American Culture Through Films

by Maya, ESU ARNIC member and a new immigrant in NYC


I love watching movies. This is one of my favorite hobbies. So, when I was told that the Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center (ARNIC) at the English-Speaking Union (ESU) has started a program of discussion and screening of the best American films every Friday, I immediately decided to join this workshop. The films are usually presented by the ESU’s English in Action volunteer tutors.

The first film that we watched was called To Kill a Mockingbird. By that time I have already read the book. However, I could not understand the meaning of the title yet. When we finished watching the film in ESU, we had a discussion, and one of the questions appeared to be about the meaning of the title. The film was presented to us by Athena Foroglou. She guided us through the movie introducing the background of the story and explaining the values of the American society in the 1930s, the period of time when the story unfolded. She helped me to get the answer to my question about the title.

Then we watched 12 Angry Men, Erin Brockovich, Dances With Wolves and All the President’s Men.

For 12 Angry Men we had as a presenter, Barbara Goldberg, who herself has been called to be a juror three times already. It was very interesting to listen to her story about her experience as a juror and to compare it with what we had just seen in the movie, which was made in 1957.

I watched Erin Brockovich before, and I found the movie boring at that time. This time, thanks to Nancy Lewis, who presented to us that movie, I had changed my opinion completely, and thoroughly enjoyed the movie and its themes of women, activism, humanity and persistence.

Before setting to watch All the President’s Men I did not need much of the excursion into the field of journalism and its methods of doing things, as I was a journalist by myself, and I could understand perfectly well the atmosphere in the offices of The Washington Post. However, the supporting material that we received before the screening helped me to comprehend more fully the influence of the Watergate scandal, which was the topic of the movie, on the American society.

This kind of supporting materials is an additional benefit that I get every week from the film workshop, as these materials help us to learn more about the background information and historic facts that surround the stories that we watch. In addition, these handout materials contain key vocabulary that is used in movies that we watch.

Therefore, I look forward to watching more of the best American films at ARNIC at the ESU every Friday and learning more about American culture, values and challenges through discussions with native English speakers and through reading additional materials that ARNIC prepares for us.

Please join us for this program! See the next films’ announcements here:

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