In our school, we do not think learning can happen only through textbooks. In fact, we do not use any textbook at all till 9th standard. Life and the world, with all its variety and complications, have much more to teach us, only if we bother to look.

However, we cannot bring in the ‘world’, with all its richness, inside the four walls of the classroom. So we do the next best thing: Movies. Truly great movies can simulate life and the world like the way few things can (other than great literature, perhaps). As a result, we use movies a lot to teach. In fact, during their middle and high school years here, our students end up watching close to a hundred great movies.

Movies can be particularly useful in teaching a subject like history: as the students watch Roman Polanski’s ‘The Pianist’, they are transported back to Germany of 1930s, and they understand why persecution based on race or religion is wrong. As they watch Robert Duvall masterfully portray Stalin in his eponymous movie, they understand the inner workings of the mind of the dictator. As they watch ‘Marie Antoinette’, or ‘Danton’, they understand the context of the French Revolution far better than any textbook can teach them.

Movies and documentaries also sometimes can spark interest in subjects like science or geography. For example, Carl Sagan’s famous documentary Cosmos (later remade by Neil De’Grasse Tyson) can show how science can explain our complex and fascinating universe. After watching Planet Earth: The Future by David Attenborough, for the first time, global warming does not remain a theoretical construct, but an urgent problem we all must collectively do something about.

Other than subjects, movies can teach us much about people, their varied motives and interactions. Movies like The Godfather or Hotel Rwanda can teach us much about leadership. Or they can also teach us history: with Godfather’s fascinating parallels between Vito and Akbar; and Michael and Aurangzeb. Woody Allen’s masterful ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ or ‘Manhattan’ can help us analyse relationships: another key area of life. Black Mirror series can take us into the future, with all its frightening possibilities.

All these movies, and many more, are part of our school’s curriculum. Here, movies are not watched passively, but with frequent pauses, and active intervention by the teacher. They are interspersed and followed by active debates and discussions. Often our students write their analysis/review of these movies. Many such insightful analysis have been published in leading newspapers in India.