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Image by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič

Thinking with Films: The historical film edition


Updated: Jun 8, 2023

If you are a social science teacher concerned about historical films being consumed by your students unquestioningly as 'historical truth', or even a teacher keen on helping your students develop an ability to critically read texts (whether literature, textbooks, films, advertisements, etc.), this flexible, straightforward lesson idea/template is for you.


Name of the historical film:

What historical event/episode is it about?

If you had to sum up the film for a friend who has not watched it, in one or two sentences, what would you say?

What did you know about this event/episode prior to watching the film? Mention the sources for the information/impressions you had. (If the teacher will be screening the film for their students, this question could be asked prior to the screening)

Basic Details of the Film

Director, Producer, year of release:

Where is it set, and made?

What kind of sales has the film made?

How has the film been promoted?

Look at the film’s credits—what historical sources (if any) does it cite?

Anything else about the film you may have seen being discussed on social media/your neighbourhood,etc. that caught your interest:

Time to Reflect and Re-watch

What segment of the film did you find most emotionally moving? How did it make you feel? Sum up using three to five key words (Emotions don’t have to be restricted to feeling sadness)

Re-watch the segment. This time, pay close attention and think about the ‘making’ of the section: What about this segment is moving you?

Some technical areas you could look out for:

the visuals—use of colour, background music, camera angles—what is being focused on; use of dialogue/silence; use of special effects, etc.

Know your Director

In groups, students dig up information on the director as per these broad categories:

  • A brief biography

  • Other works by the director—what themes/elements does the director seem interested in?

  • Opinions expressed by the director (could be in interviews, quotes in articles, etc. Please mention source) reflecting their ideas about art and film making, society, politics, religion,etc.

Could you find any element of the information you gathered reflected in the film you watched?

Let’s be imaginative

Change something crucial about any of the above factors(the technical components that contribute to making you feel moved).

Would this change your perception of the scene in any way? Elaborate.

Home Assignment

Find at least 2 other representations of this historical event - could be journalistic reportage, an interview, another film/tv series, literature—fiction or non fiction, etc. List what perspectives you are getting from each of these representations. Are they completely in sync with the film’s perspectives? In what ways?

It’s a Wrap!

Now that you have spent considerable time thinking about and re-viewing the film, attempt to write a review in 300-500 words.


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