Ten Short Films Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have consistently argued that that I do not believe that colleges should close on the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Instead, we should suspend business as usual and conduct seminars, teach-ins, and other events to honor Dr. King.  As I recognize in “The ‘Problem’ with Dr. Martin Luther King Day,” suspending the first day of class is problematic and I share my plans for 16 January 2012.

Even if colleagues are unable to turn their entire class over to a reflection of Dr. King, I would encourage them to something.  One possibility is to show a short film that could spark a discussion about Dr. King’s legacy.

Each of the following ten films is followed by at least one quotation from Dr. King.  Because I have a quirky way of linking things together, I would not be offended if someone were to ask how I see a discussion of the film as a way to honor Dr. King or how I envision the film and quotation fitting together.

The following list of ten films is fairly arbitrary, but it is one way to begin a discussion.  I hope that others will list their choices as comments to this post.

Teaching is Like… [0:26]

In this  film, Professor Mark Harris lights a candle while talking about education.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

10 Minutes [9:16]

This film contrasts contrasts the experiences of a tourist in Rome with that of a boy living in Sarajevo during the same ten minute period.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 Black Button [7:08]

After his death, a man is given a choice the decision to which reveals his true character.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

 The Life and Death of a Pumpkin [4:56]

Carving a pumpkin is told from the point of view of the pumpkin.  I have also used this film to teach ethnocentrism.

 “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

Schwarzfahrer [10:00]

This German film with English subtitles features a woman expounding racist attitudes on a crowded train and the effect it has on her.  The film can also be used to facilitate a discussion of the issue of silence.  See quotes under We are the Richest Nation on the Planet.

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

Offside [5:59]

Palestinian and Israeli troops (two on each side) are temporarily united by a love of soccer.

 “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Strangers [7:11]

There is quiet tension between a Palestinian man and an Israel man on a train until they are temporarily united by a common enemy.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

We are the Richest Nation on the Planet [2:12]

Stephanie Driver created this documentary in 2009 when she was a student at Schoolcraft College.  The documentary asks us to think about a variety of contemporary social issues.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

 “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Just War [4:31]

Four soldiers on patrol are attacked, saved with air support, and then confront one of their attackers in person.  Knowledge of Augustine’s “just war theory” is not required to address issues raised by the film.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

In Der Obamahrer’s Face [2:47]

Spike Jones’ “In de Fuehrer’s Face” serves as the backdrop of a series of posters and images commenting on President Obama.  The racism inherent in many of the images is disturbing as is the theme of equating Obama and Hitler.  Viewers might also be interested in viewing Donald Duck’s In der Fuhrer’s Face [7:56], an anti-Hitler propaganda film produced during World War II.

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”



Revisions made on 11 January 2012:  Short summaries and run times for each film were added to the original posting.

“Fifteen Non-Fiction Videos Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” was posted on 15 January 2012.

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