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The Life of Emile Zola
SUBJECTS — Literature; World/France; Biography/Zola;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Justice; Talent;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Fairness.
Age: 10+; Not Rated; Drama; 1937; 117 minutes; B & W.
Are the rights of one man worth inconveniencing an entire nation and showing that the general staff of the army cannot be trusted? Emile Zola answered that question with an emphatic "Yes" and in his campaign for justice for Captain Richard Dreyfus, taught the world a lesson in civil liberties; a lesson that is timely in any age. Zola answered another important question as well, "Is the cause of righting a grave wrong to one man worth risking your own position in society and a comfortable life that you have worked for years to achieve?" Zola also answered that question in the affirmative, putting his membership in the prestigious French Academy and his entire future on the line to work for justice for Captain Dreyfus.
The Life of Emile Zola is a biography of the famous French writer. It describes his rise to prominence as a writer and his pivotal role in the Dreyfus Affair.
The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to The Life of Emile Zola will help teachers and parents introduce children to this far-sighted and remarkable man. The Guide contains background information and discussion questions to supplement the story told in the film. The movie also provides an opportunity to describe the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, the cause of Zola's death.
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The Life of Emile Zola is an excellent biography of a man who helped set the standard for tolerance and bravery.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To demonstrate how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to improve lesson plans, we have set out below the Benefits section from the Learning Guide to The Life of Emile Zola.
Benefits: Emile Zola was a crusading journalist, literary innovator, and a man who stood up for what he believed in at great personal cost. In this film children will be introduced to his life story. The movie also describes the infamous Dreyfus Affair in which the French Army General Staff mistakenly blamed a high-level security leak on its only Jewish member and sentenced him to life in prison on Devil's Island. When the Army came upon evidence that a mistake had been made, the General Staff refused to acknowledge its error, but rather collaborated with the real spy to cover up the mistake. In its treatment of the Dreyfus affair the movie poses the question: "Is the suffering of one obscure person worth the disturbance of a great country?" Finally, the movie shows how Zola died from a carbon monoxide leak in his stove and provides a basis to explain the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times described this film as "Rich, dignified, honest and strong, it is at once the finest historical film ever made and the greatest screen biography ...." There may have been other great biographical films since Mr. Nugent wrote his review, such as Gandhi or Michael Collins, but they all trace their artistic inspiration to The Life of Emile Zola
The Learning Guide to the film The Life of Emile Zola 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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