Another approach to evaluating comprehension could be to administer a short quiz after the screening. Ask
students to name the major and minor characters, name the type of plot, list the narrative time and locations, and
identify the kind of narration used. Or have them write a brief treatment of the plot and describe how it differs from
TEACHING HISTORY CLOSE UP, p. 250
In the years following World War II, Hollywood began producing socially conscious films that did very well at
the box office, including William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) (which won the Academy Award for
Best Picture), Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire (1947), and Fred Zimmerman’s The Men (1950). In this sense, Salt of
the Earth was very much in line with Hollywood at the time. But the rise of anti-communist sentiment in Hollywood
made for a much more intimidating atmosphere, and Herbert J. Biberman and his Salt of the Earth were among the
Red Scare’s many casualties. As the “History Close Up” box indicates, Salt of the Earth plays a role in multiple
narratives about American life, not just the story of the “Hollywood Ten.” It is also a film that brings feminist and Latino
issues into focus.
Discussion Question #1: Consider this film in relation to Italian Neorealism (see chapter 2, pp. 70, as well as chapter 3, pp.
124-125). How might Salt of the Earth be considered an example of American neorealism?
Discussion Question #2: What recent films have shed light on similar issues of labor, gender, and ethnicity? Wh ich genre,
the narrative film or the documentary, is better suited to addressing these issues?
TEACHING THE VIEWING CUES
1900-1920: Adaptations, Scriptwriters, and Screenplays, p. 247
For the film you recently watched in class, describe as much of the story as you can. What are the main events, the
implied events, and the significant and insignificant details of the film’s story?
Ask students, alone or in groups, to describe the movie using forms characteristic of an oral narrative, a
newspaper story, a graphic novel, a children’s picture book, a pop song, or a symphony. Or ask them to use the
storytelling conventions of their major. Have them write a lab report, create a PowerPoint presentation, draft a
blueprint, or even solve an equation. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
Character Coherence, Depth, and Grouping, p. 256
In the film you are watching for class, select a character that you might define as singular. Does that singularity
indicate something about the values of the film? Does the character seem coherent? How?
This Viewing Cue works well as a prompt for discussion. Eve Harrington in All About Eve (1950) seems at first to be
a singular character, but our impression of her uniqueness is overturned in the final minutes of the film. Debate the merits
of character coherence in class. Do real people act coherently?
Character Types, p. 257
What kinds of social hierarchies are suggested by the character groupings in a film you’ve just viewed?
One interesting approach to implementing this Viewing Cue would be mapping the social hierarchies in the
Film in Focus movies Apocalypse Now and Daughters of the Dust (1991) and how they relate to issues of race in
each film. Another might involve comparing the matriarchal structures in Julie Dash’s film with those found in
Diegetic and Nondiegetic Elements, p. 260
Describe the diegesis of the film you just watched in class. Which events are excluded or merely implied w hen that
diegesis becomes presented as a narrative?
This Viewing Cue highlights how plot selection and omission shapes a story from its diegesis. For example, what
we know about Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now is filtered through the accounts that characters share with Captain
Willard long before we meet Kurtz himself. Ask students to apply what they’ve learned in this chapter to movies they
watched for other chapters.
Diegetic and Nondiegetic Elements, p. 261
As you view the next film, identify the most important nondiegetic materials and analyze how they might emphasize
certain key themes or ideas.
Use this Viewing Cue in class and then again as an exam question. Have the students identify and make a case
for a single nondiegetic element being the most important one for a particular movie. For example, in the Film in