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Film Analysis: Invisible City and the Social Context of Teaching

Assignment Requirements

The purpose of this assignment is two-fold. The first objective is that students identify and explain key concepts learned in ECS 102 class as they present themselves in the documentary Invisible City. A second objective is to provide you with a vicarious experience into the lives of marginalized persons living below the poverty line. Sometimes preservice teachers have little experience with poverty and marginalization. As you watch this documentary, I invite you think on your teaching identity and what it may mean to be a teacher in a high-poverty, high-needs school and community. Finally, this assignment allows you to bring together content learned in units one, teaching as a reflective practice, and two, the social and political context of teaching.

Assignment requirements:

This assignment consists on watching Hubert Davis documentary Invisible City that explores issues central to teaching in marginalized, low-income, high needs areas. You are asked to prepare a threepage essay that provides an analysis of the main concepts studied in the course, from topic one to topic nine. Your essay should be formatted with 1" (one inch) margins on all sides, use a 1.5 or double space, and 12pt font. Remember, the goal main goal is that you identify and explain key concepts, such as stereotyping, discrimination, prejudice, implicit bias, and privilege among others that you have learned in class that are present in the lives of the two black teenager boys Kendall and Mickey. Your essay should demonstrate that you can identify and explain key concepts learned in class presented as they present themselves in life situations throughout the documentary.

Film Description

This award winning documentary follows the lives of Kendell and Mikey from age 15 to 18, as they transition from youth to manhood. They live in Regent Park, a lower-income neighborhood filled with striking poverty, violence, crime and drug abuse located in downtown Toronto. The film also focuses on their experiences with the larger community and key institutions, such as the school and how those shape, constraint and/or support the decisions they make. In writing your analysis, I encourage you to think on the larger socio-political, economic and educational factors and how those shape classroom teaching and school life.

Step by step instructions to access the film:

  1. To access the film remotely, you will have to create a personal account on the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) website and receive confirmation.
  2. Locate the film Invisible City on the UofR library catalog. The link to the movie is:
  3. In the “Regular instructions” section, click on item 1. Then, go to the “NFB Campus Activation Link.”
  4. Fill out the required information
  5. You will receive a notification email from the NFB welcoming you to CAMPUS
  6. If you have any difficulties please contact the UofR Archer library staff.

How to write a film analysis essay

Before you write: Begin by reviewing the course material to identify the main concepts learned in class, concepts you are expected to identify and explain. Before you write, watch the film, even if you have already seen it. As you watch the film, take notes of episodes, quotes, scenery, and any memorable details that you see as examples of concepts learned in class.

Film Description

Focus your essay: Think carefully on the concepts that you will discuss on the essay. There is a lot of information and details in the documentary that will not be as relevant to your commentary. For example, many students are drawn to work of teacher and mentor, Ainsworth Morgan and focus the essay on the importance of being that kind of teacher. As important as his work is, this focus does not meet the requirements of this assignment. Remember, your essay should demonstrate that you have paid close attention to the film and have reflected on the content. While there are many possible directions your commentary could take, it is strongly recommended that you chose a few key concepts to focus on.

Using Critical Theory: This course uses critical theory as its theoretical framework. Thus, ensure that the concepts you use to explain the issues and situations presented in the film are explained from a critical theory perspective. To ensure a critical perspective, I strongly encourage you to use in tandem concepts such as “internalized oppression” and “internalized dominance.”

Organize the essay: The following is a suggested structure and organization (sub-headings are not necessary, but you can use them if you find them helpful). I recommended this format especially if you do not have much experience with essay writing. There are other ways to organize your essay that you can choose.

Title – A good title captures the essence of your essay.

Introduction – One paragraph that introduces your essay and the concepts that you will be focusing on. I recommend that you identify two or three key issues or concepts (or perhaps 2-3 closely related ones) from the film. You may also want to make observations about the broader societal and/or theoretical context of the main themes discussed in the film and the film itself. Analysis. Clearly explain the key concept(s) or issue(s) you wish to discuss in the essay.Providing quotes or excerpts from the movie, from class lectures and readings are ways to present a tight argument. Drawing from course content can help you frame the points you

make, provide context, and overall, strengthen the persuasiveness of your argument. You can make the essay personal by including your own independent observations and reflections. Conclusion: write a one medium size paragraph (3 to six sentences) to share your overall reaction and critical reflection on the film. What you think is the film main message? What  does it show about teaching and the work of teachers in impoverished areas or with marginalized student populations? How does the film relate to you, to your own experience? You are not expected to draw from additional published materials, but if you chose to do this you can – just be sure to cite your sources properly.

References: On a separate page. The reference page do not count towards the three pages. Below are several overlapping questions you may consider while watching the film or think about after you have seen it. You are not asked to answer any of these questions. They are offered as examples of issues that you could further explore

  • What kind of environment do Kendell and Mikey and their families live in? How does the environment influence who they are and who they can be?
  • How have Kendell and Mikey lived experiences affected their life and their identity as Black young teenagers?
  • What social position(s) do Kendell and Mikey and their families occupy? Who do they get to be? What is it expected of them?
  • What is Kendell and Mikey school experience? In what ways does the school support them and their learning process? In what ways does the school hinder them and their learning process?
  • Do Kendell and Mikey experience discrimination? What evidence do you find?
  • As members of a minority group, do Kendell and Mikey experience racism? If so, how is it manifested in their lives?
  • Do school staff take into account the social identities and community experiences of Kendell and Mikey? If so, in what ways?
  • How do the lives of Black young teenagers as portrayed in the film reinforce/differ from common stereotypes about Black people? How does the film address this issue?

Alternative Format

While you are asked to submit a three-page essay, you can submit this assignment in another format (e.g., infographic, graphic essay). Please, consult with your instructor if you wish to do theassignment in a different format.

Grading criteria:

The following grading scheme can help you understand what is expected and how you will be graded.

96-100% Outstanding. Commentary demonstrates an excellent understanding of the film and key issues and concepts, and makes links between the documentary and course readings and/or lectures. Insightful observations. Very few if any grammatical or spelling errors. Proper citations (if used). Mature writing.

90-95% Exceptional work. Essay shows solid understanding of the material at hand, critical thinking and originality. It makes clear links between the documentary and course readings  and/or lectures. The essay is clear, well-organized, and well-written. Few grammatical errors and overall proper citation.

80-89% Very good. Essay shows a comprehensive understanding of the film, selected issues and concepts, and evidence of independent thought. Well organized. Writing flows fairly smoothly. Vocabulary and written expression in general is good, but lacks the effectiveness of the outstanding and exceptional work.

70-79% Above average. Commentary demonstrates a good understanding of the film, of issues and concepts, and some capacity for original thinking and analysis. The commentary communicates ideas although in a somewhat effective organization and coherency. The writing does not effectively communicate ideas. It suffers fromgrammatical errors and improper citations.

60-69% Satisfactory. Essay shows some understanding of the film, of issues and concepts, and some capacity for original thinking and analysis. But, the commentary lacks effective organization and coherency. The writing does not effectively communicate ideas. It suffers from grammatical errors and improper citations.

50-59% Barely acceptable. Little to no originality or evidence of independent thought. Weak writing with frequent errors. Misinterpretation of the material. Poorly organized. Betrays little to no effort.

Note: Be sure to understand and follow the rules regarding plagiarism. Students are encouraged to share ideas and discuss the themes of the film with each other, but written work must be done independently

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