The Harrington School of Communication and Media in partnership with the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF), will host a unique educational and cinematic experience in June for educators and librarians in collaboration with the Film Foundation’s educational initiative, “The Story of Movies.” The free weekend seminar—“The American West and the Western Film Genre”—offers an interdisciplinary curriculum covering this important period of American history (1860-1900) and explores how 20th-century filmmakers represented this era.
The program will be held on the University of Rhode Island Kingston campus in Swan Hall, 60 Upper College Road, Saturday, June 14 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, June 15 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The seminar challenges educators to move far beyond a read-the-book, watch-the-movie approach to film study, by incorporating teaching strategies for how to read a film cinematically and as a historical and cultural document. This free interactive seminar includes film screenings and small group sessions for analysis. Participating educators will receive age-appropriate lessons and training materials for use with students in grades 5 through 12.
“This time of year, many students in schools all across New England are viewing films in the classroom as part of English or History classes,” said Renee Hobbs, professor and founding director of the Harrington School. “Through this new professional development initiative, educators and librarians can learn how to transform passive viewing into active, critical thinking that supports students’ ability to meet Common Core State Standards.”
Films selected for screening and discussion include John Ford’s Stagecoach and The Searchers, as well as George Stevens’ Shane. Saturday morning participants will also screen The Great Train Robbery, a silent film considered to be the first film narrative. Saturday evening’s feature film is The Big Trail, directed by Raoul Walsh in 1930, featuring a very young actor soon to make his mark on the big screen: John Wayne.
The seminar instructor is Catherine Gourley, an award-winning author of nonfiction books for young adults and the principal curriculum writer for The Film Foundation. She has presented programs on film study and popular culture nationally and internationally. “This is a real roll-up-your-sleeves, intensive immersion in what is essentially a unique American invention: the Western film,” says Gourley. “The Western was America’s mythology throughout the 20th century. We’re going to explore some of the consequences of fictionalizing the past. We also explore how the Western changed in the years after World War II and why today the Western genre has fallen into decline.”
The program also features a talk by Professor Kathryn Kalinak, director of the Film Studies program at Rhode Island College, an internationally recognized expert on film music. Her book, How the West was Sung: Music in the Westerns of John Ford, explores the use of folk songs, hymns and period music in Ford’s work.
Teachers who have participated in “The Story of Movies” program note how helpful the program is for introducing innovative instructional practices to enrich language arts and history classes. “It reinforced my ideas about using film as a resource and confirmed my desire to view film as a ‘text,’”said Cheryl Gonder, a participant who attended the program in Los Angeles in November 2013.
“The Story of Movies” is an educational outreach program of The Film Foundation, a not-for-profit film preservation organization founded by director Martin Scorsese and other prominent film directors. “The Story of Movies” is designed to help students better understand the language of film and visual images. “The American West and the Western Film Genre” seminar’s objective is to provide students with a deeper understanding of the various stages of American cultural history by examining the mythology that made this genre so appealing to generations of Americans.
The Harrington School of Communication at the University of Rhode Island prepares outstanding graduates for careers, life and citizenship in a rapidly changing global economy with programs in film/media, public relations, communication studies, journalism, writing and rhetoric, and a graduate program in library and information studies. In collaboration with the URI School of Education, the Harrington School is preparing to launch a 12-credit graduate certificate program in digital literacy to help educators, librarians and technology entrepreneurs to prepare the next generation for the digital economy of the 21st century.
Although “The Story of Movies” is free and open to the public, the weekend seminar requires registration; seats are limited.