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About the Inititative

The Global Film Initiative was created to promote cross-cultural understanding through the medium of cinema. Although American film continues to thrive in the global marketplace, developing world filmmaking has suffered from shifting economic conditions in film financing and distribution. As a result, audiences in the United States have been denied the rich cultural lessons these films have to offer.

The Initiative has developed four complementary programs, all involving film from the developing world, to address this situation:


For more information regarding our Education Program, visit the Frequently Asked Questions section for Education.

The Education Program

Granting Program | Acquisitions Program | Distribution Program | Education Program


Click here to download catalogue


Download EDU Guides

Click here for discussion guides and more

In his “A New Beginning” address to the University of Cairo in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama noted that “All of us share this world but for a brief moment in time. The question,” he says “is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground.”

The challenge to find a “common ground,” especially with those whose cultures and traditions are not our own, extends beyond the reach of geography, history, social studies and languages.  It is no easy achievement, but one that only requires that we see the world through the eyes of others, and share in their daily experience. What matters most to people in China, or Africa, or the Middle East? How do they resolve conflicts? How do they deal with suffering and loss? One of the most successful means of ‘seeing the world through the eyes of others’ is through narrative feature film.

The Education Program of The Global Film Initiative presents full-length feature films from around the world, in specially-designed programs that encourage students to gain a deeper understanding of different cultural points of view. From the opening scenes of these films, students are transported everywhere from the busy and narrow streets of Kolkata to the magnificent mountainous landscapes of Kurdistan. Within their cultural contexts, this year's films investigate universal and unique themes:

  • ABOUT 111 GIRLS (Iraq) An Iranian state official, his driver and a young guide race across a troubled but magnificent landscape to stop 111 young Kurdish women from committing suicide in protest against conditions that have left them spinsters.
  • BEIJING FLICKERS (China) A young man left behind by Beijing's fabulous new wealth experiences moments of euphoria amid despair as he roams the city with other misfit dreamers in this darkly funny, gorgeously gritty portrait of disaffected youth.
  • CAIRO 678 (Egypt) Three Cairene women from different backgrounds warily unite to combat the sexual harassment that has impacted each of their lives—and become a citywide plague—but their unconventional response provokes a dogged police hunt.
  • LIFE KILLS ME (Chile) Life and death come wrapped in a mutual embrace, both absurd and poignant, in celebrated director Sebastián Silva's debut film about the unlikely friendship between a grieving, young cinematographer and a morbidly obsessed drifter.
  • SHYAMAL UNCLE TURNS OFF THE LIGHTS (India) An 80-year-old Kolkata retiree is determined to get the streetlights turned off after sunrise, but finding someone to take him seriously proves a battle against an indifferent bureaucracy and a complacent status quo.

The Lesson Plans and Discussion Guides that accompany most films provide standards-based, structured learning that supports core programs in the high school curriculum.

Lesson Plans are:

  • Performance–based assessment tools that encourage and develop reading, writing, presentation and team collaboration skills. Assessment parameters are specified in the Lesson Plan package.
  • Structured on the project-based learning (PBL) model, with warm-up, film screening and post-screening activities driven by the “essential question” in the title.
  • Designed to meet the state curriculum and national program standards listed in the package.

Discussion Guides are:

  • Comprehensive background resources for the films, including information about the geography, history and cultural setting, the filmmaker’s statement and biography, and a guide to filmmaking techniques.
  • Post–screening resources for teachers, providing structured, theme–based discussion questions to encourage deeper understanding of the characters, stories and cultural context of the films.
  • Designed to meet national program standards listed in the package.

Lesson Plans and Discussion Guides are available for download on this website, in .pdf format. Additional resources available for download:

  • Presenter’s Guides for each film, with film highlights and talking points about the cultural context.
  • Fact Sheets for each film, similar to the Presenter’s Guides but with more information about the filmmaker, where the film has been screened and awards received.
  • Subtitle Lists that correspond to the subtitles shown on the screen. Subtitle Lists can be valuable for post–screening activities that focus on the details of particular scenes or character development.

If you would like to download any of our educational materials (Teaching Guides, Discussion Guides, Subtitles, Presenter Guides) click here to log-in.

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