Movies are an excellent educational resource for children, but it is also a great tool for transmitting values and explaining life situations. Beyond being pure entertainment, with your accompaniment, children may reflect upon diversity. These are 10 movies that will help you teach cultural diversity.
What is cultural diversity?
UNESCO defines cultural diversity as the multiplicity of ways in which societies manifest themselves. In simple terms for children, cultural diversity is about the different artistic expressions, languages, kinds of dressing, or traditions that allow us to identify individuals or social groups.
Cultural diversity is also the ancestral heritage that distinguishes us from other peoples, gives us identity, spiritual, symbolic, aesthetic and technological values. It also includes the goods that our ancestors have contributed to the history of humanity.
There are many films that in some way touch our cultural diversity and make us see the richness we have just because we are different.
1. Coco (Adrián Molina, Lee Unkrich, 2017)
Review: Miguel is a boy who dreams of being a musician; his family disagrees because his great-great-grandfather, a musician, abandoned them, and they want to force Miguel to be a shoemaker, like all the members of the family.
By accident, the boy enters the Land of the Dead. The problem is that he cannot leave this Land unless a deceased relative grants him a blessing. His great-great-grandmother refuses to let him return to the living if he does not promise that he will not be a musician.
Because of that, he runs away from her and looks for his great-great-grandfather.
Teaching: Coco extensively shows one of the most beautiful traditions in Mexico: The Day of the Dead. Through Miguel’s adventures, we discover a lot about our folklore and our music.
2. The Prince of Egypt (Simon Wells, Steve Hickner and Brenda Chapman, 1998)
Review: In order to save her young son from being killed by the pharaoh, a desperate mother throws her newborn son down a river. The Israeli child is found by the kings of Egypt, who give the child the name of Moses and raise him as the brother of the heir to the throne.
Years later, the Hebrew origin of Moses is discovered and the brothers walk away.
Teaching: This film shows us what the culture was like in the Pharaonic Egypt. It helps children understand what cultural diversity was like in the world, its customs, its organization, its daily life and even situations that should be unthinkable today, such as slavery.
3. Tarzan ( Kevin Lima, Chris Buck, 1999)
Review: Kala, a gorilla, finds an orphaned boy in the jungle and adopts him as her own son despite the opposition of Kerchak, the head of the pack. The young Tarzan grows up in the jungle developing animal instincts and learning to slide through the trees at great speed.
The young man lives like an animal until an expedition enters the jungle and he meets Jane, who makes him discover who he really is and the world he belongs to.
Teaching: This adaptation of the novel Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs encourages coexistence and multicultural respect. Differences do not matter, yet they can unite us. It is also an excellent opportunity to show what the English culture was like at the end of the 19th century: manners, long dresses and way of thinking.
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4. Hairspray (Adam Shankman, 2007)
Review: Tracy Turnblad is a teenager obsessed with the Corny Collins Show, a dance show. Every day after school, she and her best friend, Penny, run home to watch the show. After one of the show stars leaves, Collins holds auditions to see who will be the next teen on the show.
Although her mother does not want her to go, Tracy auditions and is chosen, angering the evil prom queen Amber Von Tussle and her mother Velma. Tracy thinks it’s not fair that black kids can only dance on the show once a month, and with the help of Seaweed, Link, Penny, Motormouth Maybelle, her dad, and Edna seek to turn things around.
Teaching: This is a movie with a powerful anti-racist message, but it also helps us understand the value of self-esteem. It is a musical set in the 60s of the last century. In addition to the multicultural groups that exist in the United States, you can also address music and dresses with your children, which are very different from the ones we wear nowadays.
5. Ice Age (2002, Chris Wedge y Carlos Saldanha)
Review: 20,000 years ago, Earth is a prehistoric place full of dangers, among them there was the beginning of the Ice Age. To avoid being frozen, the majestic creatures begin to migrate south.
So, a group of very different animals, including a grumpy mammoth and a sloth, must help a lost boy return to his clan.
Teaching: Animals of different species live a dangerous adventure together: to return a human baby to its parents. Between laughter and fun they teach us that it does not matter that they are not of the same species, they can live together in peace, and even be friends. It is also a great opportunity to talk with your little ones about the evolution of man and the ice ages.
6. Lilo & Stitch (Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois, 2002)
Review: A lonely girl adopts a dog that turns out to be a mischievous alien hiding from intergalactic hunters.
Teaching: Who says a human girl can’t be friends with an alien? In addition to interracial acceptance, this film also explores Hawaiian culture and traditions. It is an endearing film that captures the visual beauty and spirit of the islands of Hawaii, and it also shows us the meaning of ohana:
“Ohana means family. Family means that no one is left behind, nor is anyone forgotten”.
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7. Moana (Ron Clements, John Musker, 2016)
Review: Moana, a teenager from the South Pacific islands, crosses the ocean and explores the world to prove that she is as brave as the rest of her family. On her journey, she meets Maui, who in the past was a powerful demigod.
Teaching: Moana Waialiki is the first Disney princess from Polynesia. Moana has exceptional references to all kinds of myths and legends of the Polynesian culture, a system of almost a thousand islands in Oceania.
The Polynesian culture is one of the most recent recorded, so there are still many mysteries behind it and this film shows a bit of its mythology.
8. Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore, 2014)
Review: Ben, Saoirse and her father live in a lighthouse on the top of a small island. To protect them from the dangers of the sea, her father sends them to live with her grandmother in the city.
There, Ben discovers that his little sister is a selkie, a sea fairy. With the help of her magical powers, Saoirse frees some captive fairies in the country.
Teaching: This film can be defined as a fabulous bedtime story, a tale that invites you to believe in magic. It shows the majesty of Celtic legends, a great opportunity to discover the magic of this culture and teach your children that there are a thousand ways to tell stories.
9. Kubo and the Quest for the Samurai (Travis Knight, 2016)
Review: Kubo captivates the inhabitants of his town with his magical gift of telling stories through origami.
When he accidentally summons an evil spirit seeking revenge, Kubo is forced to go on an expedition to unravel the mystery of his fallen samurai father and his mystical collection of weapons, as well as discover his own magical powers.
Teaching: It is a beautiful and fun way to learn about Japanese culture. The story shows epic adventures set in Japan in the Edo period. In a small and quiet fishing village, magic is present in the hands of little Kubo and his wonderful origami stories that are brought to life with the sound of his shamisen, a string instrument.
If there is something special about this film, it is its faithfulness in capturing Japanese culture, from architecture to clothing. Without a doubt, a great excuse to teach your little ones about Japan.
10. Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2017)
Review: The hitherto unknown story of three African-American women scientists who worked for NASA in the early 1960s, collaborating in the space operation that made the US win the game over the USSR in the Cold War. At the same time, these brilliant women fought for the civil rights of African Americans.
Teaching: It not only shows intercultural relationships, but also self-improvement and feminine power. An opportunity to talk to your children about discrimination. Imagine a world where skin color determines the school you go to, the chair you sit in, even your dreams.
Well, that world existed in the 19th century and throughout the first half of the 20th century, in that context being a scientist black woman seemed like an impossible formula.
Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara
Spanish version: Here
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