GEJ and Using Documentary Films in Instruction: Background, Recruitment, and Feedback

Sponsored by Global Environmental Justice Documentaries Project

Recorded on 09/06/2023
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 347

Engaging students in global issues demands teaching tools that situate young scholars within often unfamiliar environments. Documentary filmmaking—a medium that traditionally places the viewer right beside the subject and inside their domain—has the potential to meet that need. The Global Environmental Justice (GEJ) Documentaries project aims to demonstrate the educational possibilities of film by offering a curated selection of documentaries and teacher’s guides on interdisciplinary topics of environmental justice.

This four-part series explores the curation and development of GEJ and how documentaries can be used to shape and expand curricula. Featuring Jason Carbine, Professor of Religious Studies at Whittier College, Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez, Professor of Sociology at Whittier College, and Gary Marcuse, filmmaker and Project Director for GEJ, these four episodes offer guidance on how GEJ documentaries are used in the classroom and why documentary films make particularly robust instructional sources.

In this first episode, our guests chat about the background of GEJ and their involvement in the project. Jake and Rebecca outline the process of applying for grants, selecting the films, and writing and editing the teaching guides. Further, Gary explains how his previous roles contributed to his current one, acting as a bridge between filmmakers and educators to create collections and guides that aid student learning. Finally, our guests highlight the important step in GEJ’s development of recruiting faculty and fielding feedback from librarians on accessible pricing.

About the guests:

Jason A Carbine
Professor, Religious Studies
Whittier College

Jason A. Carbine is Professor of Religious Studies at Whittier College. His primary area of scholarly expertise is Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia, with a research specialization in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and also with a comparative interest in parts of China. He has conducted field research in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, with an emphasis on ritual, practice, and religious spaces, and he has also led study abroad programs in various parts of Asia (Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Southwest China). Overall, his teaching and research in the study of Buddhism and other Asian religions combines historical and ethnographic methodologies, and draws from an interdisciplinary body of research pertaining to the history of religions, textual studies, anthropology, comparative religious ethics, and environmental studies. He teaches a range of courses dealing with Asian religions from India to Japan, method and theory in the study of religion, Asian religion and society, globalization, and the environment.

Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez
Professor, Sociology
Whittier College

I teach courses in racial and ethnic relations, urban politics and environmental justice, indigenous peoples social movements, and economic development in the global south. For many years I conducted research on Mexican indigenous peoples social movements and their relationship to the government, with a particular focus on an indigenous peoples organization in the state of Guerrero. This work culminated in my 2010 book, Folkloric Poverty: Neoliberal Multiculturalism in Mexico. My current research focuses on environmental justice and environmental regulation in California. Like my earlier work in Mexico, I am interested in the complicated relationship between community organizations and the state and its agents (elected representatives, agency officials, technical staff) as communities and the state try to work together to protect the environment and public health from industrial polluters. I am a community organizer myself and currently coordinate an all-volunteer environmental justice organization in Los Angeles County.

Gary Marcuse headshot

Gary Marcuse
Project Director
Global Environmental Justice Documentaries

Gary Marcuse is the project director for the Global Environmental Justice Documentaries project. He is an award-winning writer, director, and producer for Face to Face Media, an independent production company based in Vancouver, Canada that specializes in the production of documentaries for public broadcast and documentary collections for use in class. He has also directed a series of films on the rise of environmental movements in North America (Nuclear Dynamite, 2000), in Russia (ARKTIKA: The Russian Dream that Failed, 2004), and in China (Waking the Green Tiger: A green movement rises in China, 2011). These films received numerous international awards. His previous classroom resources include First Nations, The Circle Unbroken, a collection of films about contemporary life in indigenous communities in Canada produced in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada. He also holds a degree in environmental planning from Cornell University (1975) and he is a former programming executive for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the past president of the Documentary Organization of Canada.

More about the Global Environmental Justice Documentaries Project:

The Global Environmental Justice (GEJ) Collection is a curated selection of 48 documentaries with teacher’s guides curated by faculty from Whittier College, Yale, Brandeis, and NYU. Aided by support from the Henry Luce Foundation and the Global Reporting Centre, the project provides educators and students with an interdisciplinary collection of documentaries that explore the intersections of such topics as human rights, environmental degradation, colonization, global development, and climate change. GEJ currently has more than 80 colleges and universities subscribed to the platform, with 16,000 screenings to date and a total viewing time of 330,000 minutes. Video Librarian commissioned 14 reviews of films in the GEJ collection, and you can download free teacher’s guides on the project website. GEJ was also highly reviewed by Choice in 2020.

Missed an episode? We’ve got you covered:

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Choice Podcast Updates!

Check out the Authority File Round-Up on our blog, Open Stacks!