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Film as a Tool for Public Discourse II: Moving Beyond Us and Them

Second course in a series on film.

Independent Sections
7 weeks
Weekly Study
Mar 24-May 11
Register By
March 29, 2022

Films have the capability of doing more than just entertaining us; they provide a literal lens for us to see more intimately the world in which we live. They are an important means of cultural communication, highlighting shared human struggles and providing a space for us to pause and reflect on our place and purpose in the world. In some cases they even inspire a call to action, creating social impact.

As authors Robert K. Johnston and Catherine M. Barsotti note in their book Finding God in the Movies, film also has the power to stimulate or communicate theological reflection in the viewer. When we watch a film, we might listen for its message and then compare and contrast it with the message of the Word of God. What truth can we draw from the film or where is truth being misrepresented? How might we engage others in a conversation around spiritual truth drawing from examples in the film? In this series of courses, participants will discover how films can be part of our toolbox to engage with others in two-way meaningful conversations about the discourses of society, with a focus on the search for Truth.

This second course in the series focuses on moving beyond us and them and highlighting narratives that perpetuate differences that lead to divisive discourse and taking sides, relating to race; culture and ethnicity; gender; religion; politics; economic status; age, ageism, and generational differences; educational level; unhealthy competition; pandemic-related divisions (vaccine/anti-vaxxer, mask/anti-masker), as well as narratives that counter the assumptions behind the divisions of humanity and honor our oneness, true human nature and inherent nobility. We’ll be looking at the example of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and how He envisioned moving towards greater unity and embracing the Oneness of Humankind.

Note: The first course in the series focused on race and gender. The teachings of Baháʼu'lláh, Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, emphasize both the oneness of humankind and the equality of women and men, noting that all have a purpose in contributing to the advancement of society. Yet, we find that in the world’s current adolescence women and people of color continue to face barriers in their attempt to make their rightful contributions. The films reviewed in the course highlight the history of social practices that have continued to result in oppression, create awareness of our implicit biases, promote racial amity and gender parity and help to heal and transform our hearts and minds. Through this powerful form of visual storytelling, we are given the opportunity to learn about one other’s lived experiences and overcome our prejudices, leading to the formation of genuine bonds of friendship, engagement in meaningful conversations and unifying together as agents of change, walking a path of service towards a more socially just society.

Mark Sisson, Guest Lecturer

Mark Sisson

Mark Sisson studied Liberal Studies at San Diego State University then completed a degree in Television Broadcasting at San Francisco State University. In 1979, while on a four month teaching trip across the South Pacific, he attended the first National Youth Conference of the New Hebrides and was interviewed by Radio New Hebrides.

In July 1981 Mark spoke at the first Continental Youth Conference of the Seven Year Plan held in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1989 he completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Film & Television Directing at the University of California and he then moved to Papua New Guinea in 1989. He worked for the Papua New Guinean Ministry of Education and was director of Educational Television until 2000. He produced a documentary while in Papua New Guinea which was shown at the Second Bahá’í World Congress held in New York City in 1992.

In 2003 Mark began working for the Southwestern Community College District in Chula Vista, California, as a Professor of film, television and video production. In 2015 he was appointed as a Continental Counselor by the Universal House of Justice, and in 2018 he participated in a conference at the World Centre for Counselors sharing his experiences in San Diego. In 2020 he completed his term as Counselor.

What will you learn?
You will learn
To review and deepen on Bahá’í Writings about the arts and the spiritual truth of unity and the oneness of humankind, independent investigation of truth, and avoiding partisan politics
To look at how films can be used as a tool to engage in meaningful conversations around promoting our commonalities vs our differences, comparing common film depictions and messages to the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith
To critically examine race and gender concepts and relations and other forms of otherness such as religious difference, competition, divisive political discourse, ethnocentricity and cultural assumptions, educational levels, economics, analyzing whether they reflect Baha’i principles or reinforce unconscious bias, prejudice and microaggressions
To think more critically about how our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors have been influenced by messages in film and to reflect on how these might change through study and application of the Bahá’í Writings and authoritative texts
To imagine a society based on justice founded on oneness, the innate nobility of each our souls, and on full appreciation of our diverse attributes and how we can contribute to it, including advocating for truthful narratives in film and/or contributing to media content that reflects spiritual values
To recognize that we who are Bahá’ís may be guilty of a false dichotomy in terms of thinking of ourselves and others and working toward a humble posture of learning in our thoughts, activities, and teaching work
To practice engaging in meaningful conversations with others around the themes of the films we are viewing and report on progress and utilization of these conversations throughout the course and any “final” project(s)
Meet Your Faculty
Anne Perry, PhD
Professor, The Art Institute of Dallas

After two interdisciplinary MA degrees, I pursued my PhD in Aesthetic Studies, with a focus on both art and religion. I teach writing, humanities, and film and art appreciation at the Art Institute of Dallas and two community colleges, as well as serving as an instructor for the Wilmette Institute.... See Faculty Bio

Christina Wright, MPhil
Cinema Studies Instructor and Screenwriter

Christina Wright has a Master of Philosophy in Film Theory & History from Trinity College Dublin, a Bachelors in Drama from San Francisco State University and an Associates in Speech Communications from Foothill College. She works as an Adjunct Faculty member in Film and Television at De Anza College, Online... See Faculty Bio

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