1. See Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film.
No suggested Answers.
2. Name two world leaders who took inspiration from Anne Frank’s diary.
We know of three: Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner; Vaclav Havel, first president of post-Cold War Czechoslovakia, later the Czech Republic; and John F. Kennedy, President of the United States. Their statements are contained in the Helpful Background section of this Learning Guide.
3. What did Cynthia and Jerome have in common?
There is no one right response, but good responses will include one or more of the following concepts: (1) They were both children with no real parental guidance. Cynthia’s father had died and her remaining family was very dysfunctional. Jerome had no family. (2) They were both lost if they continued on the path they had been on for the last year or two, but neither of them knew it. (3) They both knew Juan, although apparently, Cynthia was not aware that Jerome had a business relationship with Juan and Jerome didn’t know that Juan was Cynthia’s brother.
4. If Anne Frank and Cynthia Gimenez were to meet each other (assuming that Cynthia was a real person, that Anne could come back from the dead, and that they could speak the same language) would they be friends? What do you think their relationship would be like?
There is no one right answer. A good answer would include some of the following concepts: (1) They would have to get beyond their initial cultural differences. (2) If they could tell each other their stories each would understand that the other was a person who had been through trying times and each had acquitted herself well. They would understand that each was deserving of respect. (3) They were both writers and could discuss that. (4) Perhaps they could talk about Gothic architecture, a type of architecture which originated in Europe and which Anne would most likely knew something about. (5) Anne (who was interested in dance, see diary entry for January 12, 1944) might ask Cynthia to teach her some of the new dances.
5. In the movie Cynthia reads this passage from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: “Our lives were full of anxiety. Since many of our family members in Germany were suffering under Hitler’s Anti-Jewish laws. After May 1940, our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees. Jews were required to wear a yellow star. Jews could not have bicycles, Jews were banned from trams, Jews were forbidden to drive, even their own cars.” This passage occurs in the summer of 1942. Please find the date, review the passages around this language, and give us a complete list of the anti-Jewish decrees described by Anne.
Saturday, June 20, 1942. The full passage lists the decrees:
“After May, 1940 good times rapidly fled: first the war, then the capitulation, followed by the arrival of the Germans, which is when the sufferings of us Jews really began. Anti-Jewish decrees followed each other in quick succession. Jews must wear a yellow star, Jews must hand in their bicycles, Jews are banned from trams and are forbidden to drive. Jews are only allowed to do their shopping between three and five o’clock and then only in shops which bear the placard ‘Jewish Shop.’ Jews must be indoors by eight o’clock and cannot even sit in their own gardens after that hour. Jews are forbidden to visit theaters, cinemas, and other places of entertainment. Jews may not take part in public sports. Swimming baths, tennis courts, hockey fields, and other sports grounds are all prohibited to them. Jews may not visit Christians. Jews must go to Jewish schools, and many more restrictions of a similar kind.”
6. In the movie Cynthia reads this passage from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: “We’re stuck in here like lepers. Believe me, if you’ve been shut up for over a year and half it can be too much sometimes. I can’t ignore my feelings no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem. Actually I shouldn’t be writing this because it makes me seem ungrateful, but I can’t keep everything to myself. So I’ll repeat what I said at the start – Paper is more patient than people.” Anne Frank wrote this in the winter of 1943/1944. Find the passage. What events occurred to make the concept that paper is more patient than people important to Anne?
Friday, December 24th, 1943. While in hiding Anne was better off than the children who had been sent to the death camps. When she was feeling discontented, for example, when she heard about the fun and activities of children who were not in hiding and who could live normal lives, Anne felt guilty about expressing that discontent. If she complained to paper she could express her feelings, she would not feel guilty, and no one would reproach her.
1. Why was it difficult for Cynthia to rhyme in public?
Girls weren’t supposed to rap and she had low self-esteem. Also, rhyming freestyle is extremely difficult and one must have a talent for it or it can’t be done.
2. Usually, when someone breaks out of the limits that their family or society has placed upon them, they have help and encouragement from at least one other person. Who encouraged Cynthia?
The faith that Cynthia’s father’s had in her when he was alive must have been very important and helpful, but after his death it wasn’t enough by itself. The others included, Darius, Kitty, and the teacher, Michael Dominguez.
COMING OF AGE
3. See the Quick Discussion Question at the top of the Guide.
4. Name two things that Cynthia did that required extraordinary courage.
Rapping in front of an audience and setting up her brother’s arrest.
5. Was Darius courageous?
Yes. He put himself at risk to support Cynthia.
6. What was Cynthia’s surest and best way to get out of the poverty that she and her family found itself in?
Get an education.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE; CRIME
7. At one point in the film Juan is at the front door of the family’s apartment. He bangs on the door, cries, calls to his mother and sisters and promises that this is the last time. Is this scene realistic? What does it tell us about the relationship between drug addicts and their families?
The scene is realistic. To feed their habit, addicts will use those who love them. At some point, the non-addicts must draw the line to protect themselves. In reality, this is the best thing for the addict, because the addict will usually not take meaningful steps to rid himself of the addiction until and unless the people who he is using to help him maintain his drug habit stop allowing themselves to be used.
8. Is there a single person that Juan has contact with that he doesn’t abuse in some way?
No. He’s a drug addict. Like almost all drug addicts he used people to feed his habit.
9. In this movie, Juan kills two of Cynthia’s friends and is about to kill a third when the police arrest him. Cynthia can only start rapping in public after Juan is sent to jail. What are the screenwriters trying to tell us by these structural elements of the plot?
Juan, because he is a drug addict, will kill or destroy everything and everyone dear to Cynthia. The only way that Cynthia could survive was to cut Juan off and see to it that he suffered the consequences of his actions.
10. What is an enabler and who does Juan try to get to enable his addiction?
An enabler is a family member or friend of an addict/alcoholic who unwittingly helps the addict/alcoholic maintain their addiction and avoid the consequences of being intoxicated. Throughout the movie Juan tries to get Cynthia to enable his addiction.
FAMILIES IN CRISIS
11. Why didn’t Janet, Cynthia’s sister, tell Michael that she had a daughter by him? Was this the right decision?
Michael would have left school to support his child and it would have made his life much more difficult. She also wanted Michael to love her for herself rather than for the child. (If she didn’t care for Michael there was no reason not to tell him about the child.) Janet’s daughter needed a father but Janet unilaterally prevented her from having one. In addition, Michael could have worked to support the family and gone to school at night. It’s hard to do but millions have done it. Also, a father has a right to know and to be a parent to his child. Janet didn’t make the right decision because she ignored the rights of other people who have an interest in the decision, specifically, her daughter and Michael. Such people are called stakeholders. An analysis of the rights and interests of all stakeholders is important in any decision that involves moral issues.
12. What were the dynamics of the Gimenez family during the time shown in the film?
Juan was a drug addict and, since he would not get help to escape from his addiction, he was lost. Eventually, in self-defense, the family excluded him. Cynthia was a troubled teenager who retreated to write alone in her room or rap in front of the mirror in the bathroom. Janet had her own problems. She had a child out of wedlock but was too angry at the father to tell him about the baby. While she tried to help Cynthia in some ways, she also said that Cynthia was too stupid for college, something that was manifestly untrue. The mother was marginalized for reasons that are not made clear, perhaps grief over the death of her husband.
13. How did Cynthia survive?
First, by not getting into drugs. Second, she stopped enabling Juan’s addiction. Third, she turned Juan in for killing her friends. This was necessary to affirm her own life and her own values.
14. Why was it difficult for Cynthia to believe that she had talent?
Things had not been going well after her father died and at the time of the movie everything in Cynthia’s life pointed to failure. Until Darius and Kitty told her how good she was and until she heard her rhymes on Deuce’s CD, she had been told by everyone that girls can’t rhyme and that no one wanted to listen to girls rhyme.
15. In the movie Cynthia reads this passage from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: “I want to go on living even after my own death. That is why I’m so grateful to God for giving me this gift. Which I can use to develop myself and express all that’s inside of me. When I write I can shake off my fears: my sorrow disappears.” This entry is in the spring of 1944. Find it, read the passages around it, and tell us what Anne is reacting to when she wrote this passage.
Wednesday, April 4th, 1944; The paragraph just before lets us know that Anne was reacting to the secondary status of women. She wrote, “I want to get on. I can’t imagine that I would have to lead the same sort of life as Mummy and Mrs. Van Daan and all the women who do their work and are then forgotten. I must have something besides a husband and children, something that I can devote myself to!”
Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions
(Teachwithmovies.org is a Character Counts “Six Pillars Partner” and usesThe Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.)
1. Did Cynthia do the right thing to help Jerome cheat in school? The movie gives us the feeling that it wasn’t a big deal. Is that impression correct from the standpoint of ethics?
It was wrong of Cynthia to cheat. It was unethical and, in addition, it was bad for Jerome in the long run. The only realistic way to a reasonable standard of living for these kids, or for anyone, is education. The movie doesn’t condemn Cynthia because: (a) she was alienated from school and it did not deserve her respect and (b) she had many other very important things to contend with, such as, her father’s death, her brother’s addiction, and the difficulty in getting the education that she needed. Cheating at school means that the cheater is not learning and not being prepared to make the most out of his or her life.
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act — consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)
2. What would have happened if Cynthia had stopped trying?
She would not have succeeded and would have regretted it for the rest of her life. She would not have been responsible to herself.
(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)
3. Which characters in the film exemplified the caring Pillar of Character?
Cynthia cared for her brother, until he had betrayed her so many times that she had to protect herself. Kitty and Darius cared for and nurtured Cynthia, helping her attain her goal. Anne’s father cared for her and nurtured her, even after he died, by giving her Anne Frank’s diary.