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Elisa Dossena and Silvia Dupont. Sequenze: Italian Through Contemporary Film.

Elisa Dossena and Silvia Dupont. Sequenze: Italian Through Contemporary Film. New York: Edizioni Farinelli, 2016.

This book is not the only one available for those who want to teach Italian cinema and Italian language. But it is the first one to weave carefully together the two fields so as to apply, as stated by one of its cover reviewers, "its multiple approach to the teaching of Italian through cinema and of Italian cinema through language" (Clarissa Cio', San Diego State University). The authors of Sequenze, Elisa Dossena (Princeton University) and Silvia Dupont (Newton High School, Ma), demonstrate this specific pedagogical framework through the appropriate selection of the cinematographic corpus to be used and through the array of the various activities and exercises linked to each of the ten contemporary movies they have chosen. The titles of the films themselves bear witness to the wide-ranging set of issues presented: "Buongiorno, notte", "Giorni e nuvole", "Habemus papam", "Il capitale umano", "Io sono Li", "La grande bellezza", "La ragazza del lago", "Le chiavi di casa", "Mine vaganti" and "Ricordati di me".

The strategy to use a movie to teach a language and vice versa is well known to Elisa Dossena, who has already produced a guide to the study of Paolo Virzi's La prima cosa bella (The First Beautiful Thing, in "Quaderni di cinema italiano per stranieri", Guerra Editore, 2014). But the project of Sequenze, finalized with Silvia Dupont, also stems from Dossena's academic interest in the use of visual media in language teaching as a whole (see her own account in the web interview "Teaching Italian through films", Thus the theoretical reference of the book seems to a modern pedagogy in FLT which advocates the use of the so-called "visual organizers" (Herron et al. 1991, 1992 1995; Canning Wilson and Wallace, 2000 for example). The movie is therefore considered as a cultural artefact, an aesthetic means to express the director's message to the spectator; but when treated as a meaningful "text" to be used in a language class, the movie can also be useful to document social, cultural and anthropological issues related to that same language. It is not the precise contextualization of the movie that counts (expanding the historical aspects of a movie for example); rather the movie "realistically" puts together its various linguistic and cultural levels, finally conveying the story and the director's artful editing of the plot. For the language teacher, the movie becomes a powerful carrier of meanings, where language and culture continuously interact and impact on each other. The movie as meaningful text, then, is offered to the language student for the pedagogical activities that can be applied to the given samples, or clips, selected by the authors, while at the same time reinforcing the linguistic practice that has been conducted in class thus far.

And, in fact, Sequenze means just that: "sequences" of lifelike, realistic and natural extracts taken from the chosen titles of the manual, but always extracts that work "sequentially" to construct the final message of the complete movie. The student may complete the study of the film presented in the specific chapter with a final viewing of the same, or the whole process may stop with the comprehension of the clips, since a certain amount of linguistic and cultural competency has been achieved. Chapters are organized around the three short clips for each movie (of not more than three or four minutes) that the authors of the manual have selected (web links to the movies are given and no DVD accompanies the book). Comprehension activities and expansion exercises are attached to each clip, also dealing with the range of colloquial/dialect/slang variants of the Italian language. Moreover, each movie is introduced by a text, a newspaper article, which the authors have chosen to debate the various opinions on a controversial aspect of modern Italian society. The same text is also exploited for exercises of scanning and skimming linked to the viewing of the movie clips that will follow. If the teacher wants to present a complete viewing of the movie, after presenting and using the three segments as described previously, other expansion exercises might follow (written and/or oral). Finally each chapter ends with a brief section explaining curiosities, famous phrases pronounced in the movie, and also offering to the students other sources for further study.

This book can help tutors, instructors and lecturers of Italian, both at the intermediate and at the advanced level, to attain a double objective: the study of the language in all its modern, colloquial and slang variations; but also to help learners achieve what is called "cultural competence", since the various films presented refer to important topics of today's Italy, such as, immigration, politics, gender relations, disability, and media. Regional varieties, dialects and contemporary Italian are also treated when the particular movie presents these cases. In this way the project of Dossena and Dupont also avoids all those cultural stereotypes which are often to be found in the "didactic" selection of movies that are supposed to fully represent Italian language and culture abroad. The final effect is that of a mosaic of clips offering a wide range of aspects of the Italian language of today, including even some controversial and untypical elements. Highly recommended.


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Author:Porta, Fernando
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2017
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