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  • Diane Boulanger

The Students of Umberto Primo in Schools

We are very proud to take part in educational programs for students aged 11 to 18 years old

The film “The Students of Umberto Primo” aims to raise critical awareness of war atrocities and of its destructive impact on the life of everyday people. A message that can easily be conveyed to today’s students ( and many others!) for several reasons.

The genre itself, the docudrama, has the power to bring the viewers close to historical events, and help them understand not only the situation but also the feelings of the people involved. Nevertheless, the approach of the film is very careful with the emotions of the audience. On one hand, the re-enactment of the historical events places the viewer to the position of the observer. On the other hand, the dramatic approach of the protagonists’ lives addresses empathy. This balanced change of perspective enables the viewer to feel fear and grief without getting lost in those negative feelings. As a result, the audience has the time not only to feel, but also to think critically.

Young viewers everywhere in the world can identify with the protagonists. They were as young as the audience when history marked their lives. Besides, the documents that were found and have led the historical research are typical school documents, e.g., essays, assignments, graduation diplomas. Both factors, the age of the protagonists as well as the historical documents, make the story relatable to a younger generation of viewers and keep their attention.

The origin of the protagonists, Greek-Italian-Jewish, as well as the fact that their stories evolve in many countries during and after WWII, makes this docudrama ideal to be included in a programme that is related to global education and global citizenship.

Not all the protagonists died during WWII. This coincidence serves the purpose when we address a young audience. If everybody died, the viewers’ minds would not want to relate to such a dreadful story and would regard it as distant and irrelevant. And then the film would lose its strength. The fact that five out of the nine protagonists survived the war, and eventually thrived in various parts of the world, leaves the audience with some hope, which is needed when the audience is young.

Finally, the lack of violent scenes or horrifying images matches the tender age of younger viewers.

Death is presented via symbolic images and allows the viewer to feel the loss, without the need to protect themselves against terror. The audience’s minds and hearts remain open, and this way the film has more power to fight for historical remembrance.

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