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Movies Change Lives

Pedagogy of Constructive Humanistic Transformation Through Cinema


Tony Kashani

Movies Change Lives is a rigorous interdisciplinary examination of cinema as a vehicle for personal and social transformation. Interdisciplinary scholar Tony Kashani builds a theory of humanistic transformation by discussing many movies while engaging the works of philosopher/psychologist Erich Fromm, cultural studies theorist Stuart Hall, critical pedagogy theorist Henry Giroux, political philosopher Hannah Arendt, the great French thinker Edgar Morin, the pioneering psychologist Carl Jung, the co-founder of string theory, physicist Michio Kaku, and Frankfurt School philosopher Jürgen Habermas, among others. The book argues that in the globalized world of the twenty-first century, humanity is in dire need of personal and social transformation. Movies have universal appeal and can deeply affect their audiences in a short time. Coupled with critical pedagogy, they can become tools of personal and social transformation. Movies Change Lives is an ideal text for graduate and upper-division undergraduate courses on film (cinema) and society, visual culture, consciousness studies, transformative studies, media and social change, advanced personal and social psychology, and political philosophy.
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Chapter 1. Pertinent Theories


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Cinema, subjectively—with powerful tools of fiction and nonfiction that please, transform, and deceive—shapes the public mind. In cinema there exist dramatic visual effects, synthetic dreams, counterfeit emotions, and preconceived spontaneity. Cinema has a mystique unique and different from other art forms. Can cinema be transformative? One might intuitively respond with a resounding “yes.” However, intuitive knowledge (Bergson, 1911/1998, 1965) will not be enough to gain a deep understanding of cinema, and in turn, allow the use of that understanding with a critical perspective to produce a theory about cinema.

Never before have we possessed such power to create a medium (i.e., cinema) that utilizes the human creator’s active imagination to reach into our consciousness. This is indeed a perilous terrain. Will it send us on the path of self-destruction? Would appearance be preferred to reality? Does cinema play a role in this realm? Marshall McLuhan (1967) prophesied form over content in his famous The Medium Is the Massage (cleverly misspelling message to point to his thesis). Twenty-four years later, Denzin (1991) astutely demonstrated that in postmodern cinema the language of film is without a center—that, although it may mock the past, it also lends “quasi-reverence” for the icons of the past. Cinema could easily be considered one of the pillars ← 9 | 10 → of American culture—and by extension other cultures of East and West. Cinema is a medium that speaks at once to individuals and...

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