Movie theaters as learning venues – education through film with adolescent refugees
[Lernort Kino: Filmarbeit mit jungen Flüchtlingen]
Science project managers: Tanja Grendel, Heidrun Schulze
Project sponsor: MIK Netzwerkarbeit at the Berufsschulzentrum Wiesbaden e.V.
Partners: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung [Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation]; Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft [Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Movie Industry]; RhineMain University of Applied Sciences
Project initiative: Rita Thies, cultural manager, secondary school teacher (retired head of the cultural and school department); Birgit Goehlnich, permanent representative of the Supreme Youth Protection Authorities of the Federal States at Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft GmbH, FSK
Point of departure – the target group
Located just a few meters from the FSK headquarters and the Murnau-Filmtheater Wiesbaden are the five vocational schools of Wiesbaden, which were attended by approximately 350 adolescent refugees aged 16-18 in the first half of 2016. In InteA classes (integration through graduation), the adolescents learn German and are given the opportunity to earn school-leaving certificates that will enable them to enter vocational training or higher education programs. As soon as these adolescents have rudimentary language skills, they should be offered the opportunity to commit to attending a program at Murnau Cinema once a month for one year.
Given the new challenges they face, young refugees in the process of integration should be supported through ongoing film work. Film work here refers specifically to the promotion of identity development, in particular with regard to supporting an understanding of democracy, dealing with gender roles and differently-minded persons, as well as developing an attitude that is critical of violence. The film work, i.e. the joint viewing of a movie followed by a discussion about it, serves to develop and facilitate a sense of community in the cultural space of the cinema and to expand the language and communication skills of the adolescents. In any case, this form of film work supports the identity formation process as well as the acquisition of knowledge about the participants' new living and cultural environment.
Especially during adolescence, when young adults have to cope with crucial development tasks, film work offers a holistic education which, in addition to an analytical and content-focused examination of the material viewed, also includes the sensual and the emotional dimensions. Films educate aesthetically through the experience of cinematic space, body, sound, music, and time, emotionally through empathizing with characters who are winning, failing, in love, or in mourning, and intellectually through reflection on and comparisons with one's own lifeworld, the abstraction of messages, critical evaluation, and contextualization with regard to other film experiences. Movie characters play a particularly important role in puberty; conflicts and orientation issues are dramatically condensed in their stories and decisions. The cinema thus becomes an ideal setting in which to try out roles and experiences, especially for adolescents.
The films selected were experienced in a co-ed cinema and group situation that reflected the lifestyles of young people. The collective reception of the film offers two perspectives for contemplation: how do I experience the film, and how do the others react to what they saw? The event covered two films shown in the context of the project: »Bend it like Beckham« and »Billy Elliott,« both of which address the issue of gender roles. A guideline for the group discussion following the film screening was developed in collaboration with the project managers.
Following the film screenings organized by the »Lernort Kino« initiative (conducted by the MIK Netzwerkarbeit at the Berufsschulzentrum Wiesbaden e.V. in collaboration with the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation and the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft (Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Movie Industry) organization), group discussions were held with the adolescent refugees. In this »open« conversational setting in the cinema, content-related questions about the genre, film content, and the associated message, and character portrayal were discussed, and film-analytical aspects such as camera, editing, music and sound, lighting, and color composition examined. The goal was to talk to the young people about the films shown, allowing them to determine the topics discussed.
Content analysis was then performed on the transcripts of the group discussions by students of the Department of Social Work at RheinMain University of Applied Sciences. Among others, these students considered the following questions:
||How are these films decoded or interpreted by the adolescents?
||Is the representation of gender roles perceived as a realistic reflection of gender roles in the European context?
||Which socio-cultural differences regarding gender stereotypes are being addressed?
||Which stimuli are being formulated for reflection about gender roles?
The aim was to provide program managers with feedback regarding the ways in which the adolescents receive the films, stimuli for reflecting on socio-culturally shaped gender roles, and recommendations for the further conception and orientation of content for education through film for refugees. The aim of the project was to gain an insight into films as gateways and cinematic forms of processing information as well as topics relevant to the lifeworld of adolescent refugees.
The project allowed a number of lifeworld issues affecting the adolescents to be identified, among them experiences of everyday racism as well as academic aspirations and subjectively perceived educational opportunities in Germany. Overall, it became clear that films offer successful, low-threshold access to adolescent refugees. When asked, the adolescents stated that they found the discussions following the film screenings enriching with regard to the content of the discussion and as a language acquisition resource. From a scientific point of view as well, the medium of film has proven to be a useful means of accessing issues affecting adolescents. The focal points of the film-related discussion chosen by the adolescents themselves reveal issues that are relevant to their lifeworld. In addition, the film offers the adolescents the opportunity either to talk abstractly about certain topics or to independently establish a connection between the film and their own experiences (for detailed results cf. Mittermaier 2017
Challenges: At the beginning of the project, films were selected intentionally to encourage the adolescents to talk about certain topics, such as gender roles. As it turned out, the adolescents had other priorities. This development helped confirm the advantage of the medium of film as a conversational stimulus. Thanks to an open attitude and interview format, it was possible to incorporate those topics the adolescents felt were relevant.