Mongrels, Marsupials, and Morality: Lessons in Loving and Loss from the Somerville High School Collection

This is a guest post from our inimitable fall intern, Tricia Patterson!

As the fall intern at the HFA, I have been processing the Somerville High School Collection of educational films for the past two months. The themes range from career guidance to proper hygiene maintenance to current events (or, well, past events now), with many gems embedded throughout the collection. Some films are dry, others hokey and outmoded in their messages, and many are relevant and informative, if not modern. But I have been surprised to find a few pretty sophisticated and rather touching tales among them as well.

 

Filmmakers have a whole arsenal of tools they can employ to tug at their audience’s heartstrings. Where some use spousal demise as an anchor for their message, others tap out moral codes through stories of dashed hopes and dreams. But where only specific demographics may be able to relate closely to those circumstances, all ages and walks of life can relate to having affection for an animal and the potential tragedy of losing that creature. So it makes sense that it would be a most effective vehicle for an emotional education film that needs to be understood by children.

 

I was able to locate a quite a few of the films online and have chosen two particularly tear-jerky tales. This first one, Clown, had me in tears from just the synopsis in our record. Its French provenance has no bearing on its watchability because it’s silent, though scored, and you get lots of charming Parisian scenery. If you want to teach your student, child, friend – heck, anyone – about what it means to be truly altruistic and the significance of sacrifice, this is the film for you! The short was a very popular educational film distributed stateside by the prolific Learning Corporation of America. It is directed by Richard Balducci and stars a young (and oh so adorable) Gillou Petellier, who very sweetly and simply delivers the role of Clown’s adolescent caretaker and best friend.

 

 https://archive.org/details/lcoa_clown_1…

 

Me and You, Kangaroo had me a little stunned after I read the synopsis, thinking, “Uhhh… this seems like kinda rough material to show to a kid…” But it did win Australia’s Best Children’s Film Award (it’s an Australian short) and the American Film Festival’s “Cine Golden Eagle Award.” Like Clown, it is also about the nobility of sacrifice in the name of love, though to me it more strongly resembles the progeny of The Fox and the Hound and Wake in Fright. Me and You, Kangaroo is directed by Bert Salzman and stars John Latham, Brett Way… and a cute (unjustly uncredited) kanga!

 

http://archive.org/details/me_and_you_kangaroo

 

Hope you enjoy the films – consider these your emotional vitamins for the day!