Monday, October 08, 2007

The Film Club: A True Story of a Father and Son David Gilmour



Kite Runner release delayed while young Afghan stars move to safety:Families fear ethnic tensions, backlash over rape scene

The release of Khalid Hosseini's "The Kiterunner" has been delayed by 6 weeks to give Paramount Pictures time to get the child stars to safety. In all probability they will be taken to the United Arab Emirates. It will now be released on Dec14. I'm definitely going to have to mark that date on my calender.


I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. Mark Twain

Quick, grab a pen and write this down, "The Film Club: A True Story of A Father and Son" by David Gilmour. I just finished reading this gem and I want to tell everyone about it, (especially parents of teenagers) and here's why:

When David Gilmour (author and 2005 winner of the Governor-General's Award for Fiction ) saw that his 15-year old son Jesse was fast losing interest in school (skipping classes, crashing grades and so on) he gave him the option of quitting school on condition that Jesse watch three movies a week with Gilmour . What??? I almost choked on my coffee when I came to that passage and had to wonder if Gilmour had lost his mind. Gilmour clearly belongs to the school of thought that agrees your education comes from life, not school. Even so, I was aghast that this highly educated man would allow his son to drop out of high school without a fight!

What do we teach our kids when we allow them drop something just because it doesn't hold their interest, aren't we teaching them to give up too soon? With no university degree or college diploma aren't we setting them up for failure career wise?

So with something akin to fear and
also curiosity, I delved into the pages of the book to find that what emerges is a heartwarming story of a unique and wonderful friendship between a father and his teenage son, not to mention some wonderful discussions on life, love and the movies! Gilmour used to be a film critic for CBC-TV and his insights into some of the best films ever made and how he used those insights to impart life lessons to Jesse make for some invaluable reading, not to mention visits to your neighborhood "Blockbuster"

When Gilmour was asked why he didn't lay down the law with his son he said
"I was trying to salvage my relationship with him because I thought not only am I going to lose the school battle but I'm going to lose him over it." He felt certain that Jesse was so fed up of school that he would have left in any case and probably left the home too.

So did Gilmour honestly think that watching three movies a week was a good enough substitute for school? What about literacy? Was Jesse ever going to learn how to read and write suitably?
Gilmour says, "
He (jesse) really didn't get anything out of it except he got to spend time with his father, and what teenage boys really need is to spend time with their fathers,"

"We could've gone skydiving, or we could've gone scuba-diving. It wouldn't have made a difference. It wasn't really the films. It was an opportunity for the two of us to spend time together before he was gone for good."

As a mother of a 16-year old girl I can only say that Gilmour is either a very brave or foolish man. This experiment could have gone so badly wrong for Jesse, I don't think I would have done that to my daughter. Having said that however, what does one do with a kid that has no interest in school? In Ontario, where I live, the average drop-out rate is 29 per cent which is high, too high...

Why is it that high?

According to the experts, the lure of big money at jobs requiring no diploma, an inability of teachers or schools to engage students, rigorous curriculum changes or problems at home are some of the main reasons why teenagers won't continue with their education.

The problem with jobs requiring no diploma is that there is no room for growth and teenagers realize that all too late.

I think teachers and parents ought to do more to engage a student. The NYTimes had a very interesting article the other day about a ninth grade teacher who found that giving parents homework along with the kids was helping to keep the child interested in school. I am all for it and you can read more about it here.

For a very interesting interview with David and Jesse Gilmour please go here


Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Portobello Books' reading catalogue this Fall, the selection is amazing!

This is what The Branching Out Guide to Independent Presses had to say about Portobello

New fiction and short stories, fiction in translation and non-fiction about contemporary social issues. A particular focus on new voices and unusual novels – this press has a mission to get good short stories published and read more widely. The press aims to be a place where cutting edge fiction has a home – this is a press that aims to help new voices get heard, and experimental fiction get exposure.

Who will read these books?

Readers who like to take a chance on something new. Readers who normally read non-fiction. Students who have traveled, readers interested in politics and social change. Keen readers who are tired of the mass market and the mundane mainstream. These books offer highlights as well as range to library loan collections.
Other small presses whose books I enjoy:

Do feel free to add your favorites to the list.


jenclair said...

When did the experiment begin and end? How is Jesse doing now? Don't tell me I must read the book to find out these details. Interesting concept. I can see using something like this as a last-ditch effort, when one knows that graduation is an impossibility; it would at least help keep an open line, but...

Thanks for the "homework" link. :)

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Jenclair!

I so wanted to mention how the experiment ended but I was afraid to leave any spoilers! :) I can tell you however that Jesse was home with his dad watching movies for nearly 3 years.

It's so hard to know what decision one must take with regard to a child that hates school...I know I came down harshly on Gilmour but,I guess, as a father, he knew his son best.

Sanjay said...

Hey there Lotus! How has your week off been? Wecome back! I have to say I missed your posts and you come back with some very interesting topics.

I love the transformation pictures, nothing beats replacing bottles of "neuron frying" booze with books that stimulate us in so many different ways. I love the transformation!

As for "The film club" that is one interesting concept for a father to try to reconnect with his son. I agree with you in that I am rather shocked at what David Gilmour did too. Regardless of how well one might be educated in "real life" the set of skills and foundation that comes from school and university education is rather hard to replace. As you pointed out it will be tempting for teenagers (with their not yet full developed brains) to jump at the money that jobs without diploma offer but the potential for growth is so limited.

Is there a reason why the drop out rate is so high in Ontario? Does it have to do with the rather high concentration of immigrants and their children and the tough adjustment to a different culture and country? And is this the drop out rate in public or private schools or all schools?

To go back to the Gilmour book does he talk about his son going back to school after the experiment was over? I can surely imagine the experience to have been very enriching, who knows Jesse might develop interest in a career in films? Did Jesse enjoy school better after this "life experience"? I have to surely read this book as for me there is an added hook.. I love films!

I love the idea of parents also getting some homework along with the children, for there is much to learn even for adults not to mention that this exercise will create more chance for bonding between parent and child given the common goals (homework). But given that parents are so very busy this might meet with a lot of resistance including that from parents who think it's the children who need education and not them.

So sad that "The Kiterunner" has been delayed out of concerns for the safety of the child actors and their families. In a way it is not a surprise as the Hazara's have been persecuted for generations and the movie will talk about subjects that are completely taboo in that culture. The movie is surely anticipated as passes for the screening at Bryn Mawr were gone in one day.

Thank you for telling us about Portobello books and those small publishing houses. I know Akashic press only from your wonderful review of "American Visa". I think it is a wonderful way to discover new authors and books.

Thank you for your wonderful post.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, sanjay!

Aww, thanks! I had a good but busy week, hope yours was good too?

Glad you liked the transformation, not sure that M is going to appreciate it though! :)

I'm really not sure why so many kids drop out of high school in Ontario...I just think many of them are bored and not adequately stimulated. It's a shame really.

I love all your questions regarding Jesse, I didn't want to give too much away, suffice to say it did end well. I don't know if the films (which were picked by Gilmour and ran the gamut from Kubrick to Woody Allen; Clint Eastwood to obscure foreign film directors) really made the difference. I think it was being with his dad and the conversations they had about life that helped him to turn around. Gilmour at that point was divorced from Jesse's mother but they maintained an excellent friendship.

Any movie buff will absolutely love this book! Gilmour has such a way with words when it comes to describing a movie. Take this passage for instance where he describes Louis Malle's coming-of-age movie,"Murmur of the Heart"

The boy in "Murmur of the Heart" seems to carry that vulnerability in his body, the slightly rounded shoulders, the gangly arms, the sort of giraffe-like bumping and banging as he makes his way through the world. There is a feel of terrific nostalgia about this film as if the writer, Louis Malle, was writing about a time in his life when he was happy, very happy and didn't realize it until years later"

All in all I think they watched over a 150 movies in that three year time frame.

Thank you for your comment,Sanjay, it was good hearing from you!

Sanjay said...

Lotus, Thank you so much for your comment. My week was ok too thanks!

I am sure M will come around to the transformation. :)

It is something isn't it that some kids are not adequately stimulated about going to school! The fear of god and a lot more was put in to us if we did not go to school, we would not succeed in life ever was the message and I for one took it to heart.

Thank you for telling me about the movies Jesse and David watched. 150 is quite a lot and truly David Gilmour has a way with words as the passage you took pains to type out attests to. Thank you. :)

Lotus Reads said...

Sanjay, you are so welcome! I have just updated my post with a link to an interview David and his son gave Thomas Allen. It's on the publisher's site and is quite enlightening.

Id it is said...

Thanks for the heads up on this intriguing read. I will most definitely want to read it. Like you, I too see this novel strategy of David's as a gamble that paid off, fortunately! Kids today are great negotiators and there is no fooling them. As you point out, the lure of big money minus a high school diploma is one major cause for the dwindling of interest in school, but so what; ours is a capitalist society after all. The businesses are preying on our future citizens of tomorrow and we can only be bystanders to this crime.
Would David's strategy have worked for another child...I wouldn't hold my breath. But I' still want to read the novel if only to escape and seek solace and see hope for our education system.

Kate S. said...

I've been curious about The Film Club and now you've thoroughly convinced me to give it a go!

Breeni Books said...

To a home schooling mom, The Film Club sounds great! I will definitely look for it.

Booklogged said...

I like the decorating change. Bookshelves always rank high with me. I have to say that teachers have a tough job engaging a generation of kids who are used to vegging in front of the tv which requires little thought. There are some great teachers who can do that, but not enough.

Bellezza said...

I think the most poignant point (?!) in what you've written is when the father said he didn't want to lose his son to school AND their relationship. I think it takes a very brave father to do such a thing, and I'm not sure it would work for everyone, but imagine how impowered the son must feel; marvelous!

What a tragedy that schools are losing their children/teenagers like this. My son has 100% on tests he takes, but refuses to do the homework. Consequently, we are looking at a terribly grade point average. Deep down inside I say to myself, "But, if he can excel at proving he knows the material, why the F?" Oh, well, in America's school system one must jump through the hoops, even if one can jump over the mountains.

What an interesting post you wrote.

A Reader from India said...

Hi Lotus,

What an interesting experiment by David Gilmour. It sounds too much like fiction! Any other parent might have changed the school, but allowing his son to drop out, just like that? Gilmour must have had a specific plan when he did that, or didn't he? I am really curious to find out how it ended.

Thanks for a lovely post!

Jyothsna said...

That's a scary idea!! Ofcourse one can always say that some of the most successful businessmen today never completed their schooling! :)

Sanjay said...

Lotus, Thank you for the link to the Gilmour interview. I enjoyed watching him and Jesse talk about their thoughts and experiences.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Id!

you said:

Would David's strategy have worked for another child...I wouldn't hold my breath. But I' still want to read the novel if only to escape and seek solace and see hope for our education system.

Good point you make there...this book really does make one think about the educational system...what's lacking and how do we fix it? Kids shouldn't be bored at school. They spend the better part of their day there, it should be a fun stimulating environment. Sadly, for many kids, it's anything but.

@Kate ~ Glad I could do that. I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on it once you read it.

@Breeni ~ Yes, you could call this an experiment in homeschooling but a more radical one than what we're used to seeing! Kudos to you for homeschooling your kids, how old are they?

Lotus Reads said...

@Booklogged ~ Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I know you teach kids in high school so I value that very much. I realize it must be a tough job for a teacher to stimulate a child used to being spoon fed...parents and teachers have to work together to change the school environment and the attitude of the child. I wonder what you thought of the 9th grade school teacher who gave parents homework along with the kids? Is that a helpful thing to do in your opinion?

@Bellezza ~ THank you and how absolutely lovely to see you here! Yes, we have kids the same age so I know this post will resonate with you. Teenage years are tough ones as well we know. Gilmour, by forming this film "club" wisely used this opportunity to draw his son closer to him (invaluable when you consider that this is the age when most boys, girls too, are beginning to shut their parents out of their lives). I don't blame your son for not liking homework. What if teachers just did away with homework, is that so drastic a move?

Lotus Reads said...

@A Reader ~ Yes, the truth does make for better fiction sometimes! I guess Gilmour was convinced that his son was going to leave school anyway (here in Ontario you can legally leave school at 16years although there is now talk about it being pushed up to 18 which I thoroughly agree with ofcourse) so David probably figured that he'd get Jesse to leave school on his (Gilmour's) terms rather than Jesse's while he still could, ya know? A very tough decision for a parent to make, so I like that he took a stand even if it's not the same decision I would have made for my child.

@Jyo ~ Welcome back! How was your holiday? You are right ofcourse,many successful businessmen have not finished high school, but there are other factors that went into making them what they are....the drive to succeed, ambition, street smartness, good instinct, the right opportunity and a big helping of luck. Not everyone possesses these characteristics in large measure unfortunately. Really glad to see you back!

@Sanjay ~ So glad you did. Thank you for letting me know!

Alice Teh said...

I (accidentally) watched the trailer of The Kite Runner in our motel room in Blue Mountains, Australia. I knew instantly it was The Kite Runner. I have enjoyed the book and I'm sure I will enjoy the movie too. :)

ML said...

I had no idea that there was a threat to the youngsters of the Kite Runner! Thanks for telling us about the new release date!

Funny, but I was watching a news segment the other day and they were talking about the huge drop out rate with high school students. School administrators blamed it on the high paying jobs and the lure of money.

I do agree with you, when teenagers go for the money instead of education, there is no growth.

J at said...

I had read about the families of the children in Kiterunner being afraid for their safety. How sad to have to be displaced, perhaps permanently, from a home you love, because of a film. I also read that the boy didn't know of the scene beforehand, and didn't want to do it. I don't know if that's true or not. Regardless, it was a powerful book, and the rape is central to the plot, so they couldn't very well leave it out.

Gilmour's experiment sounds like a wise one to me. Not that I condone letting your kids out of school, but he knew already that his son wasn't going to make it. Taking that time to truly connect and hold onto his relationship was a brave and difficult thing to manage, I suspect.

My brother hated school, and left early. He tried college, but didn't like that much better. He's a smart man, and has a good job in the tech sector, and I think if he had tried to stay in school, he would have turned into a delinquent.

I loved school, and have a masters degree and a BA, so it's not just the environment, it's the child. I hope that my child continues to love school, and I'm not faced with a situation like Gilmour was.

Dark Orpheus said...

Oh my -- you got me curious. Did the son ever decide to go back to school? Or is this a spoiler? :)

Dewey said...

I read the article about the teacher assigning homework to parents. It's an interesting idea but it could only work in certain communities.

Srijith Unni said...

Hmm.. that`s pretty interesting.. Will keep an eye out for it..!

Lotus Reads said...

@Alice ~ Hello! I haven't watched the trailer yet, but I am sure it's been done beautifully. I can hardly wait for the movie, it's been a long time in the making!

@ml ~ Hi! Yes, Afghanistan being made up of tribes, honor and pride are very important to them and the producers of the film were warned that the rape scenes might cause fighting to break out between rival tribes, hence the precaution.

@J ~ Hi! You are right, it is unfortunate that the kids and their families have to be displaced but with the chaos that is Afghanistan today, perhaps they won't mind going to a more stable country, all expenses paid?

Thank you for sharing your brother's experiences at school, I'm glad he has gone on to be a successful person. I was reading the other day that more boys drop out of high school than girls so could it be that our school system needs to be revamped to make school more interesting for boys? And, if, as scientists tell us, girls and boys are wired differently, should we go back to having single gender schools? I don't know. Just some issues we should be thinking about perhaps.

Lotus Reads said...

@Dark Orpheus ~ Yes, he did go back to school after 3 long years! :)

@dewey ~ Interesting concept, right? I would be more than willing to do homework along with my kid, but for parents that work long hours, it would be a tough job indeed.

@Srijith ~ Hope you enjoy it when you find it!

hellomelissa said...

i can't help but wonder if the schools taught more "real life" classes instead of high-pressure academic subjects (many of which these low-motivation kids will never use in real life) if the dropout rate would be lower. you know, classes like parenting, fix-it, mortgages, marital conflict resolution... heck, i don't know! but i can see how some kids' eyes would glaze over at the prospect of a modern education.

i think instead of watching movies i would have homeschooled to whatever extent i could. but creatively! not dry facts.

Lotus Reads said...

I so agree with you Melissa! I, too, think school should impart to our kids more practical, nutrition, negotiating skills and all the other subjects you named. I mean have you used calculus or all that you learned in organic chemistry even once since you left school for real life? I haven't!

Tara said...

Hmmm, tough one. Since I have a kindergartner I don't know how to react to this - one thought would be changing schools, another to consider home-schooling, or a vocational program. I guess I can see why the father did what he did...but I could never be so casual about education.

I've requested a Portabello books catalog -thanks for the links.