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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 2. Cinema as Pedagogy for Constructive Humanistic Transformation


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In this chapter I will discuss the discipline of cinema studies to distinguish the different approaches taken in order to learn how to utilize cinema for humanistic transformation. I have to qualify this part of my discussion by acknowledging that my focus is primarily on American film. The language of cinema, it can be argued, is easy to grasp. With this ease of language and merging of low and high culture comes the danger of form dominating content. If a film is purely a story that is reduced to nothing but a stylistic gesture, that film should be looked at in comparison to another film that is rich in content. If viewers are to become aware of the various dimensions of cinema (e.g., form and content) and the extent of the influence of such dimensions, then what they will need is critical thinking skills to understand these influences.

Cultural critics argue that most Hollywood films are designed to be agents of consumption. That is, a typical Hollywood film is made to be a make-believe product to passively entertain the audience and sell its products, namely, the fantastic myths and many products strategically placed in the story. Moreover, in the age of globalization and late capitalism (Jameson, 1999), Hollywood as a system enjoys a world dominance that is unparalleled in the history of humanity (Litman, 1998). One can argue that the culture industry (Adorno,...

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