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Produced by Penny Ritco and Wolf Koenig;
directed by Alanis Obomsawin
National Film Board of Canada, 1992. VHS
cassette, 13:53 min., $79.00 for four-video set.
All distributed by the National Film Board of Canada.


Produced by Penny Ritco and Wolf Koenig;
directed by Selwyn Jacob
National Film Board of Canada, 1992. VHS
cassette, 14:05 min.,


Produced by Penny Ritco and Wolf Koenig;
directed by Sook-Yin Lee
National Film Board of Canada, 1992. VHS
cassette, 15:10 min.,


Produced by Penny Ritco and Wolf Koenig;
directed by Sugith Varughese
National Film Board of Canada, 1992. VHS
cassette, 14:23 min.,

Subject Headings:
Social Issues.
Childhood and Adolescence.

Grades 2-6 / Ages 7-11

Reviewed by MaryLynn Gagné

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

Playing Fair is a series of four videotapes that can be used with children to stimulate discussion of racism and related issues. Four minority groups are targeted in the series--Aboriginal people, Asian-Canadians, East Indians, and Black Canadians. In each of the four programs a talented multicultural cast acts out a specific incident involving discrimination, prejudice, or racial stereotyping.

Playing Fair tackles the issues surrounding racism at a very personal level, clearly demonstrating how racist attitudes and racial slurs affect the victims as well as the perpetrators and onlookers. In Mela's Lunch, Allison comes to realize that not standing up for her friend is as hurtfull as actively participating in the ostracism practised by the rest of the group. In  Walker, young Jamie discovers that his distrust of Indians was as unfounded as his fear of dogs. Carol's Mirror illustrates how stereotyping restricts everyone involved in a school production of "Snow White." In  Hey, Kelly!, Robert's racist notions begin to crumble as he interacts with Kelly during an after-school detention.

The overall quality of the series is excellent. The young actors are appealing and convincing, the dialogue is only occasionally contrived (a major feat in this type of production!), and the stories have enough added "colour" to hold the interest of the intended audience. Background music suited to each program is used to good effect.

This series presents a graphic view of racism among school children that is at times difficult to watch. Jamie's bullying older brother and his friend call Walker a "little wahoo" and refer to him as "it"; Robert tells Kelly that he doesn't want a "Chink girl" touching him and imitates the Chinese language in a mocking sing-song voice; Mela's classmates refuse to sit with her and express disgust at the sight of her East-Indian meal. Educators who may be concerned that some elementary school students have never been exposed to this degree of racism will have to remind themselves that children's awareness and sensitivity cannot be expanded without exploring issues that may be painful and upsetting.

Playing Fair goes beyond fostering tolerance and acceptance--it encourages students to reflect critically on the impact of the racism and to move toward positions of empathy, positive action, and advocacy. The series is a welcome addition to a growing list of high-quality curriculum-level materials available in the area of anti-racist education Teaching suggestions and ideas for follow-up activities are included on the verse of each video jacket.

Highly recommended.

MaryLynn Gagné is a reference librarian in the Education Library, University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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