The Storytelling Class
An after-school storytelling project in a diverse, but divided, city school breaks cultural boundaries and creates community.
Directed by John Paskievich and John Whiteway
Produced by Sedna Pictures, Inc.
Camera: John Paskievich
Sound: John Whiteway
Original Music: Norman Dugas
Produced and developed in association with OMNI Television, a division of Rogers Communications
Note: There are two versions of this film on the same DVD: 59 minutes and 47 minutes. Both versions are available with Spanish subtitles.
"An engaging and powerful resource for teaching about breaking cultural boundaries and creating community." Dr. James A. Banks, Chair in Diversity Studies, Founding Director for the Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington-Seattle
Located in Winnipeg's downtown core, Gordon Bell High School is probably the most culturally varied school in the city, with 58 different languages spoken by the student body. Many students are children who have arrived as refugees from various war torn areas of the world.
In an effort to build bridges of friendship and belonging across cultures and histories, teacher Marc Kuly initiated an after-school storytelling project whereby the immigrant students would share stories with their Canadian peers.
The catalyst for this cross-cultural interaction was the students' reading of A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, a memoir of Beah's horrific time as a child soldier in Sierra Leone's civil war.
These voluntary after-school meetings take dramatic turns and reach their climax when Ishmael Beah and professional storyteller Laura Simms travel from New York to work with them. With their help the students learn to listen to each other and find the commonality that so long eluded them.
Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2010
Copyright Date: 2009
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-963-1
"Wow, what a wonderful film. In an era when narrowed standards, high-stakes testing, and the drive to earn profits are dehumanizing this place we call school, it is easy to lose sight of the profound suffering by our youth. But not so with the creative educators and diverse group of students in The Storytelling Class. This moving and inspiring film showcases the healing potential of telling one's stories, and the liberatory potential of listening deeply."
Dr. Kevin Kumashiro, Professor, University of Illinois-Chicago, Director, Center for Anti-Oppressive Education, and Author, Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice
"For any educators who have the courage to be real about school reform, this video will show you where to begin. Resist the testing and the scripted curriculum, and start with your students' own stories. This program demonstrates how to release the power of your students' intelligence by inviting their authentic voices into the classroom. When the teacher and students in this film create a safe space to share and heal their own pain, they also show us how we might heal the world."
Gary Howard, Founder, REACH Center for Multicultural Education, Author, We Can't Teach What We Don't Know
"The Storytelling Class is an engaging and powerful resource for teaching about breaking cultural boundaries and creating community. Students from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural groups learn that their differences are overshadowed by shared hopes, fears, and joys that bind them together in the human journey."
Dr. James A. Banks, Chair in Diversity Studies, Founding Director for the Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington-Seattle, Author, Teaching Strategies for the Social Sciences
"I found this documentary to be about so much more than diversity. It is about people connecting as they try to make sense of the world around them. This is a very useful, real, and sometimes raw look at how story teaches us lessons of identity, inclusion, healing, change, acceptance and much more."
Kimberly M. Cuny, Director, The University Speaking Center, University of North Carolina-Greensboro
"[A] heartwarming documentary of finding commonality and learning to listen to one another."
The Midwest Book Review
"The intensity of each participant's emotions is palpable as the camera records both prepared and spontaneous moments...An excellent choice for classes reading A Long Way Gone and those exploring the collective responsibility to overcome prejudice."
School Library Journal
"Gordon Bell High is comprised of rich and poor, aboriginals, Afghans, Arabs, Africans, refugees for war-torn countries, immigrants, and a recent influx of Burmese students. Much of the film portrays students talking about their ethnicities and races and how stratified and segregated the school is...Marc Kuly, a teacher, set out to bring students together...The experience 'was like wildfire spreading through the school. Kids loved it.' Recommended."
Caron Knauer, La Guardia Community College, Educational Media Reviews Online
"The Storytelling Class is a positive and hopeful example of the simple process of taking the time to get to know the people in your immediate vicinity, and perhaps once the skill of listening and accepting is acquired, it can be practiced and spread. Suitable for high school classes and college courses in cultural anthropology, intercultural communication, anthropology of conflict and war, anthropology of conflict resolution, and Canadian/North American studies, as well as for general audiences."
Jack David Eller, Community College of Denver, Anthropology Reviews Database
"A powerful film...The Storytelling Class is not a 'how-to-do' film regarding teaching the art of storytelling, but rather it is an evocative demonstration of how a particular teacher got students, outside of class time, to tell important stories from their own lives. While this film focuses on the experiences of young people in wartorn countries, the techniques illustrated can be used with any group of adolescents or adults. Highly Recommended."
CM Magazine, Manitoba Library Association
"Kuly's charges not only learn from each other, but also teach their dedicated instructor a thing or two...Recommended."
Two versions of the film on the same DVD: 59-minutes and 47-minutes. Both versions have Spanish subtitles as an option or SDH Captions in English, and include scene selection.
Awards and Festivals
Chris Statuette, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Gold Remi Award, Houston International Film Festival
Outstanding Canadian Documentary, ReelWorld Film Festival
Global Visions Film Festival
Gimli Film Festival
Global Justice Film Festival
Freeze Frame International Film Festival for Kids
ReFrame Film Festival
American Psychological Association Convention
Western Psychological Association Film Festival
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