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International Literature to Inspire Student Filmmakers

Posted on May 15, 2017

Have you ever explored filmmaking with your students? Projects that adapt literature to the screen can help students actively engage with and imagine settings, characters, and plots in stories. A blog post from Edutopia shares an extensive list of resources for creating “5-Minute Film Festivals” in classrooms. 

A great example of student films based on literature from WWB Campus is Alona Guevarra’s students’ film of “Sleepless Homeland.” Guevvara teaches in the English Department at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, Philippines, and she had assigned students in her Introduction to Poetry and Drama class to work in groups to create their own reinterpretations of the poem, which deals with Mexico’s drug wars. 

Another is  this video of images set to Iman Mersal's poem, "Alternative Geography," posted alongside a different poem by Mersalon this website. 

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

Other useful resources include two articles from Edutopia: one gives tips on how to insert movie-making into your lesson plan and the other is a playlist of instructional videos about filmmaking.

Although it would be possible to adapt any of the literature on WWB Campus to film, some literature that seems particularly well-suited to student filmmaking includes:

"The Memory"—This story, inspired by Felix Vallaton’s painting The Ball, describes the same scene from several different perspectives. Students could make films incorporating the painting, and representing the characters' varying perspectives.

The Trapped Boy”—The cinematic imagery and unusual structure in this story could inspire film adaptations of the story, or original films with similarly experimental structures.

The Farside”—This story features intriguing dialogue and atmosphere, and student films could play with the identity of the mysterious narrator, which switches from second person to third person in the middle.

The Egyptian Tomb”—This highly metaphorical story offers lots of opportunities for creative cinematic representation. How might the setting evoke an Egyptian tomb? What kind of dialogue occurs between the mother and daughter?

Hello?”—In this story on a crowded bus, we hear only from the narrator as he watches and listens to the conversations around him. A film version might create adaptations of more busy scenes with voice-over narration.

Metamorphosis”—This story from Japan portrays the ways in which a real-life tragedy begins to imitate stage theater. Students can adapt this story, or film original stories about the blurring of the line between reality and illusion.

The Pharaohs of Egypt”—While it would be difficult to set a short film at the Egyptian pyramids, students could create films representing cultural misunderstandings similar to those in the story.

Translating poetry into film allows students the flexibility to connect it to their own life experiences, as did the students who set "Sleepless Homeland" on a college campus. Poetry on WWB Campus that might particularly facilitate such adaptions includes:

 Watch the student film of "Sleepless Homeland" mentioned above:

Lit 14: Sleepless Homeland from Clar Tagaza on Vimeo.

Last, in “Director’s Notes on ‘Sway’,” Nishikawa Miwa tells about the dream that gave her inspiration for a film about a possible murder. Based on this story, students could also create film adaptations of their own dreams.

Have your students created any films based on WWB Campus literature? Please send them to us if so—we’d love to feature student work in another blog post in the future!