As many of you know, Husband-Jamie is a writer and filmmaker, and has a special place in his heart for monsters and creepy things. At this time of year, it feels only appropriate to share his work as a fun Halloween-themed English study.
Over the past several years, he has collaborated with artist Ali LaRock and musician/composer Kevin Smith to create two short films that explore traditional folklore stories. A third film is slated, but as of now still very much in the creative process.
The first film, “Cornerboys,” is inspired by the Christina Rossetti poem, “Goblin Market.” Like many folk stories (Little Red Riding Hood, anyone?), it is a cautionary tale for young girls to watch out for predatory men. The second film, “House of the Yaga,” features the terrifying cannibal witch from Russian folklore, Baba Yaga.
The images and messages are creepy, so I definitely recommend you previewing these films before you share them with your kids. At just about 10 minutes each, this shouldn’t be too hard to fit in. If you choose to look at them as a study in English, think about questions like these:
- How do these stories relate to and build off the original poem and folktales that inspired them? Why do we write stories like these?
- How does the music impact the story? Plug your computer into your stereo and crank it up to hear the more subtle audio layers and whispers. How does the music reflect and/or foreshadow the events? Is it part of the narration? How?
- Why do you think Jamie chose the type of rhyme he did to tell the tales? What type of poetic form is he using?
- What person is the story being told in? Why do you think Jamie chose to tell it that way? What are the advantages and disadvantages of telling a story from different perspectives?
- How does the artwork impact the story? Why do you think the artist chose the images she did?
- How do you think the artists worked together to create the film? Why do you think they chose to collaborate? What strengths did the collaboration bring? Do you think collaborating would be challenging? Why?
- What are the themes of the films?
- Are there any words in the story that you don’t know? If so, what are their meanings, and why were they chosen?
- Which film do you find to be more scary (we’ve found that this opinion varies)? What makes it scary to you? Why do you think some people might find the other film (whichever one that is) more frightening?
Build from there, and be sure to let me know if you come up with other questions and ideas. If you’re into the hands-on approach to learning (and of course you should be!), try some of these ideas for further exploration:
- Write a story of your own inspired by a traditional folk tale or poem.
- If you’re more an artist than a writer, create artwork that retells a traditional tale.
- If you’re a musician, compose a soundtrack that tells your story.
- Go all out and create a film of your own! If you need advice, please ask me. I can tell you how Jamie put the final films together (it’s easier than you might imagine).
- Skype the author! Jamie loves to talk to students of all ages, so if you get excited about the films, please let me know. He has Skyped with folks before, including a great high school classroom in France that took on “Cornerboys” as a multi-week English project. You can read more about that fabulous experience here. That will take you to a post on Jamie’s old website. To see what he’s up to now, visit him at his new one.
Here are the films. I’d love to hear what you (and your kids) think!
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