The movie I have selected for review is Ode to My Father, which provides an interesting context for a better understanding of culture and history as an overarching subject in a literature class with a focus on writing. The story gives a lens into the life of a person from a real historical context which can make the students’ engagement with the subject more engrossing and effective. The way the movie will be used will be to help with the analysis of culture and history and the impact of each in the shape of the student’s identity, individuality, choices, actions, and life, in general. Students, that is, will be using the plot of the story as a springboard to discuss matters of influence of culture and history on a person’s life and on society as a whole using writing and collaborative activities.
The result of their engagement with the plot of the story would involve developing a timeline of events, first, before they develop “A Sensory Moment” about one character in the story. The timeline would be useful in giving students a way to gain a grasp of the sequence of events, so they can better understand the way things connect to each other by way of cause and effect, or problem and solution. The next activity will be based on the former assignment, because it requires that students have established a mastery of the content so they can talk about more in depth about the character and the forces that influenced the character’s perspective and way of life. Students will use the knowledge and understanding they earned through the above activities in order to respond to one of two writing prompts in the form of an expository, or informational, essay.
In the timeline students, for instance, will be able to describe what happens to Deok-soo, the main character in the movie, who escapes as a child with his family from Hungam in North Korea during the forced December 1950 evacuation with the assistance of the UN Forces, when the Korean war had broken out. Students can list all the events in a chronological way, describing what Deok-soo experienced as a child losing his father and baby sister, assuming the responsibility of the older sibling in charge of taking care of his mother and siblings. During his childhood years there are not many events that take place, so students can record only one-to-two events on their timeline, before recording events from Deok-soo’s later stage in life, when he became a miner in West Germany and met his future wife, a nurse there, and then the time he returned to South Korea to marry the nurse he loved in West Germany, who was Korean, as well. Students can list more events belonging to the times of Deok-soo’s time in Vietnam, when he had to fight along other South Korean soldiers and the U.S., against the communist side of Vietnam. Students will dedicate the last section in their timeline to talk about Deok-soo’s last phase in life, when he returned back from Vietnam and there were several events that marked his life as a grandfather now celebrating family history and life with his wife and other members of his family. Students can add pictures to make their timeline more vivid and illustrative. Pictures relate to the themes of the story, such as those of war, family, romance, and cultural celebrations.
In addition, the assignment on the sensory moment of a character in the movie will require of students to develop a chart with a picture of the character they draw in, a statement of a specific historical event, or moment, where their character will be represented in a moment in time, such as the West Germany experience, where Deok-soo was employed as a miner. Students can, then, describe their character’s sensory experience through that of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. The characters can extend to Deok-soo’s wife, his aunt, his father, his sister, his son, or granddaughter.
Moreover, the way to conclude the lesson on the movie would be to have students choose between two writing prompts: the first being that of describing the cultural elements in the movie and how those have influenced the character’s choices, actions, and life. This writing prompt can extend to having students connect to the story by addressing the role of their own culture and how it influenced their identity, character, choices, and life. Cultural elements in the movie, for example, are the values that Deok-soo represents, how he values his family, and chooses to act.
Finally, the other prompt students can choose to address in the form of an essay is to have them respond to the question of how history, both personal and national, affects Deok-soo’s life and those around him who belong to his family circle, country, or to a different culture. Personal history for Deok-soo has been that his father and baby sister are missing after the December 1950 evacuation, and that memory has burdened him for the rest of his life. Another personal history is the experience in the mines in West Germany, which awakens him to the realization of the importance of life and quality of life than money, since he leaves the mining business and returns to his country, where there is poverty but there he enjoys a better way of living. An example of a collective history is the Korean War and how such an event influences Deok-soo in how he tends to be defensive and protective of his family and of his property, particularly, the market stall at Gukje Market, left in his hands as an inheritance from his aunt that passed away. The market stall is a symbol for the family history and the memories of loss occasioned from the Korean War that is still alive in the minds of the people, particularly, those who experienced it.