Hundreds of high school students to participate in World Cinema Day

From UW-Madison Communications 

For the past five years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has welcomed hundreds of Wisconsin high school students and teachers to World Cinema Day, a program of the Language Institute and the Wisconsin Film Festival to raise cultural awareness and deepen understanding of diverse perspectives through international film.

This year, a record number of more than 800 students and teachers from 15 Wisconsin and Illinois schools will participate in the program, scheduled for Friday, April 4, at the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown Madison from 12:45-3 p.m.

The centerpiece of World Cinema Day this year is the psychological thriller “Fermat’s Room” (Spain, 2007), in which a small group of mathematical geniuses are brought together to solve a great puzzle. The characters quickly face a more pressing matter: solve a series of mathematical puzzles in a minute’s time or less, or be crushed by the room they are locked in.

Participating teachers in World Cinema Day 2008 represent many subject areas: world languages, English, social studies and mathematics. The focus on real-life mathematical puzzles in this year’s film was particularly intriguing to math teachers.

“Math teachers are always looking for the rare field trip opportunity that relates to math,” explains Janice Baim, a participating mathematics teacher from Janesville’s Craig High School, “and ‘Fermat’s Room’ brings math to life in a really fun and exciting way.”

Adds World Cinema Day coordinator Wendy Johnson, “Teachers appreciate World Cinema Day’s many layers of educational value: access for their students to the wonderful Wisconsin Film Festival, and the power of films to engender interest in world languages and cultures.”

To support teachers in bringing the film to their classrooms, the Language Institute has created an instructive guide based on “Fermat’s Room.” The guide includes suggested pre-viewing and post-viewing activities on various topics and interpretations of the film. This guide will be made available on the World Cinema Day Web site.

Many UW-Madison faculty and staff will participate in World Cinema Day 2008, including Juan Egea, Department of Spanish and Portuguese; Katarzyna Beilin, Department of Spanish and Portuguese; Sally Magnan, Language Institute, Department of French and Italian; Margaret R. Meyer, Wisconsin Center for Education Research; Ken Ono, Department of Mathematics; and Robin Worth, Language Institute.

World Cinema Day is a collaborative program of the Language Institute and the Wisconsin Film Festival. Funding for World Cinema Day 2008 is through the Brittingham Trust; the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program; and the Wisconsin Film Festival.

The Language Institute promotes collaboration for research, education and community outreach in world languages, literatures and cultures. The Language Institute is an initiative of the College of Letters and Science, with substantial support from the Division of International Studies.