Why study film? How it is useful in terms of education? The usefulness of film study has a wide range and is applicable to many facets of education. Films not only provide information about the political and historical climate of the time they were made, but they also provide layer upon layer of meaning. Decoding clips from art films, films made for the sake of making film, leads students into a thoughtful analysis of imagery and hidden themes and meanings. Film also can provide more superficial and often overlooked chances for education.
For students studying language and culture, foreign film can provide a type of virtual immersion. For example, they can hear language that is not taught in the classroom. They can see how levels of class affect not only the grammar of a language, but also the tone, body language and so on. In the case of Japanese language and society, most students are gaining an understanding of polite communication, and may fail to grasp other ways of conversing that are essential to creating meaningful relationships in Japan. By breaking down a film for cultural and linguistic content regardless of more in-depth artistic meaning, and focusing on components such as costume, speech, food, environment, a well-intentioned educator or student can gain a fair deal of knowledge. The range of possibilities should be attractive to educators of any level and any discipline.
An educator who is interested in showing art and architecture could use a film clip to give a more three-dimensional look, or better virtual experience than even photography. Costume and language can be used to explore various times in history and places in society. When students can read about various aspects of culture and language, why then turn to film? Some students benefit more from contextual examples with visual and audio perspective. Actually seeing people use honorifics and in what context and to whom, and seeing how people's language change, can give great insight towards understanding the Japanese language and people. Film is also a great medium for education because of its inherent entertainment value. When the goal of teachers is to promote a genuine broad interest in a society, giving students exposure to material that may get them to do self-study in a subject, film offers the closest thing to immersion available.
Having acknowledged the value of film study, how then to you select films to use? In the case of Japan, culture and simply "Japanese-ness" has been explored by a director who defined a film era in Japan, Akira Kurowsawa. Having directed over thirty films, Kurosawa has received critical and popular acclaim for his work throughout Japan and the rest of the world. He provides a litany of Samurai films in which award-winning costume alone would make watching the films worthwhile for any student of Japan. These films also exhibit language and conflict unique to Japan. Kurosawa, like many people of his generation, was shaped by pre- and post-war issues of Japan. His films that address these issues can give a non-Japanese audience insight to problems Japanese people were and are concerned with and how they attempt to deal with them.
Why Kurosawa, and why not Anime or other directors? Kurosawa has enjoyed acclaim and disdain from Japanese critics and audiences. This variety of approval of his work, if looked at by a foreign student, can give even more insight on issues addressed in his films. The majority of Kurosawa's films takes place in reality, or could conceivably happen in Japan. With this in mind, Kurosawa's long list of films provides one of the best sources of the type of aforementioned analytical film viewing. Other films could prove useful in this type of analysis, but the eighteen films selected for this project more than fit the bill.
Copyright © 2005 Brendan Eagan