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Last updated:

June 30, 2000

UW-RF to Host National Minority Film Institue

By Jolene Bracy
UW-RF News Bureau

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls is presenting a five-week Summer Institute titled "Picturing American Diversity: Cinematic Representations of Americašs Ethnic Minorities."

Funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, it includes high school teachers from across the nation to promote awareness of the value and methods of representing ethnic minorities on film. The Institute is facilitated by UW-RF English Professors Carole Gerster and Laura Zlogar.

UW-River Falls is a four-year public comprehensive university of 5,700 students located in western Wisconsin some 25 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.

Some 22 teachers were selected, with nearly 300 inquiries regarding possible attendance to the Institute. Participants are chosen based on letters, essays and recommendations from school staff and administration. Those selected will incorporate materials from the Institute into their curriculum in such areas as history, English, social studies and film, and demonstrate how films have promoted or reversed racial stereotypes.

Four major racial groups are covered in this Institute: African American, Asian American, Native American and Latino American.

According to Gerster, instructing high school students in watching and interpreting film is critical in learning about our past, present and future. "Many high school students today donšt go home and curl up with a good book. They go home and curl up with a good video; and knowing how to interpret what they see in context with what is presented in the film is important." Films reflect and have the power to change cultural attitudes. Teachers can use film effectively in their classroom to assist students in understanding American diversity and the power that film has in shaping our impressions of minority cultures.

Gerster and Zlogar are co-authoring a book for high school teachers about teaching multicultural values and visual literacy. With a working title of "Teaching Visual/Multicultural Literacy in the Secondary Classroom," the book will include introductory chapters by both Gerster and Zlogar. They will integrate theories and methods of studying ethnic representations, key essays by scholars attending the institute, and selected curricular units generated by this national NEH Institute as well as a regional NEH Institute the two coordinated in 1996.

Nationally known guest speakers will address the Institute students beginning with Ed Guerrero, professor of cinematic studies at New York University. Guerrero is the author of "Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film." He will present on July 11-12.

Renee Tajima-Pena, author, producer and director of films such as "The Last Beat Movie" and "My America, Honk If You Love Buddha," is the guest speaker slated for July 17.

Native American Advocate Charlene Teters, who is the subject of the film documentary "In Whose Honor," will present on July 26.

Guest speaker Lorraine Norrgard is the filmmaker of "Enduring Ways of the Lac du Flambeau People," and several other films considering the subject of Native American diversity, will address the group on July 27.

Carlos Cortes, professor emeritus of history from the University of California-Riverside is the author and editor of many works on Hispanic culture in the United States. Cortes will address the participants on July 31.

The Summer Institute will begin with an invitation-only reception for participants, their families and UW-RF guests on July 3.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has provided support for programs and projects that reach millions of Americans to preserve and study cultural heritage, while providing a foundation for the future.

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