What purpose does film serve in the history classroom or in the telling of history?

by STEPHEN KREYENBUHL on October 3, 2017 - 1:26pm

For me personally, film can serve as a major tool in learning or telling history in a classroom setting. There are things lectures and slideshows are simply incapable of accomplishing that a film can accomplish on a regular basis. The first film that comes to mind that backs up this claim is Waltz with Bashir. The film is able to reanimate the story of the soldiers that fought within the Lebanon War in 1982. The point is that film makes history come to life. With film, history is no longer something we are forced to learn throughout our educational careers, but helps recreate the events for those who didn’t have to live through them or weren’t alive to see them happen. In all honesty, if I were to learn about this war in a regular history class through a textbook, I’d more than likely just regurgitate whatever the textbook said on a final exam just to get the mark I wanted. On the other hand, the film has actually caused and forced me to really think critically on what the significance of this war really meant for these people and how the massacres were truly a tragedy.   Film forces you to watch these people deal with their suffering as well as Ari Folman remembering what he forgot such a long time ago. These events can now be associated to real people and make an audience truly try to relate and it becomes more than just history, it becomes real.

With all that being said, a counter argument for film being a classroom would be that it isn’t always one hundred percent accurate of what actual happened. I agree with that statement, but a film doesn’t have to be accurate let alone a work of non-fiction to be affective. Half of a Yellow Sun was a work of fiction, but it definitely got its point across in the re-telling of the Biafran War throughout the late 1960s. A film doesn’t have to be completely accurate all of events or based on real people, but needs to stay true to the history and be able to start a conversation within a classroom setting. While the films I mentioned in this post differ in fact and fiction, they both accomplish the same thing. They are able to give their historical event a face an audience can relate back to you. The more and more they relate to that face, the more research they will want to do and more channels of understanding will open naturally, compared to a teacher forcing someone to remember a certain date or event. From film, it allows for students to really make an effort to learn outside of a classroom and really apply the things they learn to life in the real world.

Overall, film in the classroom can be used as learning tool and as a conversation starter that a student can really take outside of the classroom. As elementary as it sounds, the first ever time I remember film, or Television if you if will, being used in the classroom setting was Bill Nye the Science Guy or Schoolhouse Rock to really have those subjects stick with me into the real world. I feel those films and films in general do the same thing, really make the topic be played out into the real world rather than just sitting in a classroom. While there is still a place for lectures and slideshows, film can really make ideas pop and last longer outside of a classroom.

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