Spielberg to teacher's rescue

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Steven Spielberg has arranged a special screening of his Oscar-winning film, Schindler's List, to help a teacher at a school in Bethnal Green educate her pupils about racism and the Holocaust.

Emma Fearnham, head of history at Morpeth Secondary School, wrote to the director asking him to aid her in illustrating the component of the GCSE curriculum on Hitler's Germany.

'We're in the heart of BNP country. The school was used as a polling station, so a lot of the children are aware of the problems of racism. It's interesting to teach Nazi Germany to them, how Hitler would isolate groups before attacking them. A lot of Bengali and white kids can see that's exactly what the BNP is trying to do and how they legitimise that by standing for election.'

Although most children were alarmed, Ms Fearnham said others questioned whether the Holocaust really happened - 'a standard BNP line'. She brought in a Holocaust survivor to explain and the reaction was 'extraordinarily good'. It only remained to see Schindler's List, which tells the true story of how a German businessman saved 1,100 Polish Jews from the concentration camps.

The school was unable to arrange a pre-release screening with Film Education, the education arm of the film industry. 'The reason was that our school was not near any cinema because they've all been turned in to bingo halls.' She had heard Spielberg declare in the media that he wanted as many children as possible to see the movie. A friend suggested faxing the man directly.

'When we wrote to Spielberg we said we were worried about the racism and general feelings that have grown up in the East End. This area has suffered an alarming resurgence in extreme right-wing groups.'

The director obliged with a free screening of the film for 75 15 and 16-year-olds at the Empire Leicester Square on Monday. 'I won't say they enjoyed it, but they were moved. Some cried when they came out, which is quite extraordinary for these kids. There were no complaints that it was three and half hours long and in black and white.'

Ben Bobrow, 15, said: 'When you're watching it, it really brings home what the Jews went through. When you read about it in books, it's just words. In this, you see it actually happening.'

When Ming Takhin, also 15, heard that it was in black and white, and that it might be sub-titled, he had expected to be bored off his seat.

But no. 'There is still some racism in Britain at the moment.

'If they watched the film, they could see what racism did and learn what they are now saying is wrong.'

(Photograph omitted)