Making Curriculum Pop

I was reading this update from a German Transatlantic Outreach Program (TOP) and came across an interesting lesson plan for a German short film "Schwarzfahrer" that won the best short subject Oscar in 1994. It could be used in any language or social studies class. Of course, it is of particular interest because it comes from Germany and was produced in a time when many people who lived through WWII were still alive.

Here is the background on the film from the TOP newsletter.

"Schwarzfahrer" is a short thought-provoking film about xenophobia by Pepe Danquart, a German director, filmed in black and white. It won several awards at film festivals and the Academy Award in 1994 for best short subject documentary. Through this simple everyday scene - a group of city people riding a tram on a summer morning - we are introduced to the complex themes of diversity and racism. The major exponent of racism and prejudice is an old woman, but the silence of the other passengers leaves her opinions uncontested. The black man’s entrance on the tram and his choice of seat beside the old lady sparks off the conflict between the two. His taking a seat by her side serves as a catalyst for the woman’s monologue in which she spews invective. Her impolite, inexcusable behavior continues undisrupted until a conductor enters the tram to check the tickets. Quick as lightning, the black passenger grabs his neighbor’s ticket and eats it; he legitimizes himself by showing the conductor his monthly pass. He is a “good” passenger; she has become the Schwarzfahrer. She is punished for her contemptuous rudeness and gross insensitivity, having to get off the tram with the conductor in order to be fined.
The other passengers are passive throughout the film and play their roles in silence. The man with the helmet (the motorcyclist) who rides without a ticket (the actual Schwarzfahrer or fare-dodger), does not comment on any of the old lady’s racist remarks. A little boy utters a few words to his mother, giving the impression of being somebody who sees, but not quite understands what is going on. He sends a few smiles to the black man. Then there is the old man, who says nothing, but nods encouragingly once or twice to the old lady. We also see two young German girls, giggling and whispering to each other, most probably about the two Turkish boys, who entered the tram simultaneously with them. One of the Turkish boys is the only one on the tram who disrupts the silence of the other passengers, having an angry outburst in Turkish towards the old lady. A young well-dressed woman with large earrings rides the tram apparently unaffected by the insulting situation unfolding around her. A young man enters the tram in the middle of the old lady’s monologue, but he also doesn’t display any reaction, being secluded in his own world of music, and thus spared from having to listen to and deal with the unpleasant utterances broadcasted to everyone in the carriage.

This is an excellent film - the lesson plan ideas can be found on pages 16-21 in this PDF. I also saved and attached it below so we have an archived copy here at MC POP.

You can view the 10-minute short below.

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