Casi!Casi! Learning from Cinemania

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Based on recommendations from  Jacob Burns Film Center we viewed Casi Casi: All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School to participate in a larger conversation about viewing, critiquing, and learning from film and incorporating the language of film into our classrooms.

There are several areas that we can think about as teachers and literacy leaders:

Films as mentor texts: What are the ways you think Casi Casi offers middle and high school students a mentor text for early filmmakers and digital storytellers?

Messages to Think About: What are the themes or messages of this story offer middle and high schoolers opportunities for reflection?

Issues of Identity: In the film, the protagonist says in his election speech, “I’m one of you.” What do you think the identity connections could be for students when viewing this film?

First person narrative: There aren’t many films that offer this narrative style. In what ways can students learn about first person narration through viewing this film or scenes from this film?

International film study: And, of course, the film is in Spanish. What are the benefits of exposing to students films in other languages? What do we learn from this experience as viewers of the film?

As a final note, there are so many opportunities in this film to consider the history of films that portray school…here are a few we’ve discussed and some others to consider…What do you notice as sites of influence within these film clips that may have inspired the filmmakers of Casi! Casi! in writing and filming their film about high school, unrequited love, and all around teen antics.

Breakfast Club

Dazed and Confused

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

My So Called Life

That Seventies Show

Looking forward to everyone’s final reflections.

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14 thoughts on “Casi!Casi! Learning from Cinemania

  1. Casi Casi was a clever and enjoyable film to watch! It really drew the audience in, and by the end of the film I was anxiously rooting for the students to be able to pull off the switch or for Emilio to change his mind last minute! Below are some of my thoughts relating to the questions posed and the other clips mentioned in the post above.

    Films as mentor texts: What are the ways you think Casi Casi offers middle and high school students a mentor text for early filmmakers and digital storytellers?

    When looking up some information about this film online I learned that the film was made by novice film makers and they had a very low budget when working on the film. The children in the film all wore their own clothing other than the uniforms they purchased for the school setting. Additionally, most if not all of the scenes are filmed by handheld shots with very few birds eye view shots making it an easier film to make without a lot of expensive and professional equipment. These factors can help early film makers become more comfortable shooting something similar as it is easier to relate to work they might have already done.

    Messages to Think About: What are the themes or messages of this story offer middle and high schoolers opportunities for reflection?

    This film was written in a way that students in middle school or high school can relate to the conversations, feelings, and actions of the students. Almost everyone has some similar crush situation when they were in middle or high school and they could imagine doing anything in their power to get that person to notice them. The outcome of this film can also speak to the students. While Emilio and his friends did not get caught, he did not get the end result that he was hoping for and it was devastating at first for him and his friends. This was not a classic end where “the guy gets the girl” and the end of the movie has the main character reflect on his friends and how happy he is with them. That is a great message to leave a group of middle or high school students at the end of the film for reflection.

    Issues of Identity: In the film, the protagonist says in his election speech, “I’m one of you.” What do you think the identity connections could be for students when viewing this film?

    I think one of the great things about the film is that when constructing Emilio’s social group, there really is a range of personalities in the group. Each person in his friend group is different and so many students can most likely see themselves as a mirror in one of the main characters in the film.
    The speech as well, is truly a way for students watching the film to connect. While there may be students who see a mirror in Jacklynn, the students who can relate to Emilio and his friends might be inspired by the speech he made. Emilio stood up and expressed how he can help his peers because he is one of them. He is not someone special; he is just the same as everyone else. It was truly inspiring to see how this film has ways for many different students to connect with characters who are very much like them.

    First person narrative: There aren’t many films that offer this narrative style. In what ways can students learn about first person narration through viewing this film or scenes from this film?

    If a student is interested in learning about first person narration in films, this would be a good one to look into. The best way, I think, to learn about this style however, would be to look at the script. As you are watching the film you might not notice every time when the first person narration format is present, and what information is being conveyed that way. If someone had the script, and marked off the points where the first person narration is present, and then noticed the way in which that part of the film is shown along with a focus on the type of information that is shared, it could help them better understand and work towards creating a similar film or presentation.

    International film study: And, of course, the film is in Spanish. What are the benefits of exposing to students films in other languages? What do we learn from this experience as viewers of the film?

    One of the best reasons, I think, to share this film with other students who speak another language, is that it is an age appropriate film that many students can relate to, that can really help the students viewing learn and understand that though the people in the film are from another country, and speak another language, they have similar relationship and social situations, and that they are really not different then themselves. This in a way can be seen as a window film where people can see into the lives of others from another country and culture, and a mirror film because many students in middle and high school can directly relate to the children in the film.

    When thinking about the other clips linked to above, here is how I saw some similarities and ways in which the film could have been influenced by the others out there.

    In “Ferris Buller’s Day Off” I see the same personality in the principal that we saw in “Casi Casi.” Being that Emilio’s group of friends was composed of many different types of people who could in theory represent all of the groups that the woman in the clip was listing, you can see Emilio as Ferris in that the principal needs to catch him to show everyone else that she will not tolerate what they are doing. The student’s keep evading the person in charge and it is driving them mad that they can’t stop them.

    When watching the clips from “My So-Called Life” and “Dazed and Confused” I really saw a lot of similarities in the camera work that was used. In “My So-Called Life” when the couple are walking down the hall, the scene is slowed down so that you can see the smile on the woman’s face. This reminded me of when Emilio saw Jacklynne in the hallway each time and the screen slowed down and we saw Jacklynne almost like she is a “vision” in Emilio’s eyes. Similarly, with the way that the camera in the clip from “Dazed and Confused” is held at eye-level and you see what the character walking into the bar sees, we saw that often in “Casi Casi” as well. There were many times where we as the viewer were almost put into the eyes of the character and we see what that character sees when talking to someone or walking around. This is slightly different then the close up shots but still helps the viewer feel as though they are in the film.

    Throughout the whole film, I also saw many similarities in theme between “Casi Casi” and the film “Matilda.” In both films there is an evil principal who is out to get a certain student in trouble. Both students and their friends are working together to pull together a prank and they are trying very hard to not get caught. While the pranks have different end goals, they are still similar in practice.

    Overall, I thought that it was a really great film and I can understand why it was chosen for the Jacob Burns Center to study and learn from with early film makers. While I have no background in film making, I can still appreciate the many layers and different components that can be studied by students learning about film making in this film that they can relate to and enjoy watching!

  2. I was surprised of how engaged I was in this movie considering it was a low-budget, low-tech, Spanish film. I think the reason I was able to get so into it was because after taking this class I am able to appreciate film better and especially the small details and effects that go into a movie. The story line itself was simple, but well thought out and so plausible of many high schools and middle schools today.
    I think “Casi, Casi” serves as a fantastic mentor text because there was no special effects or technology needed to produce this film; almost anyone with a camera and movie editing software can produce a film like this. A film like “Casi, Casi” reminds students that movie making isn’t all about the big explosion, make-up effects, or fancy lighting. It is about using what you know and have to make and tell a compelling story.
    There are some main themes I took away from this film, such as beauty is skin-deep. The girl Jacklynne may have been pretty on the outside, but Emilio learned the hard way that looks are only a smidge of the person you see. Another strong theme in this film is that of friendship and how true friends “stick together”, want what’s best for you, and see you succeed.
    I rarely do an international film study and I rarely watch foreign film for that matter at all, but watching a film like this reminds me that we are all not that different. We have the same high-school issues in America as they do in Spain and I’m sure in many other High schools across the globe. I think by having students watch films like this it can help to make us more inter-connected and show us how we are not that different despite where we are from or who we are. it also serve as a great language tool for students studying the Spanish language to hear it being used by students themselves.

  3. I believe that students could learn plenty of things after watching Casi Casi. This film would be a great way for teachers to introduce film-making, because this low-budget, low-tech film shows that good films can be made without fancy-shmancy special effects, car chase sequences, explosions, or computer animations. I feel like Casi Casi would “teach” students that a simple, universal story-line like winning over the heart of a girl, combined with a unique first-person voice-over, can make for a good film.

    In terms of its themes, I think students would enjoy discussing how the principal is portrayed and how we interpret her appearance, actions, and speech based on how the movie treats her. For example, students could discuss how the evil music which introduces her in a scene helps us interpret the principal as scary, mean and intimidating. The teacher could also show a clip from Casi Casi in which the principal appears and a clip with the principal in the Breakfast Club and compare and contrast each movie’s portrayal of a high school principal. What is similar? What is different? What similar techniques does the director use to portray each principal? (Answers could include the use of music, interactions with students, etc.). Because Casi Casi is also in Spanish and takes place in Puerto Rico (I noticed the Puerto Rican flag appearing throughout the movie, so I believe that’s where it takes place?), students could compare and contrast what other countries think of their teachers. Similarities between how teachers are portrayed in each country may be enlightening for students because they will see how people throughout the world are more alike than different.

    We could also talk about how the movie is mostly one big flashback; it starts “en media res” (in the middle of things) when the gang is trying to hide from the principal in the computer lab and then flashes back to how this whole plan got started: Emilio’s love for Jacklynne. Discussing the literary elements which the movie used, including flashbacks and first-person narration, will help students see how literary elements are used in all mediums, instead of just books. Their learning of literary elements would be reinforced and expanded through watching movies like Casi Casi, both for inspiration for creating their own mini-movies on high school life or analysis and interpretation in a traditional analysis paper. But I don’t think an assignment like an essay or a mini-movie is required after watching a movie like Casi Casi. Even just discussing a question like, “How does this film portray high school, and do you think it is realistic?” in a Socratic Seminar or a more informal discussion would be a great way to engage students in interpreting movies and practice analyzing the underlying assumptions or messages in movies and other forms of media.

  4. Casi Casi would be great to use as an example of an identity project/study. Told from a 1st person perspective, the audience has a great insight into the identity and person of Emilio. Without this perspective, we might not truly understand his decisions and lessons learned. With so many high school stereotypes addressed, the class could have some extended discussions about how each role plays out in the movie and compare/contrast to their own school environment and make up. A little naive and introverted, Emilio nurtures his infatuation with Jacklynne by running for office. It was interesting to view Jacklynne through his eyes and observe his blindness to her terrible character. It made me think of people I may have thought as perfect when in fact they had flaws.

    Casi Casi could also be used as an example of creating a narrative. It really moves easily along a very entertaining story line. The students might want to explore what makes the story exciting and how do they build suspense. The story begins and ends in the coffee shop at the end of the story. Students could have discussions about the reasons the movie makers choses to do this.

    I was curious about why the students traveled to San Juan to take pictures for the election? Why not in their town? Did leaving the school environment change their identities.? They seemed much more free and happy running around and exploring the city.

    Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused and especially Ferris Bueller’s Day Off were movies I loved and watched over and over. They really took a close look at the craziness of the high school world. I think it would be a difficult task to be allowed to show those films in the classroom- but I know the students would be engaged for sure!

  5. I totally agree with other blog entries that this movie is surprisingly engaging for how low budget and simple it is! The techniques are simple (not something I could do however!), the language and acting are simple and relatable, and their clothing is basic! First off, the topics addressed in this film are relatable to middle school and high school students. At one time or another, many preteens and teens in these grades develop crushes on other students and try to in many ways (some embarrassing) to impress the other person! The language in this film is appropriate for the preteen to teenage age group and is something that is comical and relatable. I believe many conversations can branch off from this simple film, such as about society and teenagers, lessons that came from this, cause and effect, different endings to the movie, identity and how the movie portrayed the different identities of each character, story lines and what this particular story map would look like, movie techniques such as flashbacks, character thoughts and day dreams, first person narration, etc. Wow!

  6. Casi Casi is a great film to show students as a mentor text for a personal narrative. It shows how to create a story that comes full circle. It also explores issues of identity that students will be able to relate to because of the setting and age of the characters. I think it shows that all kids may be feeling the same things and this film shows how we are all connected. I also like that students can see that they are capable of creating films just like this. If the task is in their reach, they will be more inclined to try it and explore film making and/or writing.

  7. I absolutely loved Casi! Casi! I was surprised that I was so engaged throughout the whole entire film, seeing as how there were subtitles and it was a very low-budget film. I think that this movie would be incredibly engaging for students in middle and high schools because it’s relatable, despite the movie being in Spanish.

    Films as mentor texts: Casi! Casi! is a very simply made film, and I believe that middle and high school students can use the techniques in the film to help them as filmmakers. The techniques are simple enough so that they can apply these strategies.

    Messages to Think About/Issues of Identity: So many students will be able to connect to the students in this film and the problems that they’re going through. Likewise, in regards to identity, the characters are very easy to relate to, especially when the main character states, “I am one of you!” I believe that this is the reason why students will enjoy this film.

    I truly enjoyed this film and plan to keep it in mind for my future-teacher self.

  8. Right now, in my second grade classroom, we are learning about the importance of making connections to texts that we come across. In order to make a deep connection, students need to be able to understand the feelings of the characters presented. Film is another type of text that allows students to make connections. Casi Casi is a great film for middle or high school students to connect to. When he says “I’m one of you”, he will connect to all of the students of this age who don’t feel a tight knit association with any particular group in school. These students may not feel smart, popular, talented, or just different from others they perceive as “fitting in”.

    Through the viewing of this film, students can not only connect, but laugh and learn while using multiple senses. It also appeals to cultural differences due to the fact that it is in Spanish with English subtitles. The characters show both positive and negative traits that allow students viewing in order to reflect upon their own actions.

  9. I think that Casi Casi was a great film to view, especially for us as teachers, to introduce thinking about viewing, critiquing, and learning from films. The fact that the film included both English and Spanish was a great learning tool as well as a great tool to use with students who may be bi-lingual. I love that Jacob Burns students watched along with us. It would have been a great experience to watch alongside middle school students but being able to see their reflections will be a very interesting experience in contrast with ours.

    Films as mentor texts stood out to me because it’s a good mentor text especially for Middle School students. It is basic enough that early filmmakers could use it as an introduction or a source to look back on. It’s also a topic that would be especially of interest to the age range and everyday life of a teenager. It offers them thoughts of reflection to stick up for themselves, don’t go out of your way to do things for others that won’t appreciate it, don’t go against the rules.

  10. In watching “Casi,Casi” I connected with the movie in multiple ways. I found it interesting to watch a movie in Spanish and in English. I would listen to the words spoken and understand the conversations. I feel as though this film was short and sweet. It tells a fun story of students who are trying to cover up what is happening with a school election. I feel as though this film is a great example of individual student’s identity. It focuses on how students each have a different personality and each look at school and situations differently. I feel as though this film allows students to observe a full story line about a small moment in a school setting.
    I feel as though this connects with our Jacob Burns experience because we all got to experience what it is like to help create bits and pieces of an animation and what would be part of a film.
    I feel as though this movie would bring great value to students who are learning about film making and basic films. This was not a complex film but it had specific details that would allow students to break apart in groups. A teacher can teach students the different aspects of film and small moments. It was fun to watch what students in different cultures experience and how they would handle a sticky situation.
    Great Film and great connection to our experience at Jacob Burns.
    I have learned to love technology!~Monique~

  11. I love the idea of having students watch movies in other languages because it is something that, on their own, they would probably never do. Casi Casi is, especially, funny and easy for any student to watch and enjoy. If a classroom of students watched and enjoyed Casi Casi, those kids may be much more less hesitant to explore foreign films in the future. Few students will open this door on their own so it’s important for teachers to guide them towards new genres that they may not explore on their own. The fact that the film is told in first-person narrative style only serves to make the film easier for the students to relate to.

  12. Students watching movies in different languages is great! I would have never thought to show a movie in a different language before watching this movie. Casi Casi was in spanish however, it was easy to understand and interpret even as a non spanish speaker. This movie had several opportunities for students to turn and talk with one another. As well as have whole class discussions. Students from different cultures have different opinions, ideas and perspectives which makes a discussion even better and more in depth. Its awesome that the Jacob Burns students watched this video as well. Great post and movie suggestion!!

  13. I very much agree that the simplicity of the movie makes it very relatable. The fun nature of the high school would definitely make it relatable for high schoolers. Students could thinking critically about the film. By noting the frames, angles and shots that were used students could understand what strategies worked or didn’t work. Students can then include these strategies in their own digital stories. I was surprised by the fact how much I liked the film, with that fact that there were subtitles. I have a feeling high schoolers might also be surprised by this as well. It is a great way to incorporate or expose students to multicultural learning as well.

  14. Casi! Casi! was a great movie for many reasons, but things that stood out for me was that it first of all it showed that across cultures teenagers are the same! Emilio loving someone that was out of his reach. I actually think that many teen movies are in 1st person,such as Ferris Bueller’s day off.
    Film as a mentor text can be a great way to engage students. They will be engaged and even more interested. From all of our readings we have learned that students succeed when they feel connected to the task and each other. Mentor text help guide students to learn different things in the movie as a movie makers. As a mentor text in the classroom this movie allows students to”see” and “hear” words.

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