Conflict & Community in Film

Readings & Other Activites

This page will be updated on a weekly basis.

Click on the due dates below to be taken to weekly reading and activity materials.  They are provided for you to read, listen to,or view to help you put together something for your weekly Discussion Piece.  Pick one or more readings or activities from each cluster in the left-hand column.  Some examples of what you might do for your Discussion Piece are provided in the right-hand column.  Feel free to be creative and do something other than what is suggested here.

(click on the date to be taken to assignments due on that date)
28 June 2006 17 July 2006 07 August 2006
03 July 2006 first film reflection due*

14 August 2006
second film reflection due*
10 July 2006 24 July 2006 16 August 2006
graduate critical essay due*
*More detailed instructions for the film reflections and the graduate critical essays will be posted closer to the due dates.
Due 28 June 2006

"Film Language." American Cinema. Prod. New York Center for Visual History, KCET/Los Angeles and the BBC, 1995. Annenberg Media. Video on Demand. <>.

"Writing and Critically Thinking About Film." American Cinema. Prod. New York Center for Visual History, KCET/Los Angeles and the BBC, 1995. Annenberg Media. Video on Demand. <>.
Watch these short videos from the Annenberg collection's American Cinema series, produced by the New York Center for Visual History.
Due 03 July 2006 (Study notes for Grapes of Wrath and Raisin in the Sun)
"Voices from the Dust Bowl." American Memory. The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941. 08 Jan. 1998.  <>.

You do not need to limit yourself to this resource for finding materials related to the Dust Bowl and the Depression.  Feel free to explore elsewhere for materials.

DuBowski, Sandi Simcha, Lucy Walker, and Carey Monserrate. "Trembling Playground: Two Young Directors Discuss Film, Faith, and the Challenges of Documenting Religion."
Cross Currents 54.1 (2004): 84-95. Persistent link: <

The Photographs of Bill Coleman's Amish Odyssey. <>.

You may also explore other sites that might shed light on the Amish and, in particular, rumspringa -- especially in relationship to the changing economy of the late 20th-early 21st centuries.

"Chicago: Destination for the Great Migration." The African-American Mosaic. Library of Congress Online Exhibition. 05 July 2005. <>.

"Sir, I Will Thank You with All My Heart: Seven Letters from the Great Migration." History Matters: The U.S. History Course on the Web.  <>.

"'We Tho[ugh]t State Street Would Be Heaven Itself': Black Migrants Speak Out."
History Matters: The U.S. History Course on the Web.  <>.

"1919: Race Riots." Death, Disturbances, Disasters, and Disorders in Chicago. Chicago Public Library. Feb. 2006.

"Gangs and the 1919 Chicago Race Riot." <

"Racism in Housing."  <

Feel free to explore other resources on racial discrimination in the North, in cities such as Chicago, especially in the 1950s and 1960s.
Cavalcanti, H.B., and Debra Schleef.

"Cultural Loss and the American Dream: The Immigrant Experience in Barry Levinson's Avalon." Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 24.3/4 (2001): 11-12. Persistent link: <
Look at photographs and song lyrics; listen to old songs; read interviews and stories from people during this time.  Put together a presentation to show in class. For example, make up stories to go along with photographs. Think about The Grapes of Wrath and its relationship to the trials and tribulations of folks trying to achieve the American Dream as you explore this site.  
Read this discussion between the filmmakers of Devil's Playground and Trembling Before G-d, rent and view Trembling Before G-d (you can also find Devil's Playground pretty easily) and compare the two films both in terms of film style and in terms of content related to the title of this course. Or, check out the photographs on Bill Coleman's web site to see if you can match any of the images with themes that Lucy Walker raises in discussing or showing her film.
Explore these sites about free rural Blacks' migration up north and some of their experiences during the Great Migration. What do the maps, photographs, and manuscripts tell you about why rural Blacks moved north? What do you learn about their experiences in trying to achieve the "American Dream"?  This reading is in preparation for the film A Raisin in the Sun.
Read this article in preparation for the film Avalon, which chronicles the American Dream experience of a Russian immigrant family, coming to America at the turn of the 20th century (the height of the Industrial Revolution), and the changes the family experiences from one generation to another.
Due 10 July 2006 (Study Notes for Blood In...Blood Out - updated from class handout)
"Montage of a Dream Deferred" read by Langston Hughes, accompanied by Charles Mingus and Leonard Feather on Weary Blues, with Langston Hughes, Charles Mingus, and Leonard Feather. Vinyl recording. Polygram/Verve/Impulse, 1958, 1991.  <>. Read and listen to (there is a "listen to/escuche" button in the upper left-hand area of the web site) the entire "Montage of a Dream Deferred," on this web site, which includes an incredible recording of Langston Hughes himself reading his poem, accompanied by music from jazz legends Charles Mingus and Leonard Feather.  Research how this poem is related to Lorraine Hansbury's play and the 1961 film and to the topic of discrimination and segregation in the North.  Write about or otherwise illustrate (for instance, a PowerPoint photo montage with a selection from the poem reading and musical accompaniment).  Be sure to emphasize the theme of the quest for the American Dream.
Baca, Jimmy Santiago. "Immigrants in Our Own Land." Immigrants in Our Own Land and Selected Early Poems. New Directions, 1990. <
Research Jimmy Santiago Baca, who wrote the screenplay for Blood In Blood Out: Bound by Honor. Deconstruct his poem, "Immigrants in Our Own Land" and discuss/show how the poem relates to the theme of the American Dream gone awry for Mexican-Americans, as portrayed in the film Blood In Blood Out: Bound by Honor. Keep in mind the related theme of the immigrant experience.
  • Stereotyping gender roles in cinema.
  • The role of religious symbolism in cinema.
  • Radicalism and revolutionary politics in cinema.
  • Revolutionary woman: The role of women in catalyzing community change.
Choose one of the topics to the left and, using scholarly sources, write a brief discussion piece (two pages) describing how one or more of the films we've seen so far treat the topic.  Include in your search process a stop at Google Scholar ( and then proceed to PSU Vikat ( to find journal and then the full article online.  If you need assistance with this process, let me know.
Pick one or more aspects of prison and/or gang life and create a discussion piece related to the topic of "Gangs, Prison, and Community," using the some or all of the resources provided to the left.  Think about how in Blood In Blood Out: Bound by Honor, Miklo kept referring to San Quentin as "home."  Be sure to keep the focus of this class (conflict and community) at the forefront of your presentation.
Mumia Abu-Jamal's Freedom Journal: Updating the Campaign to Free Mumia! <>. Like Crips leader, Tookie Williams (who was executed on Dec. 13, 2005, after 24 years on death row), Mumia Abu-Jamal (on death row for about as long as Williams) has been a rallying point for anti-death penalty activists, as well as Black rights activists who protest the disproportionate percentage of Blacks on death row, unjust prison conditions, and white supremacy. Williams's appeals were unsuccessful, but Abu-Jamal's outlook currently appears somewhat more hopeful. Begin with the link to the left to explore one or both of these two death row inmates and their effect on unifying communities that are characterized by racial, social, ethnic, and class conflict.
Due 17 July 2006 and 20 July 2006
(Study Notes for West Side Story)
(Study Notes for Do the Right Thing)
Continue to read from and use these materials to
prepare your Discussion Piece for Monday, July 20, 2006.
  • "The Five Freedoms: Why Did They Come?"
    at <>.
     For example, "Freedom from Want" discusses Mexican immigration, both legal and illegal, and the potato famine that spurred Irish immigrants to undertake a dangerous journey to a new land, where they faced terrible discrimination.
  • "When Did They Come?" at
    This section, for instance, has an interactive map you can use to look and when and why certain groups (like my people, the Southern Italians) came to the U.S.
  • "Personal Stories," at  
    <> contains video snippets and interviews of different people who have come to the U.S. recently, including Manuel, for example, who illegally crosses the U.S.-Mexican border as a migrant worker, and Rodi Alvorado, who fled Guatemala over ten years ago, because her husband was abusing here; she is still waiting for her political asylum case to be decided.
  • "The New Americans," at
    <> takes you to the stories of people who represent the newest "wave" of immigration: Africans, Dominicans, Indians, Mexicans, etc.
  • FACE TO FACE, at <>, uses images and words to connect the experiences of Japanese Americans in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor with those confronting Arab and Muslim Americans today.
  • BEYOND THE FIRE, at<>, teenage refugees now living in America, tell their experiences in their own words.
Visit PBS's Destination America website about immigration.  Pick and choose among the sections to the left to create a presentation about some aspect of immigration -- as it relates to community, discrimination, and conflict -- that interests you.  You could make a PowerPoint presentation, incorporating sound, image, and text or you could write something up.  The point is: try to show how changes in the economy (for instance, as a result of the Industrial Revolution) and different waves of immigration (for different reasons) have resulted in communities of specific class and/or ethnic characteristics and how this might help explain the conflicts and tensions that exist.
Browse through the "Voices from the Days of Slavery" site, which includes photos, essays, interviews, and songs,  You can browse by subject.  For example, under "S" you can find slave narratives from specific states and on specific topics. Throughout, you can find recordings of freed slaves speaking on topics such as "social life and customs," "social conditions," "family relationships," "religion," "education," and "abuse." Perhaps you can, for instance, put together a PowerPoint show that combines words and music and images to give a sense of the conditions of life among African American slave communities.

Next, look through "From Haven to Home" and compare and contrast some of the points of intersection and diversion between African-American and Jewish communities.  For example, both were highly discriminated against; on the other hand, during the Civil War era, many Jewish people supported the Confederacy and felt that the Bible justified slavery. Think about the ramifications of two discriminated-against groups being at odds with one another.
Two immigration stories we have been following are the Great Migration story of the migration of freed Blacks from the South up to the North.  We saw in the film Raisin in the Sun how difficult it was for free Blacks to integrate successfully in a northern city like Chicago. We've also been looking at the quest for the American Dream among Latino groups.  Create some sort of discussion piece presentation to illustrate the migration experiences of these two ethnic groups, focusing on the search for the American Dream -- and the costs paid.
Learn more about the politics and tensions of immigration -- legal and illegal.  

The first item is a fascinating journey, with video, slides, sound, and words, of two journalists following along the Mexican-American border. Truly fascinating.  

Some of the other pieces here are about the "tradition" of drug smuggling, including some of the folkoric aspects, especially as captured in the music of the Sinoloa region in Mexico (known as the narcocorrido).  There is also a link to an article on Colombian drug mules and an "informal" community "mayor" who helps them here in this country.  He actually appeared in the film Maria Full of Grace, which you could rent and use for part of your presentation.
What is at the root of conflict within communities?  Is it differences in class?  In race and ethnicity?  Some combination of both?  Can there even be a "free capitalist democracy" without some sort of "servant" class? Can there be the "have-gots" without there being the "have-nots"?  Is inequality an inescapable reality of life (there have, after all, been slaves from the earliest days of human communities)?  Well, maybe.  But can this inequality exist without tension and conflict?  Is it even reasonable to expect a world without war, drugs, death, crime, violence, and alienation? And is it at all realistic to expect some sort of subcommunities to emerge as a result of these inequalities and injustices?

But just how unequal are things? Well, don't just shrug your shoulders and say, "I don't know."  Read and find out.  The information here is fairly compelling.  Some of these are longer and some are shorter pieces.  Some focus on issues of subjugation and exploitation of the disenfranchised.  Read and learn and share what you find out.
These pieces explore some topics related to street gangs, although there is a much more comprehensive web site below. The links here include a recent series in The Oregonian bout Portland-based gangs. Otherwise, the focus of these sites is the gang as family and/or community.
Carlie, Michael K. Into the Abyss: A Personal Journey into the World of Street Gangs. 2002. <>.

This online book is billed as the "one of the newest and most comprehensive resources on street gangs in America."  It covers nearly 100 different gang-related topics and includes a multitude of links. There's really an incredible abundance of material here -- including a section on the Community and Gangs.  Working through this book and providing weekly summaries of  the most relevant parts (relevant to the topic of this class: conflict and community). If you are interested in gangs, this is the only site you'll need.

© Martha J. Bianco, Ph.D., 2006-2008