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Film Review: Please Vote for Me

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Film Review: Please Vote for Me

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Please Vote for Me is a 2007 documentary film following the elections for class monitor in a 3rd grade class of eight-year-old children in the Evergreen Primary School in Wuhan, China. It is directed by Weijun Chen.

A treatment of this film could be facilitated in a sixth grade Ancient Civilizations course. The concept of democracy is introduced in the chapter on ancient Greece during the year, and the film would be a poignant complement to the discussions around the development of democracy throughout history.

Students could compare and contrast ancient Greece with ancient Chinese governing constructs. Additionally, they could contrast modern-day China with the U.S. or other democracies. At the end of the study, students could remark on which governing style is the most effective (e.g. democratic, autocratic, plutocratic, legalism) and make recommendations to the U.S. or China on how their governments can improve.

The film would be used throughout the lesson. Students would highlight the pros and cons of democracy, and use that analysis to help them form their opinions about the governance of societies. In contrast, the students could also analyze the Legalist or autocratic nature of teachers in a classroom, which would help them to scaffold up towards an analysis of non-democratic societies today.

Please Vote for Me is a perfect counterweight to the abstractions of democracy taught in the textbook.

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Message from egonzalez

Please Vote for Me is a documentary directed by Wiejun Chen. The film is set in Wuhan, Central China at Evergreen Primary School. Mrs. Zhang's third grade class is given the chance to do something that is considered strange in China: vote. The class of about 40 students must decide between three candidates: Luo Lei, Cheng Cheng, or Xu Xiaofei. The candidates must prove themselves through a talent show, a debate, and finally a speech. This was an interesting documentary that delivers a taste of the home life and school life of young Chinese students.

As a third grade teacher, I believe that my students would benefit most from watching the first couple of minutes of the documentary. They will get to see the way they salute their flag, the beautiful straight lines in which the entire school stand in, and the roles that student leaders play in their morning business. I was really impressed by the students leading in the chant and raising the flag all by themselves. Also, students will get to see the students chanting Communist praises on their way out of school. I think they will be most surprised at the fact that students don't know what a democracy is, or even what it means to vote. There is another clip near the end of the film that is key for young students to watch, the one in which the classroom teacher talks about the meaning of voting. She states, "voting is a sacred matter".
I think these clips would lead to a great discussion about the duties of citizens under a democracy, including that of being an informed voter. I think it will be an eye-opening experience for them.

The rest of the film would be better for an older audience. Although my students can probably relate to the issues and struggles of the young protagonists, I think that most of the meaning would be lost. I also don't think they would be able to handle seeing the young candidate repeatedly walking around in his underwear (in scenes that show him at home).

Older students would be able to discuss the family dynamics depicted in the documentary, highlighting the involvement of the parents in making sure their children succeed. They could also discuss something that Cheng Cheng brings up from time to time, releasing the chi from your belly. In Chinese culture this is a life-giving energy that is believed to unite the body,mind, and spirit. Lastly, they could discuss the pros and cons of democracy, and how the candidates are willing to risk it all for a little power.

I found the documentary on