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Carol Black's documentary Schooling the World receives its international premiere at VIFF.

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Q and A: Carol Black





Carol Black is a writer/director/producer of both entertainment and documentary television and film, co-creator with her husband Neal Marlens of the Emmy-Award-winning television series The Wonder Years, noted for its portrayal of the American public school experience. She studied education and literature at Swarthmore College and UCLA, and after the birth of her children, left a successful career in the entertainment industry to become involved in the alternative education movement and later to make independent nonprofit films. Schooling the World is the culmination of many years of research into cross-cultural perspectives on children and education

1. Pitch your film in 30 words or less.

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If you wanted to destroy a culture, where would you start? With the children. Schooling the World examines the real impact of modern education on the world's last indigenous cultures.

2. Describe the best or worst day of shooting.

We shot the bulk of the film in the breathtaking Himalayan Buddhist region of Ladakh, where every day is your best day and your worst day: you get amazing footage of beautiful places and people, and then your cameraman decides to eat thirty momos (Ladakhi dumplings) and spends the next 24 hours vomiting. Lovely, warm, friendly people invite you into their homes, and then your taxi driver gives you a lesson in Buddhist non-attachment by putting you through a mindbending series of near-death experiences. The best was probably when the villagers of Hemis Shukpa-chen decided to dress our daughters (who traveled with us during the shoot) in traditional Ladakhi wedding costumes. The worst was when flash floods - a harbinger of the devastating flooding of this past summer in Kashmir - closed all the roads and bridges and caused traditional mud-roofed houses, designed for Ladakh's normally arid climate, to collapse.

3. What other festivals have you shown the film at?

A very early rough cut of the film screened for standing-room-only audiences at Mountainfilm in Telluride, where people told us it was one of the most talked-about films at the festival. After substantial re-cutting and the addition of new material and music, the final version has just been completed, and is premiering the same weekend in Vancouver and at the Eugene International Film Festival in Oregon.

4. What's the strangest question you have been asked about your film?

"Don't you think it's just like 'Borat'?" (Answer: No.)

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5. What movies are you hoping to catch at VIFF?

I'll definitely try to see A Place Without People, about the Masai of Tanzania who have been displaced from their traditional lands by a combination of economic pressure from the tourist industry and western ideas about wildlife conservation. It's a story with a lot of parallels to ours - an example of the ways in which misplaced good intentions can contribute to the destruction of a beautiful culture. I also really like the whole Ecologies of Mind series, and want to try to catch as many of those as I can.



The 29th Vancouver International Film Festival runs from September 30 to October 15.

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