Boxes are great.
They hold things very well.
They protect things very well, as well.
They keep things hidden and easily stored.
They provide structure where there is none and create order where it is needed.
Watch this short film.
Several of you may have seen this film and that’s okay. It’s good to watch things again after having not seen them in a while, informed by new experiences and new purposes.
How many stories did you see in this film? One? Three? Seven? Fifteen? More?
What would this story have been without a box?
What would this story have been without a camera?
What would this story have been without music?
What would this story have been with dialogue?
How might this story inspire a scientist hoping to prove a theory?
How might this story inform a mathematician trying to solve a problem?
When I watch this film, I see possibilities. I see who we are before we become encumbered by expectations and self-awareness. I see empathy and tragedy, acceptance and nostalgia.
And I see a filmmaker who knows that we don’t need to see every detail to know the entire story. I see deliberate camera framing that creates a box into which we look to see outside of that box. I see a well-chosen handheld camera shot to capture the chaos of the moment and the ease with which an audience may recognize grief at a distance. I see the power of silence.
I don’t know that writing this story would achieve the same goal. I don’t know that drawing it into a comic book would have the same emotional resonance. I am inclined to think that an oral telling of this story, in hands and lips of a deft storyteller, might come close. And then I watch that final montage and I’m not sure. Showing students the power of effective piece of editing, then providing them the opportunity to exercise the same power, makes them not just the audience for the films they watch, but critical colleagues in the culture of meaning making.
And then I watch the film in a classroom full of students who have not seen it.
I gauge their maturity, sensitivity, empathy, discomfort, insecurity by their responses to a single moment. Whether a tear or a laugh, both provide an opportunity for me to learn more about those individuals. Why the tears? Why the laughs? Conversations rather than judgements. (IA laugh can come from a sad place, just as well as it can from cruel place; I learned this the hard way.)
Gifts sometimes come in boxes.
One gift we may provide our students is the opportunity to think outside of the box.
It is a gift we may present to ourselves, as well.
Originally posted as part of UMF EDU 571 Learning & Innovating with Digital Storytelling course.