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Suitablity of "The Pianist" for Yr 9


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#1 Eleanor

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 12:59 PM

I am currently teaching the holocaust to a difficult Yr 9 group. It is generally quite a challenge to get them to engage in class, so I was worried they wouldn't take it seriously, but so far it's been going pretty well. I would therefore like to build on what we have already done (a general overview and some investigation into individual victims) and show them a video. I particularly wanted to show "The Pianist" because of how it shows the affects of the various restrictions placed on Jews and because the story of the German officer who helps Szpilman would be a great lead into looking at people who risked everything to stand up against what was happening (and would also help to dispell the "all Germans were evil" assumptions).

I'm worried about the suitability of the movie though (it's a 15 certificate) and specifically the scene where the old man is thrown out of the window and his family are chased and shot down. My department is tentatively willing to back me but I don't want to get them or the school into trouble if there are complaints. Does anyone have any experience of this or advice they can offer? Are the benefits worth the risks?

#2 Andrew Field

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 01:22 PM

Most certainly show the film - it is an excellent way of illustrating the horrors of the Holocaust and particularly the way that the Nazis introduced rule after rule.

Two things to do though. Find out what Media Studies / English do at your school when showing films. Is there a procedure already setup? You'll probably find there is. Then - if necessary - you can send a letter home to the students to ask for confirmation.

Once you have parental permission then it is fine. As part of a study into the Holocaust what you want to do is entirely appropriate.


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#3 Ed Waller

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 01:25 PM

I am currently teaching the holocaust to a difficult Yr 9 group. It is generally quite a challenge to get them to engage in class, so I was worried they wouldn't take it seriously, but so far it's been going pretty well. I would therefore like to build on what we have already done (a general overview and some investigation into individual victims) and show them a video. I particularly wanted to show "The Pianist" because of how it shows the affects of the various restrictions placed on Jews and because the story of the German officer who helps Szpilman would be a great lead into looking at people who risked everything to stand up against what was happening (and would also help to dispell the "all Germans were evil" assumptions).

I'm worried about the suitability of the movie though (it's a 15 certificate) and specifically the scene where the old man is thrown out of the window and his family are chased and shot down. My department is tentatively willing to back me but I don't want to get them or the school into trouble if there are complaints. Does anyone have any experience of this or advice they can offer? Are the benefits worth the risks?


One 'solution' is to pre-empt the issue.

I use Dances with Wolves with Yr 8. I make them write in their logbook a statement which a parent has to sign for each member of the class before I'll show any of it. The Statement goes something like:

"I agree to my daughter being shown excerpts from Dances With Wolves, a Certificate 15 film, as part of her work on Native Americans. I understand that the excerpts will not include material of a 15 nature."

You can check out which parts of a film to avoid by examing bbfc criteria which can be found at screenonline (bfi).
A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. - Groucho Marx

#4 Carl Fazackerley

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 03:14 PM

Thanks for the link Ed, it will come in very useful!
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#5 bobspeight

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 03:14 PM

What do people think about Schindler's List? We showed most of it to to all our Year 9s with appropriate warnings along the way. I know many people would see this as a bit lazy and questionable suitability-wise but the kids got a lot out of it and we certainly didn't get any complaints. I've been given lots of contrasting advice about showing 15 films for educational purposes. What approach do you take?

#6 Dafydd Humphreys

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 05:38 PM

Showing films is very valid - after all that's how 90% of the adult population receive their history, at least we can help students question the interpretations as we watch them together.
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#7 Helen Evans

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 06:03 PM

I showed The Pianist to my Year 9s this year for the first time - no censoring. It had a tremendous effect on them and it is extremely useful to challenge the very negative attitudes to all Germans that a study of the Holocaust can generate. I did send a letter to all parents before showing it to explain why I thought it was appropriate but that students could be withdrawn if parents wished. Equally warnings were given before the most disturbing aspects and all students were told they could leave the room if they needed to.

I found that the scene the students found most disturbng and upsetting was not the man in the wheelchair but the dancing - it is the scene that always chokes me up too.

#8 Lindsay_Merrony

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 07:05 PM

Never let fictional movies get in the way of history teaching I have always said.
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#9 Karen Miller

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 08:57 AM

I use Schindler's List and a section of the remade Nuremburg trials showing real camp footage which has a real impact on the pupils. I send a letter out covering the fact that 15 certificate films will be shown.
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#10 Dafydd Humphreys

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 09:04 AM

Never let fictional movies get in the way of history teaching I have always said.


"Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!"


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#11 johnreilly

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 09:41 AM

For the past 2 years I have used the Pianist for my Year 9 group. I send a letter home asking for permission due to the 15 cert and the response is always stunning, students take it very seriously. Even the more challenging ones. I have a copy of the letter I use home if you would like it?

I use the Pianist looking at how historically accurate it is---creation of the ghettos, anti Jewish laws etc. This is part of an independent learning focus on the Holocaust. I follow up watching the movie by having a survivor (arranged through the Holocaust Trust) come to speak to the students. I find if they see a reason behind their work (not just watching a film so it means they dont have to work) really helps to focus the minds

#12 nicky

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 11:09 AM

I used The Pianist for the first time this year. We only watched the first 20 minutes or so and (like others) I did warn the pupils if I thought they might find anything disturbing. I was amazed about how much they learned from it and would definitely use it again.

Also, we use Escape from Sobibor when we are doing the Holocaust to show concentration camps and the pupils are normally begging me to show them more so we do end up watching all of it. Some people do question the validity of just watching a film (mainly the colouring in dept down the corridor!) but the discussions I have with the pupils and the work they produce afterwards proves it's worth it. The pupils find it difficult to understand the Holocaust and films make it more accesible for them.

#13 Lindsay_Merrony

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 06:04 PM

Facts are great!
I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees.

#14 Mrs W

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 07:09 PM

Another great film clip for the Holocaust is from Band of Brothers. Excellent for the end of the unit when you are focusing on what happened when the Allies discovered the camps. Very gripping and not at all inappropriate or too shocking.

#15 Ed Waller

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 09:35 AM

Facts are great!


I think the concept being batted back and forth here is to do with truth. There are a great many facts and several truths. Any and all can be found in 'fiction' whether moving images or words.
A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. - Groucho Marx




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