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Berga: Soldiers of Another War
Stories of Berga What Would You Do? Timeline & Maps Berga and Beyond War Crimes
For Teachers
Intro Overview Lesson Plan 1 Lesson Plan 2 Tips Teacher Resources

Tips

Reading Legal Documents

Anyone who has ever found themselves dumbfounded by a legal document, be it an income tax form or insurance papers, can appreciate how challenging documents like the 1929 Geneva Convention can be for High School students. However, understanding legal documents is crucial to the creation of intelligent citizens who will be able to take part in understanding and participating in our civic life.

For all of its dense language, legal discourse is a meticulous and carefully structured form of writing. Students should be encouraged to understand the overall structure of a legal document before delving into its details. Have them glance over the document in its entirety. Read through section and paragraph headings. Find summaries, preambles, and conclusions.

The lesson plan "Prisoners in Another War" presents an Outline of the 1929 Geneva Convention that strips the 1929 Geneva Convention of its individual Articles, leaving only the section headings remaining. This outline form should allow students to get a good idea of the content and organization of the Geneva Convention prior to diving into a reading of the individual Articles. Understanding the overall structure of a legal document can help the details fall into place.

In reading legal documents it can be all too easy to lose sight of the forest through the trees.

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Considering the Conventions Used in Documentary Film

Like any other literary form, documentary films have their own rules and conventions. In Charles Guggenheim's last and remarkably personal film BERGA: SOLDIERS OF ANOTHER WAR, he makes a number of choices that affect the overall tone and impact of the film. From the beginning, Guggenheim relates his personal stake in telling the story of Berga, an editorial point of view rarely seen in mainstream documentary filmmaking. Guggenheim chooses to narrate the film himself rather than relying on the professional narrators common among many films. The film relies upon a limited set of visual devices: historic footage and photographs of Berga, the War in Europe and the camp's survivors; filmed interviews with camp survivors; and newly filmed scenes recreating the events depicted in BERGA: SOLDIERS OF ANOTHER WAR. Although reenactments in documentary films are frowned upon by many critics, early in the film Guggenheim acknowledges these reenacted scenes (filmed on location in the German village of Berga) with a somber note. The historians, experts, and talking heads common in many documentaries are absent in Guggenheim's film. Guggenheim has also decided to film interviews and reenacted scenes in black and white, which give the film a seamless, timeless quality.

Students should understand the decisions that go into the creation of a documentary film. Had he wanted to, Guggenheim could have made different choices without altering the truth of subject, but it is important to consider how each of the directorial decisions he has made affect the way in which the viewer experiences the film.

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