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Behind the Sun
SUBJECTS — World/Brazil & Albania; ELA: symbols, subplot, flashback, foreshadowing and irony;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Revenge; Breaking Out; Brothers;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Caring; Responsibility.
Age: 12+; MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for a scene of sexuality and some violence); Drama; 91 minutes; color.
This heartrending film about blood feud and self-sacrifice is set in the badlands of Northeast Brazil during the early 20th century. It was inspired by Broken April, a novel about honor culture in the remote mountains of Albania. Behind the Sun is useful in teaching: (1) some of the reasons why revenge has been rejected by modern Western societies and the rule of law has been adopted instead; (2) the international scope and moral bankruptcy of honor cultures; and (3) the literary devices of symbolism, subplot, foreshadowing, and flashback. It can be particularly helpful to anyone involved in intractable conflicts including: the Middle East, any gang war, and the Hindu/Muslim-India/Pakistan conflict.
The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to this film contains materials to speed preparation of a lesson plan in all three areas. The Guide also contains a comprehension test with an answer key.
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Behind the Sun is an excellent learning experience. Children love this movie and it can be a valuable part of a lesson plan about honor cultures.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To give you a sense of how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to develop lesson plans, and by parents to supplement school curriculum or for homeschooling we have set out below the Description of the movie contained in the Learning Guide to Behind the Sun.
Description: The year is 1910; the place, the badlands of Northeast Brazil. Twenty-year-old Tonio is the middle son of an impoverished farm family, the Breves. He is next in line to kill and then die in an ongoing blood feud with a neighboring clan, the Ferreiras. For generations, the two families have quarreled over land. Now they are locked into a series of tit-for-tat assassinations of their sons; an eye-for-an-eye, a tooth-for-a-tooth. Embedded in this choreography of death is a particular code of ethics: "Blood has the same volume for everyone. You have no right to take more blood than was taken from you." Life is suffused with a sense of futility and stoic despair.
Under pressure from his father, Tonio kills one of the Ferreira sons to avenge the murder of his older brother. This act marks him as the next victim. Tonio's younger brother is addressed only as "the Kid" by the family. Anticipating future loss, his parents don't give him a name. The Kid is an imaginative and loving child, whose spirit will not break in the face of harsh parenting, brutalizing isolation, and numbing poverty. The Kid's love encourages Tonio to question his fate. When Tonio meets Clara, a charming itinerant circus girl, all of life's possibilities open up for him. Will he be able to escape? Can the cycle of human sacrifice be broken?
The message of this movie is universal. It was inspired by the novel Broken April, by Ismail Kadare, which describes a blood feud in the mountains of Albania.
Most teenagers will pay close attention to Behind the Sun. Its two protagonists, the Kid and Tonio, are also children and students identify with their struggles. The movie is in Portuguese with English subtitles. Because of the film's charm and its ability to pull teenagers into its world, they don't have a problem with the subtitles.
The Learning Guide to the film Behind the Sun contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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