Promoting Dialogue through Film in Educational Settings

  • Research Project

What We Do

Intergroup dialogue is a facilitated group experience designed to give individuals and groups a safe and structured opportunity to explore attitudes about polarizing societal issues (Nagda & Gurin, 2007). 

Intergroup Dialogue can be a valuable tool in bridging differences and reducing conflict across diverse populations in various communities (Pettigrew, 2008). Research has shown that intergroup dialogue can increase the sense of commonality, support of policy, the value of differences, and relationships with diverse groups (Aboud & Doyle, 1996; Dessel & Rogge, 2008; Nagda & Gurin, 2007; Nagda & Zúñiga, 2003).

As described by Everyday Democracy, sustainable dialogue for building coalitions and changing communities involves planning, facilitation, and action. In the city of Charlottesville, VA, a local organization, Beloved Community Cville, launched an initiative to support community dialogue by hosting a month-long screening of the documentary film, I’m Not Racist... Am I? (INRAI; Lee & Greene, 2014) in February and March 2018.

The film features 12 high school students who engage in a yearlong set of activities to help them explore complex issues of race and racism. Since its release, the filmmakers have paired screenings with a follow-up, facilitated discussion about issues raised in the film. After hundreds of these events in high schools, colleges, and communities, members of the INRAI team identified key areas in which the film and discussion may have an impact, including increasing foundational knowledge of racism at a “structural” level (i.e., moving beyond interpersonal bias and prejudice), and promoting engagement in dialogue and activities to address issues of inequality. Importantly, evidence for the impact of the film has been anecdotal and there have been no formal evaluations conducted.

Organizers are interested in using the film and related resources to train local teachers and school staff as facilitators, so that the educators can use the film as a learning tool with students. The facilitator training, which includes an e-learning course based on the film, will allow educators to practice engaging in dialogue around challenging topics with the expectation that they will be able to support students in doing the same. The facilitator training and film screenings have potential as a tool for promoting effective intergroup dialogue among educators and students, which is increasingly important in racially diverse schools (Tropp & Saxena, 2018); however, more work is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach. Resources for this work would support implementation and evaluation of the training and screenings for local educators and youth.