This summer I am teaching one of my favorite classes on the Amazon Rainforest. The class covers ecology, cultural globalization, native peoples, film, urban development, history and economics. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed teaching it is to be able to talk about the Amazon in film and literature. But I’ve also found a great video resource. The website Top Documentary Films contains free films for either class or personal use. I’m planning to use clips from the Fight for the Amazon series, which looks at environmental and social issues in the Amazon. “Raids in the Rainforest” follows the young director of Brazil’s national park system as she tries to protect her parks. This would be a great choice for an environmental section of an introductory class. “The Justice Boat” looks at a traveling judge, who travels on boat to remote areas of the Amazon to bring the state to the riverdwellers. It would be a good choice for a class that dealt with the role of the state in the developing world. Finally, “The Internet Indians” examines how indigenous peoples (the Ashaninka) are using the internet to defend their interests. It would be a good choice for a class dealing with either the environment or cultural globalization. Another great choice on that topic would be the Youtube video on Google’s collaboration with the Surui, called “Trading Bows and Arrows for Laptops.” This brief (around seven minute) clip is a pick me up that tends to cheer up students during classes that can sometimes cover very dark topics.
If you are watching the “Fight in the Amazon” series on the website, you move from one video to the next by pressing the symbol button on the bottom that looks like an arrow pointing at a wall. The video is free from ads. This avoids embarrassing episodes, as when I was showing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporations’ wonderful video on the global financial crisis, Meltdown, only to realize there was an ad for Viagra in the middle.
Another great resource is the Wide Angle video series by PBS. In my opinion, this is simply the best video collection on global topics currently available. Years ago when I was teaching the Introduction to International Studies class a box came in the mail with a series of videos. The first one I used dealt with the Argentine financial crisis, and even though a little dated (2003), it’s a still a useful documentary. But there are many recent videos in the on-line collection, which you can search by region and topic. The one caveat is that I am not sure that the series is available outside of the United States, so if you are reading this in Australia, Canada or India, I’m afraid that it may be unavailable. I’m planning on using “The Burning Season” in my Amazon class, even though it focuses on rainforests in Indonesia. The episode deals with an Australian entrepreneur’s efforts to preserve rainforest -and make money- by selling carbon credits.
I’m curious to know what videos you may be watching or using, so please share any ideas that you have in the comments section. And good luck with your classes to all of you are teaching this summer like me.
Shawn Smallman, Portland State University