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November 5, 1999

Film Institue on Race Set for UW-RF

By Emily Felling
UW-RF News Bureau

Nationally accredited ethnic minority scholars and independent filmmakers will be guest lecturers at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls next summer in a five-week institute on the depiction of minorities in film.

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded University English Professors Carole Gerster and Laura Zlogar a $132,808 grant for the institute to teach 25 secondary school English language arts, history and social studies teachers from across the country.

This is the second time they've hosted the institute.

The scholars will discuss how films portrayed minorities in the past and in the present, with Gerster and Zlogar giving workshops on how the teachers can interpret these films for their students.

According to Gerster, who created the University's film minor, representation of minorities in film are getting better because there are more ethnic independent filmmakers.

Gerster notes that the studying of ethnic minorities in film is important because America has a penchant for reinventing itself as a multicultural nation, and film images provide an excellent means to examine those changing views. From the beginning of the 20th century, film representations have recorded as well as shaped beliefs about African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians and Latin Americans, she notes.

"We live in an increasingly multi-ethnic culture, a culture where ethnic minorities will constitute a demographic majority by the year 2050," Gerster explains. "What we describe as American-our history and heritage, our music, our food, and our literature and languages-increasingly come from ethnic minority Americans."

Gerster adds that racial tensions remains high in American culture, but as minority film makers debunk racial stereotypes it presents an opportunity to have young people, who are highly influenced by visual images, to re-evaluate their impressions about others.

Asian-American film scholar critic and filmmaker Renee Tajima-Pena is one of the prominent instructors of the institute.

Pena produced the award-winning independent film "My America or Honk If You Love Buddha." The film portrays the ever-changing face of Asians in America from the times of World War II, the 1950s, the civil rights movement, Vietnam and the 1990s.

For a second time, Carlos Cortez, a history professor at the University of California-Riverside, will be an instructor at the summer institute.

Cortez is a leader in the field of Latino history. He has edited numerous books about Mexican-American history and has composed a book about the film history of race and ethnicity in the Americas.

Native American independent filmmaker Jay Rosenstein, who wrote "In Whose Honor," a film documentary that protests the use of Indian tribal names for national team sports and mascots, will also be teaching at the institute.

And New York University's cinema studies associate Professor Ed Guerrero, author of "Framing Blackness: The African Image in Film," will discuss how African-Americans are portrayed in film.

A panel of scholars, filmmakers and former participants will collaborate with Gerster and Zlogar to pick the institute's 25 teachers.

Applicants must write an essay describing the film unit they are proposing to use in their classroom, and why they would like to be a part of the institute by March 1.

They will be chosen on the basis of the content of their application essay, the classroom unit they would like to implement, where they are from, and the size and type of their school.

The teachers will submit lesson plans to share on a World Wide Web page and an upcoming textbook for other high school teachers in which each scholar will write a chapter.

For more information, contact Gerster at 715/425-3354

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