Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Power of Film

Hazelnuts on the branch
I returned to Thimphu on Friday to start conversations with potential teachers (some great leads) and to sort out my Indian transit visa so that I can make the journey to Dewathang in one day (through India) instead of three (the Bhutanese lateral route). But the visa office was closed and so it was back to the Ambient for more chance meetings of the best kind. Daniel Spitzer and his colleague Justin Finnegan, the hazelnut maestros, came in just as I had gotten settled. We sat together and began formalizing our collaboration as if we had planned the meeting. While their project is based in the Mongar Dzongkhag, it is still in eastern Bhutan and the education for workers model that they are developing could easily be sent down to S/J to help businesses in the region. I'm really seeing the balance of having these four pilot projects in place and am excited by the possibilities. We discussed where the December vipassana retreat for teachers should take place. Bodhgaya? Burma? Bhutan? Somewhere warm would be nice.

In the evening I attended Lama Shenphen's movie night at Deer Park. It's a wonderful offering on his part, sharing alternative and independent films followed by a discussion of its themes every Friday night. The film nights attract a good mix of Bhutanese and chillips, young and old. This week's film was All the Invisible Children, a series of shorts from various directors on the theme of child exploitation. I was struck, of courses, by how education can shape a child, both in a positive and negative way. By the way, Lama is always interested in collecting more films to show, preferably contemporary, in English or with subtitles, with content that does not glorify drugs, misogyny, etc.

When I think back about my own education, about the moments when I was shown a new way of thinking, I realize that film played an essential role. Documentaries have had a particular impact on my behavior, such as The Corporation, after which I changed my spending habits, and Earthlings, after which I stopped eating meat. If you care to comment, please share your favorite educational films, I'm interested to know, particularly if there are online resources, such as the PBS site, that we can use in our teacher training or in the classroom. SJI has already translated The Story of Stuff and The Story of Bottled Water (with approval from the filmmakers) into the local dialect of east Bhutan to great effect. I am starting to think that translation might ending up being a big part of the work we have ahead.

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