THE INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE
1.- Objectives of the European year of Intercultural dialogue
The 18th December 2006 the European Parliament and the European Union Council decided to
declare the year 2008 as “The European Year of Intercultural Dialogue”. That institutional
declaration admitted the multicultural reality of Europe, pointing out the most outstanding
aspects of it:
• The recognition that the desire to create a union increasingly close has to be based on
respect for its national and regional diversity, emphasizing at the same time the
common cultural heritage;
• The affirmation that the growing diversity is so much the consequence of the different
people and nations that compose it as a result of old and new migratory flows and of
contacts with the rest of the world through commerce, education, leisure and
globalization in general.
• Such diversity is translated in an extensive range of interactions between the European
citizens and all the ones that live in the European Union and the diverse cultures,
tongues, ethnic groups and religions of inside and out of Europe.
A complex society as the one that we have before us, where different cultural identities and
beliefs coexist, requires to know, in an expressed way, that the different cultures are a
contribution to a common patrimony.
But by itself, the recognition of such fact does not guarantee the social links that the life in
common needs. Thus, the member states of the European Union are recognized in an
assembly of values that are the base on which to build the contact in the diversity.
One of the instruments with which we count to learn to live together in harmony is the
intercultural dialogue. The intercultural dialogue is an important dimension of multiple
common politics that have their concreteness in the environments of the Structural Funds, the
education, the permanent learning, the youth, the culture, the citizenship, the sport, the
equality between sexes, the employment, the social matters, the fight against the
discrimination and the social exclusion, the fight against the racism and the xenofobia, the
politics of asylum and integration of the immigrants, the human rights and the sustainable
development, the audiovisual politics and the investigation.
The "European Year of the Intercultural Dialogue" established as objectives:
Promoting the intercultural dialogue as a process that permits all the people that live in the
European Union to improve their aptitude to live in a cultural environment more open,
although also more complex, where different identities and confessions coexist.
Pointing out that the intercultural dialogue offers an opportunity of contributing to a dynamic
and varied society.
Making all the ones that live in the European Union, and particularly the youth, sensitive
about the importance of developing an active and open to the world European citizenship,
respectful of the cultural diversity and based on the common values of the European Union.
Emphasizing the contribution of the different cultures and expressions of the cultural
diversity to the patrimony and the ways of life of the member States of the European Union.
Increasing the sensitiveness of the ones that live in the European Union, particularly the
youth, regarding the importance of being committed with the intercultural dialogue in their
Working to identify, to share and to project all over Europe the good practices in the
promotion of the intercultural dialogue of the European Union, particularly among the youth
and the children
Promoting the role of the education as an important vector of learning of the diversity, to
improve the understanding of other cultures and the development of capacities and good
social practices, and to emphasize the central role of the mass media in the promotion of the
principle of equality and reciprocal understanding.
Enlarging the visibility and improving the coherence of all the programs and actions of the
Community that contribute to the intercultural dialogue, promoting them and guaranteeing
Contributing to the exploration of new focuses in matter of intercultural dialogue that imply
the cooperation among an extensive range of interested people proceeding from different
2.- A task for educators.
A declaration of intentions like this one has a wide transcendency in the school stage provided
that it entrusts the cultural formation of young men and women.
The old educational institution, its programs and the culture of its professionals has found its
own foundations defied by a society in constant, dizzying change, change requiring a
transformation of its most beloved paradigm: the construction of the citizenship based on a
national culture being understood as a common culture.
In fact, the national school had, and it has, as the center of its activity the construction of
nation with a common language, the national language, a common history, the altar for the
mother country’s heroes, and a national literature that was helping natives to be provided
with an identity. In the countries where the separation of the earthly power and the divine one
was not possible, the school was endowing the citizen with a common religion too.
The homogeneity of the society and the assimilation of minorities carrying culturally dissimilar
identities was considered as a sign of progress. The school formed a principal part of the
institutions of the State, to which this great work of human engineering was entrustred: to
mold all into one. 1
The recognition of the rights for these minorities, the presence in the national territory of
people proceeding from other countries, the wide international contact, the project of a
European unity, ... all these have forced to think about things in a different way, turning the
cultural diversity into an obliged reference of the political and institutional speeches.
So before us we have an old problem arising: what to support and what to change in our
educational institutions regarding the challenge of diversity. Some of the fields affected by this
2.1.- School programs.-
We cannot stop now to develop this point but it is convenient to mention the agglutinative effect of
this cultural offer which forced the rights of national minorities and turned the contact with the other
one into an exercise of violence which was concealed under the consideration of civilizing work.
The educational programs must avoid any slopes that minimize others or make them invisible,
keeping in mind, simultaneously, their contribution to the common wellfare. So school
programs are forced to show the human diversity and the contribution of diverse cultures to
the development of human kind, overcoming the nineteenth-century visions of racist nature
(the concealment of the imperialism like a civilizing task ) or the ethnocentrism that illuminates
the European domain to the detriment of the rest of the human cultures.2
The national curriculum has to be able to integrate those constitutive features of the nation
with the idea that people with different cultural traditions compose the real nation at present .
And, in addition, to demonstrate a project of political unity according to diversity: the
This task is not simple, especially when this school area is affected by publishing companies
that determine teachers capacity to intervene. To make available didactic materials with an
intercultural perspective is an urgent task whose completion requires changes to specific
The UNESCO has been a determined promoter of educational respectful projects with the cultural
diversities. The Declaration of the General Conference of the UNESCO in its 20th. meeting, in 1981,
indicates in its preamble: " Convinced that all peoples and all human groups, whatever their
composition or ethnic origin, contribute according to their own genius to the progress of the civilizations
and cultures which, in their plurality and as a result of their interpenetration, constitute the common
heritage of mankind,... ". And in paragraph 5.2. refering to the role of the State, it emphasized: " States,
in accordance with their constitutional principles and procedures, as well as all other competent
authorities and the entire teaching profession, have a responsibility to see that the educational
resources of all countries are used to combat racism, more especially by ensuring that curricula and
textbooks include scientific and ethical considerations concerning human unity and diversity and that no
invidious distinctions are made with regard to any people; by training teachers to achieve these ends; by
making the resources of the educational system available to all groups of the population without racial
restriction or discrimination; and by taking appropriate steps to remedy the handicaps from which
certain racial or ethnic groups suffer with regard to their level of education and standard of living and in
particular to prevent such handicaps from being passed on to children." In the Declaration of 1994 titled
" Framework of action on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy " it affirms: " ... 8.
Education must develop the ability to recognize and accept the values which exist in the diversity of
individuals, genders, peoples and cultures and develop the ability to communicate, share and co-
operate with others.".
In the field of the philosophy the concept of "constitutional patriotism" has become stronger and
stronger in order to realize that it is in the area of the laws where the real social cohesion rests. Peoples
with diverse traditions and cultural identities do an exercise of unity and social cohesion submitting
themselves to the same laws which give sense to their life together.
We ignore texts policy of the diverse countries that collaborate in this project. In the Spanish case, the
Ministery of Education of our central Government fixes 65 % of the school curriculum; the diverse
2.2.- The organization and the didactic methodologies .-
In our classrooms at schools, pupils coexist with different cultural traditions, identities,
religions, mother languages, etc. To give an accurate response to this reality forces us to
assume new organizational models and new didactic methodologies. Teaching the official
language turns into an essential task to guarantee the academic progress of our students.
Multiple learning experiences are being developed with external models different to those of
an ordinary classroom and with inclusive models in the reference group with extra supports.
Sometimes, when the provided means allow it, bilingual models of education are developed.
In these groups, parts of curriculum are taught in the mother language and the foreign
language is acquired gradually.
With the combination of accuracy in the official language and the maintenance of the mother
language, a program of reception is being experimented with those foreign students of recent
incorporation. These programs have an important dimension of socialization and integration
into groups of equals. It is thought that good relations living together are fundamental to
avoid indifference and rejection, generating affective links whose significance is obvious for all
The importance of cultural diversity in school organizations also includes our school
community. Luckily, the most numerous experiences are being developed by mothers’ and
fathers’ associations , cultural clubs, local authorities …, increasing the contact among families
with different cultural traditions, which shows the wealth(richness) and plurality of our
societies in parties, gastronomic and musical festivals, samples of crafts, ...
2.3 .-Teacher’s professional training
autonomous governments have right to fix 35 % destined particularly to various cultural specific aspects.
All this is assumed by the different publishing companies which make their texts keeping in mind such
regulations. The publishing companies are not forced to receive previous authorization. Teachers, in
every center of education, decide which texts are the most adapted among the publishing existing offer.
Finally, it concerns teacher’s professional training, which should add the following issues to the
tradicional academic training:
- A clear position of teachers as cultural agents
- A strong and larger knowledge of cultural sources, developing different strategies to valuate
and understand them.
- A special sensivity to avoid the negative effects of prejudices and stereotypes in minor
-A strong compromise in the fight against racism and xenophobia.
- Command and control of the didactic strategies to work in the classroom with groups which
are diverse, enabling the posibilities of dialogue among their members.
- Abililty to promote the active academic life of students belonging to minorities who live
between two cultures and whose academic success depends, to a grat extent, on the
acceptance and education they receive.
Teacher’s training plans, either in their starting level or in the updated level, should include all
aspects related with the role placed by teachers as cultural agents.
This is essential to build up a healthy social net based on the welfare of every social group.
3.- Solving the conflict of values
Understanding among people from different cultures and traditions is necessary for any
society to achieve mutual respect in thier coexistence through social links. Otherwise cultural
diversity can be also the root of conflicts as it sometimes means confrontation in their ways of
Accepting cultural diversity doesn’t mean accepting every single difference just because it is
validated in its own culture, even our own culture can be questioned and judged by others.
From our point of view, we cannot accept behaviours such as discrimination or social exclusion
generated in the core of some traditions and backgrounds. We should set the limits of
tolerance critizicing and rejecting any cultural aspect when it doesn’t allow the existente of
individual freedom and human rights. This is not an ethnocentric idea but an ethic compromise
with humanity. The European Union Treaty in its sixth article remarks freedom, democracy and
respect of the Human Rights as common values among thier members. The intercultural
curricula in the education finds here an inspiring referent to deal with the coexistence conflicts
and backs the intercultural dialogue.
4.- Films as a didactic tool
It is well-known how attractive films are for teenagers and young people nowadays. They
receive massive information through the language of films, which influence their personal
values and education , their view of the world....This is so to such an extent that some
pedagogues claim that from the second half of the20th century ,films and TV are as much
cultural agents in charge of the education, as school itself, both essential in the forming of
individuals and their identities.
Academic education cannot reject such an impressive and powerful art. But it is true that it is
sometimes difficult to combine it with the oficial curricula in education, established under
fixed timetables and disciplines. And considering also that the world of image has been
frowned upon by the cultural tradition governing the academic world.
School is the best of all scenarios to reproduce writing and reading tradition, reenforcing the
idea of “Gutenberg Galaxy”. This, has traditionally rejected those underground cultures
existing outsidethe school classroom such as TV, cinema, videogames or more recently, the
There is a common belief rooted in the academic world which condems digital and audio-visual
media as the main factors of a general and cultural confrontation between books, as the
source of real and true knowledge and images as the source of manipulated reality highlighted
by savage consumerism.
For decades, teachers have devoted themselves to avoid language of images so entertaining
and amusing, deminizing its educational effects opposing them to the discipline imposed by
the academic standards. In the same way Socrates thought writing was the end of the
memory, screens were rejected to preserve the essence of school education. Nevertheless,
school should be the best scenario where all written, oral, audio-visual and hypertextual
cultures may meet, so that our students can handle all the tools they need to develop their
Crossing cultural boundaries and shaping new ones, are tasks deeply related with teachers
who face education offering a wide range of tools for students to learn.
One has to remark in favour of the cinema that there is no other educational tool known to
have both, the ability of impact and attraction and the simplest way of making the complex
clear. Whether through realistic films or the wildest fiction, cinema has a global character
which no other art shares. Cinema is image, but also music, words and gestures, it’s clothes,
work, cooking, lifestyles, ways of getting involved with each other, wishful thinking,…it’s, in
short, an open window to life in all its complexity.
Its appeal arises out of a multiplicity of factors among which one may stress the following:
• Narrative capability. Films tell stories that attract the viewer’s interest, with a classical
narrative structure, that is an introduction, an exposition and an ending so as to
• Verisimilitude. Despite the artifice of the product, even though we all know that it is
fiction, one of its merits is to make us see it as real.
• Splitting. It is a reflection on human life, showing us unique experiences with a broad
impact on the consciousness of every viewer who learns through other lives to live his
own. It introduces us to a world of desires and realities that involve us emotionally.
• Entertainment. The enjoyment of the viewer is a guarantee of success: nobody is
compelled to go to the cinema or to choose a DVD if it is not rewarding.
• Communicative capability. It uses the image as a means of expression providing a
direct impact on the viewer which is complemented by sounds or at another level of
communication, by framings and camera movements to articulate emotions and
feelings which are easy to understand.
An art with these possibilities could not pass unnoticed by educational professionals, and by
and by its integration into education has been approached in two ways:
• To study the grammar of images: a) learning the language of films, b) learning film
making techniques and trying them out.
• To study the main themes: a) learning through films, b) revealing the hidden, distorted
4.1 .- Grammar of images
A first approach to the treatment of films at schools has to do with the education of the eye.
The LOGSE presented the challenge of integrating audiovisual media into the curriculum of
secondary education. This integration was carried out through optional subjects such as Image
and expression or Audiovisual Communication and Multimedia with wide acceptance among
Despite the diversity of teaching approaches, this approach emphasizes, as the centre of
school work, media literacy. The film narrative is made through images. These images make up
a sign system itself. Therefore it is a specific language that can be analyzed in the same way as
A quote from Jesus Jimenez (1993) extracted from Prolegómenos para una gramática filmica
en clave pedagógica adequately summarizes this approach: "Just as the grammatical
structures of a language are composed of nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc., and these are joined
together in sentences; in the same way a film is composed of a set of shots that are grouped
together to form sequences. Along with grammar, there is also syntax which expresses itself
through the editing of the film which is the procedure by which the different shots are joined to
form scenes and sequences ... ".
So the issue is to learn to read the film, to decipher the meaning of images like one deciphers
the meaning of words and concepts in a literary text. To understand the subtleties of film
language students are taught how images are generated, structured, how contents are
transmitted and how messages are formed. It is considered that to assess the plot and the
psychological and sociological elements of a film it is imperative to dissect the very elements of
film language such as movements and camera angles, editing, lighting...
Reading images, learning about the elements that make them up, has not the sole purpose of
media literacy. There is also the intention that the viewer may become a message sender, as
far as they master the language that makes this possible. Thus, the simple approach to cinema
as art is postulated as well, especially from university environments, pointing out that showing
a map of Kiarostami does more for the education of a child than analyzing the narrative syntax
The working methods in this approach focus on the appropriate selection of films considering
their artistic quality and the division into their different parts. This is an exercise of elucidating
the creative decisions that films contain marking the elections the director had to take to solve
a scene (sets, actors, rhythm, sound ...), the arrangements made to link these elements and
the position of the cameras while filming. The work from this perspective would prepare and
encourage the students to become a creator, an artist who is trained to finally produce his
own work with a camera, entering previously into what it is to create using pictures (Bergala,
4.2.-THE MAIN THEMES
But the dominant use of the cinema on the scholastic stage is the one we have called “the
grammar of the great themes”. It is about a functional use where the film is the result of a
didactic resource at the disposal of the teacher to encourage curiosity and training period
about certain aspects of school programmes. Due to its importance there exists a wide range
of experiences with regards to a vast bibliography. There are plenty of specialised works
showing the importance of the cinema in the study of academic disciplines such as : History ,
Literature , Ethics , Philosophy , Music or Science. This didactic use of the cinema implies to
establish connections between the School programme and the tools or didactic materials
possessed by the teacher when he wants to represent his educational intentions.
In this way , the cinema gets into other ages giving us a reconstruction of unthinkable words in
another way. Such as “the time machine” of Sr. Wells , as if by magic , which can transport us
to classical Greece , allows us to enjoy in the first line the confrontation between “Capulets”
and “Mantises” or suffer the unpleasantness of an industrial worker facing a dehumanized
assembly line. And the cinema acts as if we attend a social-history and mentality essay. It gives
us information about everything related to the human beings which are surrounded by its
lively passing : ways of thinking , feeling , dreaming , living , nourishing , working , getting in
touch with people , enjoying or suffering. And, what can give more ? which training period is
able to build these global worlds and put them at the disposal of an act of learning and
apprenticeship?. In this way, the expressive richness and the construction of reality in the
cinema allows us to enter into other ages , cultures , forms , of life , offering in this way a great
opportunity to treat the school contents.
Beyond a disciplinary use , the cinema is also the way to move to the school territory an
engaged glance with the world of values . The education of values displays the use of this
resource as an essential source of experiences.
However , together with these potentialities , the cinema also possesses an ambivalent
character . The power of the cinema doesn’t get rid of the plans of the unscrupulous rulers
who have used it as a weapon to obtain the acquiescence of the big masses. Its incredible
force has been used by the advertising machine of the 3rd Reich in “triumph of the
willingness”(1)(Leni Riefenstathl , 1934 ), considered by the experts as the most perfect
On the other hand , the cinema is a document of age and as such , it shows visions of the world
and the mentalities of a certain period of History. In this way , the cinema has adjusted a
twisted image of certain human groups. “The Birth of a Nation” by David Wark Griffith (1915),
a wonderful film , for so many reasons , supports the image of a black person as a corrupt,
violent and lustful person which became a stereotype with very negative consequences .
Nowadays , the main stream cinema , that of the main Hollywood Studios , offers some
finished examples of this political usage , turning it into a war weapon which justifies , the
invasion of Irak or turns the Islam and its followers into extreme terrorists.
As Ramón Gubert (2006 )shows us images are not innocent , they are no mirrors which can
reflect reality, but points of view , either optic ,moral or ideological. In this way , a critical
lecture of the cinema is compulsory , making an analysis of the values of the world and its
effects in the own personal and social reality.
The training period of the main themes or the education of the glance require a critical training
where the lustful effects of the cinema can be taken into account , the cinema can possess a
harmful soul , a “weapon full of sense , or bad sense” which has been decoded . Known as an
art Pedagogy works on suspect : the films may contain , as attraction , very bad values making
apology of violence , justifying racism , giving importance to sexism , homophobe…….The
critical reading of the cinema has as its last objective the social reconstruction , the desire of
having a fair and equal society.
Leni Riefensthal who spent four years in French jails for her collaboration with Nazism , was undertaken
by Hitler to film the assemblies of the Nazism party in Nuremberg. In 1933 she directs “The victory of
the Faith” and “The Triumph of the Willingness” in 1934 with a tremendous international repercussion.
The Nazism Government entrusted her in 1936 the filming of the Olympic Games of Berlin an immense
work in which she handled during 4 weeks 45 cameras which gave her possibility to shoot more than
400 km of film and nearly 2 years of frantic activity in the montage room. It’s a real film monument ,
which obtained the Golden Lion in Venice in 1938.
5.- Films as a tool for intelcultural dialogue
Our proposal of using films as a tool to make intercultural dialogue posible lies within the
approach we have defined as main themes.
Fortunately, we have left behind the times when films were the expression of the genius
ofwestern civilization or of Hollywod´s industry , when the dominant trend expressed the
white anglosaxon protestant male´s point of view, condemning women and people with other
identity signs to the role of mere companions of the epic protagonist, white and male.
Nowadays we have films which give an account of the lifestyles of the many varied human
groups, with their cultural expressions, their identities, their problems and aspirations. We also
have singular views on the living- together of people with different identity signs. And an
ample gallery of documentaries and fiction films which deal with current problems such as
inmigration or exile, racism and xenophobia, integration and living together.
There also abundant examples of films which give an account of the complex world the
youngsters face. The living together in the same space of different ethnical groups is giving
way to varied mixes where the original cultural traditions mingle, generating new models of
action and relationships and new identities. The conflict among peers, the breaking of the
family´s cultural traditions, the problems derived from the adscription to different religious
creeds, the changes in the models of sexual and gender identities, the integration in society or
the rejection, all these are some of the issues present film-makers are giving us an insight of.
We are already in the presence of a global cinema, fragmented, multicultural and plural. It is a
task for the educators to make it an educative action.
And the main problem we have to face is simply that of selection. There is plenty of material. It
is necessary to watch films and select those which can render easy the task we propose. And
the task, being simple, is not easy.Young people´s taste in films is becoming affected by what
they call the excessive image: very spectacular films, with a lot of action, suspense and visual
violence, a frantic rhytm, many special effects..the purpose of all this is the giddiness, the
stupefaction of the viewer.
So,our work is condemned to go against the current. What we propose is a reflective cinema,a
cinema for sensibility, for understanding. And the conflict becomes obvious. We cannot expect
our proposal to be well received by the students.Neither are they motivated by equations ,
chemistry or irregular verbs. It is of no importance. Our task is to educate, not to amuse.
Our intention is to select a significative number of films that allow us to go with students into
the problems derived from the intercultural coexistence so that they can acquire knowledge
and competence in order to live together positively in a situation of diversity such as exists
nowadays in Europe. The work is an invitation to the teachers to create resources that will
allow them to deal with teaching and learning processes in which intercultural coexistence is
the center of attention.
The main topics of the proposed films selected are:
• Racism and xenophobia
• Inmigration or emigration
• The expression of different cultural minorities
• The living together of people of different cultures
• The relationships among young people of diverse identities
• The new sexual identities
• The living together of different generations
The procedure is to watch such films, reflect upons its pedagogical adequacy and propose a
didactical methodology to tackle the most significant aspects of the film dealing with the topic
we are interested in.
Of each film we make:
• Technical file
• Artistic file
• Brief note presenting the director
• A critical commentary on the film, its quality and interest for our purposes.
• Finally, a pedagogical exploitation file conceived as material that facilitates classroom
work : organize a debate, small group activity, individual work, etc.