________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 1. . . .September 3, 2010


The Storytelling Class.

John Whiteway & John Paskievich (Producers).
Winnipeg, MB: Sedna Pictures (storytellingfilm@mts.net.), 2009.
1 DVD, 59 min., 23 sec., All prices include GST & Shipping and handling - Public performance rights & circulating copy $265.70, Single site limited performance rights $102.95, Public library home use $66.13, Individual home use $30.45.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Gail de Vos and Celia Barker Lottridge.

**** /4



The Storytelling Class is a powerful film about Winnipeg teacher Marc Kuly's storytelling project. The project drew students from highly divergent backgrounds in an inner city high school into the experience of finding and telling important stories from their own lives to their peers. Marc and the students were inspired by the reading of Ishmael Beah's book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

     Several of the students in the project had experienced war and could identify strongly with Beal's experiences. The film shows the process that enables the students to speak openly about what had happened to them as well as to structure their stories for performance, sharing it with a much larger audience than just the project group.

      Part of the freshness of the film by cinematographers John Paskievich and John Whiteway was the documenting of Kuly's own learning process as the project unfolded. For one thing, he learned that all of the students had stories they wanted to tell, even those who felt that they came from relatively ordinary backgrounds. Another important element, aptly demonstrated in the film, was the importance of the building of trust among students and of learning to listen to each other before the storytelling could actually take place.

      The story of the class project was interwoven with short segments of Ishmael Beal telling his own polished story before a large audience and culminates in the students meeting with him and his adopted mother, renowned storyteller Laura Sims. There was also a cameo appearance by Winnipeg storyteller Jamie Oliviero.

      The Storytelling Class is not a "how-to-do" film regarding teaching the art of storytelling, but rather it is an evocative demonstration of how a particular teacher got students, outside of class time, to tell important stories from their own lives. While this film focuses on the experiences of young people in wartorn countries, the techniques illustrated can be used with any group of adolescents or adults.

Highly Recommended.

Gail de Vos teaches at the School of Library and Information Studies for the University of Alberta and is the author of eight books on storytelling and folklore. Celia Barker Lottridge is a professional storyteller in Toronto, ON, and the author of several award-winning novels that draw on family stories as well picture book retellings of folklore.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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