SHS foreign language students attend international film festival
April 5, 2016
The Ohio Department of Education released new standards for world language courses in 2011 which emphasizes interpretation of authentic materials rather than articles and audios created solely for classroom use. As the Solon School District adapted to these new requirements, Solon High School foreign language teachers Betsy Beveridge, Magalie Frazier and Elaine Swope planned a field trip downtown to the 40th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) for students to say adiós to the classroom and bonjour to foreign films.
Three buses full of SHS Spanish and French students in levels 4 and AP departed for the Tower City Cinema at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday to view short films in their target languages. Most of the films included English subtitles, and in total lasted under an hour and a half. After the viewings, students had an hour to purchase lunch and eat in the Tower City food court before returning to SHS at approximately 1:30 p.m.
Beveridge, who currently teaches Spanish 2 and Spanish 4 at SHS, explained that the idea for the trip came from a flyer sent in the mail to all of the foreign language teachers. She worked with Frazier (French 3, 4 and AP) and Swope (Spanish 3 and AP) to approve the excursion with SHS principal Erin Short and collect $5 in fees from each participating student.
“We do a lot of teamwork together because the 4 for both [languages] preps [students] to go into AP, which is why I think that our kids do so well at the AP level,” Beveridge said.
At Tower City Cinemas, students were divided into separate theaters based on the languages that they study. Spanish students were shown six short films, or cortometrajes: “Home at Dawn,” “Present Imperfect,” “An Encounter,” “Nemo”, “Taking Care of Ruth” and “The Guest.” After the screening, students from all across Ohio participated in a Q&A session with Cleveland State University (CSU) staff
member Antonio Medina-Rivera. As Chairperson of the Department of Modern Languages and Spanish Professor at CSU, as well as a native Puerto Rican, Rivera’s ties to both CSU and Spanish culture have allowed him to participate in CIFF for over 10 years.
“It’s another input to hear Spanish,” Rivera said. “[Students] can be exposed to more artistic film [that’s] different [from what] they normally see.”
This discussion, which covered both content-related as well as reactionary questions to the films, was facilitated in a mixture of Spanish and English, and students were encouraged to answer in Spanish in order to gain experience.
“In this case, also, the discussion is a good opportunity,” Rivera said. “They can take what they saw to the classroom and continue the discussion as well. I feel like it’s a good opportunity for all of them.”
French students had the chance to capitalize on this opportunity by viewing five short French films: “Bionic Girl,” “The Way of Tea,” “Zero,” “Vocation” and “The Autumn of Zao.” They also had an interactive discussion about the themes and ideas of the films in both English and French.
“Some [films] were very interesting, and some were very, very odd,” said SHS senior and AP French student Amala Uli. “They were very specific as to what parts of the issues they were trying to address, whereas sometimes American films make you guess a lot more as to what they’re getting at.”
She explained that the films covered issues ranging from racism and bigotry in “The Way of Tea” to the
detriments of overreaching for scientific expansion in “Bionic Girl” to dealing with illness in “The Autumn of Zao”.
“French films can be very provocative, and the subject matter is very pertinent to life not only in France but just in the everyday world,” Uli said.
This same exploration of daily and universal themes was the goal of Spanish filmmaker Miguel Berzal De Miguel, a first time participant in CIFF, who directed and wrote screenplays for both “An Encounter” and “Taking Care of Ruth”.
“I like to address stories of daily modern life in my projects,” said Miguel. “Since I was young, I have always loved the movies. The possibility to tell stories, not just with words, as well as with images and that they could reach the people has always interested me a lot. The movies have always been my biggest passion, along with literature.”
He explained that in “Taking Care of Ruth” he tackled the difficulties of elderly people that don’t want to live alone but also have difficulty accepting help. In “An Encounter,” he addressed the issues of exploitation at work, stalking and, in general, different forms of harassment.
“There are common problems in all countries,” Miguel said. “I’ve written and filmed these short films in Spain, set in my country, and I’m receiving nominations on every continent. That is to say, that as people we have the same problems living where we live and we can understand each other.”
In the future, Miguel hopes to film and direct a full-length movie.
“I believe that film is like music or literature because it’s an inexhaustible source of new ideas and stories. I imagine that, in a few years, new forms of projection, viewing and technology will emerge, but film will always exist.”
Beveridge emphasized that films are important cultural windows, especially for students studying foreign language. For example, she cited that taking the subway to work, which was a major feature of Miguel’s “An Encounter,” is not something that Solon students typically experience.
“By going to the film festival, you’re seeing authentic pieces in the language,” she said. “The students are being exposed to the language, and you can use it in a variety of ways before you go, after you go, while you’re there [and] in the classroom. It’s not just the language; you’re getting the culture.”