the values which stand out in a story and compare them with the values in the Gospels.
Point out all the values presented in the children's accounts of the story and see how the group reacts to them.
* Get the children to analyse the films, starting from the way they are received by each group.
See what kind of impact the film has and note the way motìon picture language is used to create this impact on the individual child/adolescent and on the groups.
* Encourage the group to make up their own stories and analyse them to see what values are given priority.
The proposal's pedagogic objective is to create a critico-participatory attitude, emphasizing the experience of perceiving and understanding reality through use of the techniques frequently adopted by the audio-visual media.
The methodology concentrates on group activity and involvement:
-encouraging self-expression, exchange of ideas and the affirmation of the individual within the group;
-using games to arouse interest and contribute to the working out and application of ideas;
-stimulating research and experiment;
-viewing cultural reality from personal experience (knowledge of the situation and questions concerning events and behaviour shown on the screen lead to a more critical attitude);
-promoting the comparison and exchange of experience and information and creating new values in relation to the media (group discussion and shared interests contribute to a broader vision leading to enrichment through increased experience).
For children and young People
TODAY WE PROPOSE:
to find out why we enjoy watching stories on the screen;
to tell our own stories using entertaining techniques;
to discover the message in our story-telling.
For teachers of children from 6 to 9
* To learn why images and sounds excite and move them:
Find out the different functions of the moving image in their lives, with special attention to the "Electronic Babysitter", helping them to see its limitations; compare these effects and functions with those of reference groups (family, school, parish, etc.);
* To stimulate the development of perceptive qualities and awareness so that they can distinguish the different artistic levels, the impact of the image, its colour, light and composition, combined with rhythm and music;
* To discuss the traditional division of characters in film stories and cartoons into two categories, the good and the bad. Compare this with real life and the Christian point of view.
1. See a film or animated cartoon together
Discuss what you have seen.
Did you like what we saw?
Which part did you like best? Ask them to describe precisely the images and sound used. If they don't remember, show the film again.
What happens in the story? Try to make them distinguish between their own interpretation and the feelings the story arouses, and what actually happens on the screen. For example, a child may say "...and then it crashed", but in the film we only heard a terrible noise, we did not see the actual moment of impact.
How do we feel while watching the story? If the group has difficulty in expressing its own feelings, the question can be worded in an impersonal way: How do children feel when they see something like this? Why do they watch certain films? Find out, on the basis of their answers (for example, about a "Tom and Jerry" cartoon), if they see it for amusement, and explain that, in that case, "it's because children enjoy seeing the little mouse making fun of the big cat".
Some groups or age-levels may be able to recognize the values expressed.
2. Listen to some music
Discuss the importance of music in arousing feelings and reactions. Play extracts from film scores, and then, with a reverse procedure, listen to different music and imagine what situations it could be used for.
3. Optional activities for the youngest children
-Ask the children to spend a period of time listening attentively to the sounds around them, in the garden, in the park, at home;
-Encourage them to look with "new eyes" at the things they see every day, so that they can perceive details they had never noticed before;
-Get them to play with closed boxes containing various objects such as buttons, glass marbles, etc. and to say what the sound makes them think of when the boxes are moved or shaken.
For teachers of children from 10 to 13
* To get them to observe their own environment and use it as a background for contrasting fictional characters with real people.
* To encourage them to recognize various elements of film language and become aware of its power to stir up emotions.
* To point out that every shot a film director takes is intended to show only what he wants, and anything else is eliminated.
1. A search for real heroes.
Suggest that they get together and compile a list of characters, from world-famous and national figures to local heroes such as a grandfather, a neighbour, a personality in the district. Ask questions about the main character traits of these people.
It is important to rediscover values such as respect, love, self-denial, which are not often shown in the heroes children are usually exposed to in television series and the cinema. Suggest they compare and discuss them.
Speak of the life of Jesus and how he never discriminated between people.
2. Get them to make their own camera out of cardboard, with the lens aperture on one side and the window on the other.
Looking through this will give them an idea of the telecamera's limited field of vision, making selectivity unavoidable.
Suggest taking a series of shots of the same place but for different purposes, for example, to show its beauty, or point out what needs to be improved. (A polaroid camera and a selection of cardboard masks would be useful, if available.) Study the chosen "frames" and discuss the intention behind each series. The camera can never show everything.
A walk round the district, a simple stroll in the square, "camera" in hand, can become a fascinating journey of discovery. For those who own a real camera, this experience can lead to the creation of their own photomontage.
To complete the exercise, the children can make their own sound/music track to accompany the visual images.
3. Optional tasks.
See a short film together, or the introduction of characters at the beginning of a film, and discuss what you have seen.
What image impressed me most and why?
The answer may lead to picking out a close-up showing the actor/character's importance in the film, or the function of a sound effect.
Seeing only the beginning of a film allows us to analyse the way the director presents his leading characters and the main trend of his style. See what resources he uses as he continues to tell the story.
For teachers of young people from 14 to 18
* To make a deeper analysis of the film and of their own receptive capacities, with special attention to the comparison of values;
* To reflect on the group's particular values through the analysis of a story recounted by the group itself;
* To calculate what influence the media will have on the future of our youth;
* To improve their knowledge of audio-visual codes by making a video film.
1. Get the group to choose a current film and see it together.
Organize a discussion on the main themes of the film and the values it proposes. This could start from the analysis of their critical response to the film and lead up to a comparison of the group's daily life with what the film offers and with the values of the Gospel.
2. Suggest that the group produce a story of their own, reflecting their anxieties or their fantasies.
Tell the story in sound and images, using posters, songs, video, etc.
Show the work to other groups.
Lastly, compare the values in the group's work with those of the media. Detect any possible influences.
3. Set up an investigation into young people's image of what a man or woman should be and into their expectations for the future, by means of an open enquiry (which could be videoed).
Analyse the results obtained, contrasting them with the images of a man and a woman as presented by the media. Get the young people to affirm their own values.
It would be very interesting if these exercises could be performed on video, using cinematic language. Being behind the camera means giving serious thought to every take, if it is to transmit the desired sensation, emotion or problem.
This use of audio-visual techniques should be discussed as. soon as possible.