Monday, February 13, 2017

A short film for the Spanish class: Cuerdas

Pedro Solís is an animation film director, scriptwriter and producer from Spain. In 2010 he won the Goya Award for the best animation short film, La Bruxa. The Goya Awards recognize the best Spanish and Latin American films every year. He is also the producer of the animated film Tad, the last explorer. In 2014 he won the Goya again for his very personal animated short film, Cuerdas (Ropes).



Cuerdas tells us the story of a young child who suffers cerebral palsy many years ago in Spain. The child cannot move and is always in his wheelchair. At that time children who suffered this condition were either not given the right treatment or did not have access to the right therapies. The main character in this short film is sent to an orphanage where Maria, a young girl, starts spending time with him and taking care of him. Maria will use "cuerdas", ropes, to help him move and play games. Their bond and friendship grows stronger and Maria dedicates more of her free time to be with the new student.When Maria becomes a teacher for children with severe disabilities many years later, she still wears a rope around her wrist in memory of her friend. 


There is a short dedication at the end of the film: "A mi hija Alejandra, gracias por inspirarme esta historia. A mi hijo Nicolás, ojalá nunca me hubieses inspirado esta historia." We discover then that the story in the short film is inspired by the director's children. Nicolas, who was born with cerebral palsy, was always supported and taken care of by Alejandra, his sister. The real story is explained in this video.



The short film has an official website where we can learn further details about the film, its production, where to buy it, and also about the book "Cuerdas" where we can get a different perspective of the story. Furthermore, fifteen per cent of the book sales will go to the association where the real Nicolás goes to receive his treatment.

Cuerdas is a good choice to work in the Spanish class and offer the opportunity of creating multiple activities. I have transcribed the script and it is available for download here: Guion. If you use the script, please provide me with credit to this blog. Thank you.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Short Films at the University of Alberta


|It has been a very long time since I've posted on this blog... Life gets complicated, we need to assume new commitments. I have been planning to start posting regularly but it's sometimes an uphill battle!

A week ago I visited Olenka Bilash class at the University of Alberta. Dr. Bilash has been working with future language teachers in the province of Alberta for years and she is a 100% committed to language teaching pedagogics. A visit to her website is always a source of valuable information for everyone involved in language teaching.

I talked to the future language teachers about my experience working at Austin O´Brien High School in the Spanish Bilingual program, particularly Film Appreciation in Spanish. In this subject I follow a CLIL approach: students learn Spanish through the study, analysis, and production of short films.

One of the activities I do in the class is to use of 30 second long short films to encourage students to use Spanish spontaneously. These films are part of the Jameson Notofilmfest, a film festival specialized in short films with a section called Triple Destilación for short films no longer than 30 seconds. Every now and then we watch one of these short films and students need to answer the same questions: "who", "what", "when", "where", "why", and finally "what is the message of the director." Even students who feel intimidated about using Spanish in public find the activity doable thanks to the length of the shorts. 

These are some of the short films I have used but there are many others in the already 14 editions of the festival.

This Argentinian short film is full of irony and engage students in discussion about the era of the Internet: Flatmates 3.0:



With this one we can laugh at the way we create links with each other thanks to social media: Chico conoce chica:

Trago amargo is a great example of the black humour Spanish speakers are so fond of.


Some shorts are a bit surreal and use our knowledge about films to their own advantage: Time lapse



Or have an unexpected ending using a play with the words: Algunos hombres siguen sin aclararse




There are many more available in the festival website. If you spend a bit of time browsing through the films, I'm sure you will find ones that your students will enjoy and find meaningful!