So, Pokemon Boy and Drama King are in another Brave Writer online class: the Miyazaki Movie Discussion Club. They have four Hayao Miyazaki films to watch, one a week, and then the teacher posts questions for them to talk about on the online forum.
There are no essays or assignments. It is purely discussion. The teacher has a MA in Film Studies and is a Miyazaki fan herself. She is very good at seeding discussion and introducing interesting ideas or information, without taking over.
Pokemon Boy was very reluctant to take part. He has moved from being a reluctant writer, full stop, to being a prolific writer but reluctant to share his output with the general public. I have stopped linking to his blog and I have to be careful what I say on Facebook etc. because I am aware of his need to maintain some privacy. When he is old enough to have a Facebook account I will definitely not ‘friend’ him.
Drama King is still a reluctant writer, but enjoys e-mailing his friends and chatting via Skype or Google +. Released from the constraints of formal ‘writing’, minus the physical effort of handwriting, and without having to worry about spelling or grammar, he is more forthcoming than I had expected.
I am not a member of the discussion group, but I couldn’t help logging in with their passwords to see what they have been saying. I was quietly proud of their contributions, especially Pokemon Boy’s insights about My Neighbour Totoro (the first film covered) and how he responded to other participants’ comments by re-watching the film and looking out for other themes or elements.
I love the way that Brave Writer gently extends the children’s critical awareness without turning them off film, narrative or poetry. I am also very pleased to have started our movie appreciation with a non-Western film-maker with particular sensitivities for the physical environment, and with strong female characters. At the same time as watching the Miyazaki films, we have been re-watching some films from the eighties, my childhood, and I am horrified at the stereotypes, the prejudices and the sexual/gender constraints that they convey.
Now I have to stop myself from booking ourselves onto the next few courses. I see that the July Movie Discussion Group is on the theme of Fantasy, and the October one is Robots. At 199 USD for a family, the courses are good value, but perhaps to be taken once a year rather than once a season. But maybe with this one under our belt, we can devise our own family versions to keep us going until next year.