September is National Literacy Month, and libraries around the nation are promoting literacy in many creative ways, from offering DIY book-club kits with free books and discussion prompts, to visual literacy guides, to low- or no-cost open educational resources (OER), to research* on connections between adult literacy programs and increased political participation.
Since 1967, people in many parts of the world have celebrated International Literacy Day on September 8th. The day serves as an opportunity to focus on progress made toward global literacy, but also to acknowledge ongoing disparities in access to educational opportunities, as well as balancing literacy goals with the preservation of equally important oral traditions. In other words, the term “literacy” is employed literally and figuratively, to denote both the capacity to read and write (to be “lettered”) and the ability to acquire new understanding, such as increasing one’s cultural “literacy” or competence.
Together, the items below make up the first installment of a curated collection of programs created in many different world regions. In one way or another, the creators focus on the broader definition of literacy, inviting the viewer to consider a cultural perspective that may differ from their own. Media Services has an ongoing commitment to increasing the variety of perspectives housed in our DVD and streaming collections. Stay tuned for a second installment next week, covering Europe, South America, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
Do you have a film or media item that significantly impacted your understanding of the world around you? If so, please share it with us in the comments section. If there is a title you think would help expand the diversity of perspectives in Media Services’ holdings, you can suggest a media purchase using this form.
This is a 1968 documentary directed by Willie Dunn who is of Mi’kmaq and Scottish descent. This film is a look at colonial incursions told through archival image and song, that focuses on the legendary Siksika (Blackfoot) Chief Crowfoot1. This was the first film directed by an indigenous person to be made at the National Film Board of Canada.2
Fresh out of med school, Dr. Joel Fleishman is looking forward to a comfortable position in Alaska’s largest city but finds himself assigned to a tiny Alaskan village instead. The location is remote, the people different than what Dr. Joel expected, but eventually the people and village grow on him. This series from 1990 won 7 Emmy awards for things such as Outstanding drama series (1992) and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing (1992).3
This 2017 horror film was the directorial debut of Jordan Peele (well known for his role in Key and Peele) and focuses on a young African photographer traveling from Brooklyn to Upstate New York to meet his white girlfriend’s family. Soon after the tension and uneasiness he feels over the reception of him comes to a boiling point in horrific and unexpected ways.4
A film that combines montages of hair salons in Ghana with various images of Western pop culture, invoking a clash of cultures and communities. The film mixes grainy black & white footage with colorful shots of billboards and murals advertising various hair styles. It incorporates audio snippets of beauty instruction and tips from the 1950s. The filmmaker uses the resulting comparisons to explore the legacy, changes, and ongoing effect that European Colonialism has dealt to African culture.
African Beauty is a Nollywood (Nigerian Media) TV show that explores the murky world of beauty pageants in Africa. This exciting show focuses on glitz, glam and beauty, all while the characters deal with hidden corruption, politics, and kidnappings.5
This South African film, based on the novel of the same title, follows Tsotsi a young gang member who works the streets of Johannesburg. After shooting a woman and stealing her car, he discovers her baby in the backseat and decides to take the infant home and care for it. The infant acts as a catalyst for major life changes ad Tsotsi does his utmost to properly care for and protect the child.6
Director Tamara Dewitt travels from Canada to her ancestral home of Ethiopia to fill in mysterious gaps in her family history. She joins four aunts and her paternal grandmother to uncover the story of her Aunt Sally, who disappeared after the 1974 resistance that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie.7
Student blogger Kathryn Vandrey is a graduate student and Media Services desk staff member. Kathryn studies Chinese language and history.