Category: documentary

Islam and the West: Clashing Beliefs or Common Values?

“Islam and the West: Clashing Beliefs or Common Values?” seeks to deconstruct both the Middle East’s and America’s conceptions of the “Other” by finding common ground to stand on. Samuel Huntington’s theory of the clash of civilizations has dominated our perceptions of the other side of the world, but we must ask ourselves, is it with good reason? Crossing Borders uses the shared experiences of four American and four Moroccan students to bridge the supposedly vast gap between the Muslim world and the West. During their journey through Morocco, these students find that they are not so different after all.

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Kolejka: An Educational Board Game About Communism

Kolejka Board Game

Having visited the Soviet Union in February 1987 and seen the lines of people patiently waiting for items of food, I am very interested in this new board game, Kolejka, created by the Poland’s state-run National Remembrance Institute.  The name, Kolejka, means “queue or line” and it intends to build bridges by helping young Poles to better understand the hardships of life of their parents and grandparents under communism.  As an international educator, I see this game as a tremendous learning tool for not only young Poles, by anyone who wants to understand history, economics, politics and the Polish language.

Two to five game players are tasked with buying a number of goods from a shopping list, but a lack of deliveries, shortages and the connections competitors have to communist authorities turn the task into an exercise in frustration.  Players try to buy basic goods but food supplies run out before they reach the game’s counter. Alternatives may be offered in lieu of lacking items;  for example, if a bed is needed, stools may be offered instead. Cards, meant to represent, status are issued, so a player needing the the store’s last bed can be pushed aside by a “mother with small child” or “friend in government” card.

As reported by NPR, Karol Madaj, the game’s creator stated,”We want to show how it was when you lost your chance because someone with high connections jumped the line.”  Madaj is a 30-year-old who still remembers spending long hours with his mother in lines.  He went on to say,”We may laugh at it today, but it was not funny for them, when they were wasting their lives in lines.”  Madaj went on to say that the game is best played by members of various generations because it evokes emotions in older players who start to talk about their experiences.

The game also comes with 2 education films:  the first is a 1983 documentary film titled “Everyone Knows Who They Are Standing Behind” directed by Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz and the second is a 2010 documentary titled “What Did They Deliver? The Life of Queuing in the People’s Republic of Poland” directed by Konrad Starczewski. I’ve also read that the game comes with a booklet of Communist era jokes.

As an educator, I would have students play this game and then play Monopoly, the popular American game that, according to Wikipedia, is a redesign of an earlier game called “The Landlord’s Game” which was first published by political activist (and Quaker) Elizabeth Magie.  The purpose of that game was to teach people how monopolies end up bankrupting the many and giving extraordinary wealth to one or few individuals.

Both games serve as great educational tools, allowing students to compare the pros and cons of each system.

Koejka will go on sale in Poland on February 5th. (Obviously, the game is in Polish, so you will need to speak or be able to translate Polish to understand the details of the rules/cards.)

The Transformative Power of Intercultural Experiences

As an educator, I believe that intercultural experiences have an important role to play in a world situation that is – to say the least – very confusing. This year, 2011, marks a decade since the tragic events of September 11. Today's undergraduate college students were eight to twelve years old in 2001 and consequently have spent their intellectually formative years with post-9/11 media coverage, little of which addressed the need for intercultural understanding.

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The Cats of Mirikitani: A Remarkable Documentary

Commentary on the documentary about Jimmy Mirikitani, the Japanese American artist who survived an internment camp, 9/11 and homelessness with the help of a local documentary film maker.

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“Crossing Borders” Film Screening Schedule in the US, Fall 2010

Here is a list of screenings of the award winning documentary "Crossing Borders" by Arnd Wachter for fall 2010.

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Crossing Borders Film and the Wisdom of Rodney King

Crossing Borders film announcement and programming ideas including the guys from

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A “Czechtastic” Study Abroad Web Channel

Cole Blaise documents his study abroad experience in the Czech Republic. This is an excellent web series that illustrates a typical American student abroad.

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The New Americans: A Documentary about Recent US Immigrants

Information about "The New Americans" documentary and how it can be used as a learning tool.

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Please Vote for Me: An Experiment in Democracy by 8 year olds in China

If you read Melibee regularly, you know I’m a big fan of documentaries. I have written extensively about Crossing Borders, a film that I think should be screened everywhere!  This weekend, I watched a terrific documentary from China entitled “Please Vote for Me.” Here is the trailer:

This film chronicles 3 adorable eight year old children (Xu Xiaofei, Cheng Cheng and Luo Lei) vying for the title of “classroom monitor.”  The film, directed by Weijun Chen, claims to have documented the first democratically elected elementary school classroom monitor in the city of Wuhan (in central China.)

This film is an outstanding educational tool on many different levels.  First, I found it hysterical (and sad) that these kids were so competitive that they manipulated, bribed and tortured their competitors.  They engaged in political strategy and debates that make some very seasoned politicians look amateurish!  Perhaps most disturbing was how incredibly overly involved their parents were in the coaching of their political “campaigns.”  You had to wonder at times who was running for the position.

This film gives a bird’s eye view of a Chinese elementary school in a large city.  We see some of the opening school ceremonies, the classroom spaces and learning tools, the food eaten at lunch (which certainly looks a heck of a lot healthier than the average American classroom school lunch!) and the type of dialogue between students and their teachers.  We also see 3 different homes:  one of a married couple, one of a single mother, and one of a mother who has remarried.  Finally, we get a sense of life in a country with a one-child policy.

This film creates an excellent opportunity to explore politics, human nature (are we naturally competitive?  is feeling guilty when we wrong someone a universal feeling? etc), education and family dynamics.

The film is only an hour long and is an easy, funny and enjoyable film to watch.  (Subtitles are in English.)  You may purchase the film here: