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Media from Around the World: Literacy, Democracy, and Access

Part One

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.


North America

The Ballad of Crowfoot

Black and white photo of Crowfoot, a Native American chief. Crowfoot is seated in semi-profile with the left-hand side of his face showing. He is wearing dark clothing and has chest-length hair.
Crowfoot. Brittannica. 22 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4A6l

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

Northern Exposure

A man in a suit jacket and an adult moose face each other with noses just a few inches apart. In the background is a snowy mountain range and a welcome sign for the fictitious town of Cicely, Alaska. The series title, "Northern Exposure," appears at the top of the image.
Northern Exposure. amazon.com. 22 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4A6q

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

Get Out

Movie poster for the film "Get Out." The title appears in the lower right quadrant of the image. The poster depicts an ominous glass pane cracked by a bullet hole. In each glass shard is reflected a scene from the film.
Get Out. IMDb.com. 22 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4A8a

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


Africa

Me Broni Ba

The lower half of the black-and-white image lists the film title, "Me Broni Ba," and other information, including awards the film has won. The upper half shows two Black women wearing white uniforms and seated against a white wall. One woman is showing the other how to do something with a doll's hair.
Me Broni Ba. IMDb.com. 22 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4A8R

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

Five Black women stand in formal gowns facing the camera. Three of them wear sashes that designate them as winner, first runner up, and second runner up in a Nigerian beauty pageant. The words "African Beauty, Episode 1" appear in gold lettering on the lower half of the image.
African Beauty, Episode 1. Still image from video. 22 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4A8T

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

Tsotsi

A young Black man with short hair and a black leather jacket sits crouched in the right half of the image, with his face in profile. Behind him is a cityscape bathed in the golden light of a sunset. At the top of the image is the film title, "Tsotsi," and below that the words "Hope set him free."
Tsotsi. IMDb.com. 22 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4A8X

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

Finding Sally

A black-and-white passport-type photo of a young woman. The photo has a decorative red stripe at the top and a green stripe at the bottom.
Finding Sally. Still image from video. 22 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4A96

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.


References

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/portrait-siksika-chief-crowfoot-symbol-hope-future-1.6509043
  2. https://www.nfb.ca/film/ballad_of_crowfoot/
  3. https://www.emmys.com/shows/northern-exposure
  4. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5052448/
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJhDVhrmI18&ab_channel=AFROSTREAM
  6. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468565/
  7. https://africanarguments.org/2020/10/six-african-documentaries-you-must-see/