Films that matter

I suppose all films matter to the people who make them. But as a parent, I’m fonder of films that focus on child-related themes than films full of chase scenes. So I’m thrilled that Arizona parents will have two opportunities this week to enjoy films that raise important issues for families.

First. a film titled “Pushing the Elephant.” It’s being broadcast on Eight, Arizona PBS this Tuesday, March 29, at 1opm — as part of the PBS “Independent Lens” series. The film profiles a mother of 10 named Rose Mapendo, who some of you may know from a 2007 piece Vicki Louk Balint wrote for Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

PBS says the film “follows the life of Congolese refugee Rose Mapendo and her family, and their story of love and survival. Now an Arizona resident, Mapendo emerged from the harrowing experience advocating forgiveness and reconciliation.”

I first learned of the film after attending “The Many Faces of Film Series” presented at Scottsdale Community College in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League. The film shown that evening was “Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case that Made History.”

During a Q & A session following the film, one of Mapendo’s sons stood to share ways parents can teach and model anti-bullying attitudes and behaviors. I enjoyed chatting with the young man, who towered over me much like my own son, with kind eyes and a genuine beaming smile.

Mapendo’s story holds important lessons for all parents — and those who’d like to experience the film in a community setting can see it Thursday, March 31, at the Mesa Arts Center. It’s being shown in the Dobson Lecture Hall at Mesa Contemporary Arts (part of the MAC) at 6:30pm.

Admission is free, but those planning to attend must first RSVP to katie.brown@mesaaz.gov. The film is being presented as part of a City of Mesa “Community Cinema” series, and Mapendo — named the 2009 United Nations Humanitarian of the Year — will present a lecture following the film.

Second, a film titled “Race to Nowhere.” It’s being shown at Yavapai College in Prescott on Friday, April 1, at 7pm. The film is part of a grassroots movement sparked by a mother named Sara Bennett, founder of an organization called “Stop Homework.”

Race to Nowhere” features several experts concerned that American schools may be missing important opportunities to help children “become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens” — including educators, clinical psychologists and an adolescent medicine specialist.

Tickets for the Yavapai College screening are $15 at the door or $10 when purchased in advance. Valley residents may enjoy a screening closer to home at some point, but those eager to join the discussion — or perhaps the “End the Race” movement — will enjoy getting a jump on the issue by attending this event.

I’m eager to learn more about the “End the Race” movement — having long witnessed with my own three children the ways standardized testing and mountains of homework have been counterproductive to their development as active, engaged citizens seeking knowledge with joyous curiosity.

Considering that bullying and education are two of the hottest topics in parenting and political circles these days, I hope you’ll make time to experience one or both of these films this week. Then join the discussion, engaging your children, peers, educators and policy makers in moving the conversation forward.

— Lynn

Note: Rose Mapendo will be a guest on “Horizon” on Eight, Arizona PBS on Tuesday, March 29 — which airs at 7pm.

Coming up: An argument for more art and less homework

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