New Mexico Academy for the Media Arts

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Media Arts Explores Representations of Race in Film

February 23, 2022 2:47 pm/Published by Jonathan Dooley

Film has long shaped our nation’s historical memory, for good and for bad. Teachers and staff at Media Arts are exploring ways to responsibly use films in the classroom to reframe the typical narrative of the African-American experience. Through the podcast, Teaching Hard History, from Teaching Tolerance, we discuss the representation of race in documentaries, feature films and miniseries as suggestions for instructors and as strategies for inclusivity in classroom lessons. While films and literature may bring historical context to life for students, they can also turn even problematic texts into grist for meaningful critical discussions.

Many of the beloved classics that we enjoy on Turner Classic Movies have stood the test of time in several ways. Nevertheless, when viewed by contemporary standards, certain aspects of these films can be troubling and problematic. From race relations to gender politics, teachers and staff are studying a collection of such movies and the history, considering the cultural context and discuss how these movies can be reframed so that future generations will keep their legacy alive. Along with these films, teachers and staff explore the diversity of authors and artists of color who blanket the landscape of mass media and how they continue to influence our lives. 

Such notable films include: The Jazz Singer (1927), Gone with the Wind (1939), Dragon Seed (1944), The Searchers (1956), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), The Children’s Hour (1961), Swing Time (1936), Stagecoach (1939), Gunga Din (1939), The Four Feathers (1939), Woman of the Year (1942), Sinbad, the Sailor (1947), Rope(1948), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Tarzan, the Ape Man (1959), Psycho (1960), My Fair Lady (1964), and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).

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