Letters from Educators About REEL CANADA


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“REEL CANADA: In-School Film Festivals as a Medium for Values Based Education”

Jack Blum and Sharon Corder
Saturday August 11 from 2:30 – 3:30

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Letters from Educators About REEL CANADA

  1. 1. EARL HAIG SECONDARY SCHOOL Department of English Monday, February 27th, 2012Ontario Arts Council151 Bloor Street West5 th floorToronto, Ontario, M5S 1T6 Re: REEL CANADATo Whom It May Concern:A week tomorrow, we will be running our 7th annual REEL CANADA Film Festival at Earl HaigSecondary School. We were a pilot school for the project in its first two years when REELCANADA came in with projection equipment, crews, films and guests to help put on the festival.Since then, we have continued to mount our own festival each year with the blessings of REELCANADA founders, Jack Blum and Sharon Corder.At Earl Haig, about 800+ students are involved in a REEL CANADA festival. After next week,we will have shown 28 feature or documentaries films as well as a number of short and animationprograms. Each screening is followed by a guest speaker (see separate list of films and some of themany speakers.) While the films are rich on so many levels, the opportunity to engage with peoplelike Gordon Pinsent, Sarah Polley, Don McKellar, Peter Lynch and Peter Raymont is invaluable.Students have benefited from experiencing the passion and commitment to film making and toideas that all the guests bring with them. This is true education and these guests impart importantlife lessons to students that, coupled with the films, have a huge impact on our teenagers.Over the years, I have watched REEL CANADA develop better-and-better support resources forteachers and students like curriculum-related study guides. Teachers even use their rich resourcecatalogue in preparing Grade 10 students for the literacy test. REEL CANADA reaches out toteachers from all disciplines and I recently attended a workshop of theirs with 200 other teachersfrom the TDSB on our Pro-D day on February 17th. 100 Princess Avenue, Toronto, ON, M2N 3R7 Telephone: (416) 395-3210 Extension 20090 Fax: (416) 395-4203
  2. 2. With the Claude Watson School for the Performing Arts as part of the larger school, Earl Haig is astrong promoter of the Arts and mounting a REEL CANADA film festival underscores theimportance of Canadian film as one of our art forms. In 2007, Earl Haig graduated its first class ofScreen Arts majors, and REEL CANADA has helped strengthen many of the curriculumexpectations for their courses. Over the years, we have tailored the festival to reach into the otherareas of arts curriculum besides Screen Arts – Drama, Music, Dance, and Visual Arts. As well, wehave selected Canadian films that target other departments like English, Modern Languages,Science, Socials, Phys Ed, and ESL. The festival has generated more discussion in the schoolabout Canadian feature and documentary films and as a result, we are using more Canadian film inour teaching. Within the English Department alone, films like Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, TheSnow Walker, Passchendaele, Shake Hands With the Devil, Who Has Seen the Wind, Such A LongJourney, and the NFB’s McLuhan’s Wake, RiP: A Remix Manifesto, Ryan, and Reel Injun, have allbeen added as they complement curriculum expectations, themes and other materials. We have alarge ESL population in this school of 2200+ students and this festival helps these students withtheir enculturation process as new Canadians.When I first began teaching Canadian Literature in the mid-1970s, Margaret Atwood’s thematictreatment of Canadian Literature, Survival, was an important reference guide. While our contexthas changed considerably – e.g. the make-up of our population and the growing importance offilm as text and story-telling – Atwood’s basic thesis remains relevant for me: “Literature is not only a mirror; it is also a map, a geography of the mind. Our literature is one such map, if we can learn to read it as our literature, as the product of who and where we have been. We need such a map desperately, we need to know about here, because here is where we live. For the members of a country or culture, shared knowledge of their place, their here, is not a luxury but a necessity.”REEL CANADA helps us rediscover the importance of our Canadian stories. This organization iscreative in its programming, professional in delivering it at many levels, totally responsive toteachers’ requests and a school’s needs, and fun to work with. In my long teaching career, I cansay that this has been one of the most rewarding projects that I have been involved with. With thesupport from REEL CANADA, I am proud that Earl Haig has been able to carry on its ownCanadian film-festival and become a model for other schools in Ontario.Yours sincerely,David ReidDepartment of English(former Curriculum Leader) 100 Princess Avenue, Toronto, ON, M2N 3R7 Telephone: (416) 395-3210 Extension 20090 Fax: (416) 395-4203
  3. 3. ---------- Forwarded message ----------From: Dan Retson <danretson@hotmail.com>Date: Fri, Apr 27, 2012 at 7:57 AMSubject: Reel Canada FundingTo: Mark Meeks <mark@reelcanada.com>, alison@reelcanada.comTo Whom it May Concern,I am a teacher with the Toronto District School Board. I would like toexpress how lucky my school has been to host the Reel Canada FilmFestival. For three years the festival has come to our school andbeen nothing short of transformative for our students.When we first contacted Reel Canada, we thought we understoodwhat it was, a day of Canadian culture to act as a value added eventin our school year. Of course it was that, but we underestimated itsvalue, the true effect of the event was so much greater.The festival provided a venue for students and teachers alike topartake in an authentically Canadian cultural experience; anexchange of ideas that was truly Canadian. As I write the wordCanadian I realize that in no small way the festival has helped toshape what that word means to me. Though we use it every day, ourunderstanding of the word Canadian is informed mostly when we aregiven opportunities to view the marvelous mosaic of cultures andpeoples our country includes.The festival is one such opportunity. It provides Canadian youth witha rare change to feel the beating cultural heart of who we are andwhat we have to say. These are the youth we are trying to encourageto get involved in the conversation of what it is to be Canadian. If we canshow them what it feels like to be Canadian, we are giving them the powerto shape the future of our national identity, to keep it alive and growing.Beyond tired stereotypes of Canadiana, the Festival is one of the rarechances our students have to gain insight into what Canada lookslike. Refreshingly, that picture of Canada often looks at lot like them.Seeing their faces reflected in the variety ofcultural artifacts incorporated into the Festivals program addressesthe needs of our the most at risk students. Students who so often
  4. 4. find teachers nothing more than authority figures, are able to laughand cry sitting next to their teachers. They get to finally see an imagethat resembles their Canada or possibly for the first time they beginto understand what Canada is for others across the country byviewing an honest portrait of their lives.Not only does the festival inspire our students on a cultural level, but theCanadian guests who came to our school and made and starred in thefilms inspired our students to understand that the movies are not just aHollywood product which we consume. Film can be a labour of love madeby people just like themselves.In an age when our students are becoming increasingly media savvy,their potential as media producers is sadly under-encouraged in ourschools. We show them how to use a camera, but if we cannot showthem a venue where their product speaks to an audience then we arenot really giving them any idea of why they would bother to put theirideas to film.The Reel Canada Film Festival is a gift in our school. A response tothe deafening roar of foreign culture in which our students areperpetually engulfed. The festival has given our students anotherview. A view not just of film, but of who they are and what they canbe. I for one believe that what Reel Canada accomplishes in ourschools everyday provides our students with the knowledge that theyhave a voice and they live in a country waiting to hear it.Dan RetsonTeacherMonarch Park CollegiateToronto Ontario  
  5. 5. Learning the NowGino BondiWhy Aesthetic Literacy?Posted on November 25, 2010 by Gino Bondi This is going to be good. I like public things. I like public schools and public people. Leon Bronstein in The TrotskyToday, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Dustin Keller (http://jo-online.vsb.bc.ca/keller/ twitter:@Solitaryvox) we hosted our first ever John Oliver Film Festival. Sponsored by Reel Canada, 8 movies werescreened all day throughout the school with over 1200 students serving as a viewing audience.A whole day watching films: why?Because we need to celebrate the brilliant work of Canadian film makers;Because we want our students to appreciate that walking into a theatre, a public, communal space is an“experience”;Because aesthetic literacy, an understanding and appreciation of the arts, is essential if we expect those around usto be responsive and empathic to the wonders and, concomitantly, the mundane in the world;Because if we do not give our students ‘access points’ to film and the arts we will have failed in our efforts toprovide them with a comprehensive education;Because, as Film: 21st Century Literacy espouses, “in the same way that we take for granted that society has aresponsibility to help children to read and write – to use and enjoy words – we should take it for granted that wehelp children and young people to use, enjoy and understand moving images; not just to be technically capablebut to be culturally literate too.”As I was sitting in the South Gym watching “The Trotsky” this morning, I couldn’t help but be moved by thebeauty and significance of the event. There were 350 students, eating popcorn, being respectful of the ad hoctheatre space and each other, and truly engaging in the movie (when 17 ½ year old Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel)kissed 27 year old Alexandra (Emily Hampshire), I smiled as the 200 boys in the crowd started clapping – yesdreams can come true! However, a line that truly did resonate with me was spoken by Frank (Michael Murphy), aburned-out activist-turned-college professor, who tells Leon that “things have a way of improving if weimprove them ourselves.”Things have improved at JO because rather than being drowned out by the squeaky wheel noise of oursurrounding political and organizational inertia, we (staff, students and parents) have improved our school . . .ourselves. Initiatives, directions and curriculum will always change; however, in hosting this film festival, in usingfilm as a means to engage with our community, in speaking with our students today about what they saw and whatthey experienced, we continue to improve our community by ‘connecting’ and speaking to the hearts of all,addressing not only what they learn but what they feel; we stay committed to the promise that, through the arts,our students can and will grow in their understanding of themselves and the world around them.As I was leaving this evening, still all emotional and teary eyed over how “special” this day was, I realized that I
  6. 6. had forgotten my blackberry on the stage in the auditorium. Not wishing to run halfway across the school totingall of my bags, I approached a couple of grade 9 girls who were sitting on the floor doing homework – how could Igo wrong?!? I called one of the girls over and asked her if she would go to the auditorium for me. Her nodsignifying acceptance of the mission, I took out my school master key and ceremoniously enlightened her with thefact that for the next 2 minutes, with this key, she would be the most powerful person in the school. She looked atme in awe; soft lighting engulfed her as she took the key from my extended fingers, gracefully turned to her friendand with an innocence and excitement which could not be feigned said, “Look, the custodian’s keys.”Cut! That’s a wrap! 37This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.Learning the NowProudly powered by WordPress.