Ken Burns: The War on PBS

This study guide for this new documentary series is from Frank Baker, a media literacy expert ( He posted it on the media ed listserv this morning.


It can be downloaded here:

Looking At “The War” Through a Media Literacy Lens
by Frank Baker, media educator
Copyright 2007


TRADE the Movie

TRADE, starring Kevin Kline as a man searching for someone that he assumes has disappeared into Mexico, opens on September 28. It is a story about the tragedy of human trafficking. Please read my review at


This is not an easy film to watch, however the only way to stop trafficking in human persons is to understand better what is going on invisibly around us. If you check the film’s website you can see a list of cities and theaters where the film is opening on September 28:

There are four media mindfulness questions viewers can ask about this film:

What’s going on?

What’s really going on?

What difference does it make?

What difference can I make?

If you are interested in social justice issues, this, along with THE PRICE OF SUGAR (a documentary about human trafficking and slavery in the Dominican Republic) to be released in October, make them worthy films. TRADE is for mature audiences; the PRICE OF SUGAR is appropriate for high school and up. More about THE PRICE OF SUGAR later.

Into Great Silence DVD and Study Guide Release date

The hush of monastic life comes to DVD with “INTO GREAT SILENCE”

In the acclaimed documentary INTO GREAT SILENCE, German filmmaker Philip Gröning closely, quietly observes the daily prayers, rituals and tasks of the Grande Chartreuse monastery to mesmerizing effect. This stunning cinematic meditation on spirituality and faith has become one of 2007’s highest grossing documentaries.

Now – INTO GREAT SILENCE comes to DVD in an expansive Two-Disc Director’s Special Edition on October 23, 2007.




A study guide for the film will be published by Pauline Books & Media (written by yours truly and Fr. Ron Schmidt, SJ) and available at the same time as the DVD. Visit one of our book stores, call 800- 876-4463, or click on to order.


Into Great Silence
A Film Study Guide
By Rose Pacatte, FSP, &
Ron Schmidt, SJ

Best-selling author and media educator Rose Pacatte, FSP, combines her writing and teaching talents with those of Jesuit priest and documentary filmmaker, Ron Schmidt. Together they have created a comprehensive film study guide that offers audiences an immersion  experience into the Carthusians’ ancient way of life, bringing it to bear on today’s busy working
Five themes with questions for reflection and conversation:
•The monks and vocation
•The contemplative life
•Silence and solitude in community
•Into Great Silence: the film
“A profound and yet accessible guide, offering a deep understanding of the film. With the tie-in book to the film yet to be published, this guide provides
information and inspiration for profound personal use of the film. A very good work indeed.”
— Philip Gröning, Director of Into Great Silence

Media Literacy Certificate Program Begins Sept 22

For anyone in Southern California (or anywhere else but it would require a lot of travel!), the Pauline Center for Media Studies is beginning on September 22. If you have been thinking about registering, do so now! Please visit for the complete syllabus and registration form.

The class meets once a month from September – June.

The first group that completed the media literacy education certification course last June, 2007.

Hunting Party the Movie

Richard Shepherd’s The Hunting Party with Richard Gere, Terrence Howard and Jesse Eisenberg is an excellent film if you like political irony sprinkled with cynicism. I thought the acting was surprisingly good, especially from Gere and Eisenberg (Terrence Howard played his role just a tad too laid back but he was fine.) The quasi-buddy movie is a commentary on US involvement in black ops, nation building, and global manipulation. It’s a tragicomedy based on facts – and wait until you see those, so stay until the very end. Makes you ask questions….

3:10 to Yuma the Movie


I saw James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma and I think it is brilliant. It’s being said it’s the best western since Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (have there been others?). I think it will be a well-deserved award contender for the writing, directing, and oh, the acting. Everyone’s talking about Russell Crowe as Ben Wade the thief and robber, and Christian Bale as Dan Evans, the rancher-turned prisoner guard, but Ben Foster as Charlie, Wade’s amoral second-in-command of the band of thieves and marauders, is exceptional. The story is based on Elmore Leonard’s short story and knowing this makes the characters play with immorality and mercy so subtle (remember Get Shorty?). It’s a nod to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, it’s smart, touching, entertaining. I don’t like guns and violence, or too many CSI shots,  and the film has enough of this, but still. It’s terrific. Waiting for someone to do a piece on the film’s theology….

Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline

Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline (Cultural Exegesis)

Hi everyone,

I am so far behind with my poor blog! I will try to make up for this in the next few days.

A new book is coming out in late October (you can pre-order on, edited by Rob Johnston of Fuller Seminary, that seeks to take this emerging discipline (that began in earnest about ten years ago) a step further. I have a chapter included in the book:  Shaping Morals, Shifting Views: Have the Rating Systems Influenced How (Christian)  America Sees Movies?

Speaking of books,

I just finished reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznic (2007; Scholastic).

It is an imaginative – and magical – story of Georges Méliès (1861-1938) , one of the first filmmakers who specialized in fantasy. He made over 500 films during his life of which 80 are still in existence. His A Trip to the Moon / Le Voyage dans la Lune is available on DVD.

What this book does is use drawings to tell the story between pages of written narrative. It’s like watching a silent film. It relies on our gestalt, and uses ellipsis. It’s over 500 pages long and takes no more than two hours to read but it deserves more time because the pictures are important. I suppose we might think of the use of the drawings as a kind of storyboard, but the silent film analogy works better. There I was reading along, and all of a sudden there are pictures without words. Something went silent – in a different way. My brain changed gears as I looked at the pictures and turned the pages. Words and pictures are all visual, but it was like Méliès’ space ship leaving the earth … the technique led my imagination into another world.  

This book is not only interesting and fun, it’s a new genre! It’s playful and very smart.

What does this have to do with media literacy? Film history, how the imagination works with image and words, narrative, etc. I am going to recommend it to my media literacy students when we study film.

The sad thing about Méliès’ films is that people didn’t appreciate fantasy in the early days of cinema; audiences wanted the Lumiere’s reality cinema, with the train coming right at them from the screen (this is also in the novel). Méliès was a magician, and cinema was like making his dreams real.

 What a wonderful way to study the history of film and the inner life of a dream-catcher, a natural story-teller.


 More later!