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Conversation: Exploring Preconceived Notions about Otherness

Distributed by Films Media Group, PO Box 2053, Princeton, New Jersey 08543-2053; 800-257-5126
Produced by James Price and Lenka Clayton
Directed by James Price and Lenka Clayton
DVD, color, 18 min.
College - Adult
Psychology, Sociology, Communication

Reviewed by Rebecca Adler Schiff, College of Staten Island, City University of New York

Recommended with reservations   
Date Entered: 7/15/2009

One of evolutionís minor miracles is that each human face is recognizably different from the next, which still holds true, more or less, for an Earth population of 6 billion and growing. Moreover (another evolutionary endowment) there are faces you immediately take to and others you donít. These observations apply to Conversation: Exploring Notions about Otherness, in which, on a split screen, we see a series of two frontal heads, side by side one in each half, and one of the heads expresses a brief spontaneous reaction to the other, more specifically to the other face. With no commentary or context provided, the physical dispositions of the two people involved are uncertainówhether the two in actuality are facing each other or not, and whether the person being described hears the observerís remarks (although, in a poignant moment, the person whose face elicits some negative comments is heard to say his face is not the face he was born with but the result of surgery after two accident disfigurements). In one or two cases the person described makes a comment about herself/himself, that sometimes matches an observerís description, sometimes not. All the faces are fascinating in their way, and beautifully photographed. However, the comments about them are for the most part mundane, you might even say predictable. Faces of people of color sometimes elicit suspicion, mistrust. So does an adolescent face. Though itís never explicitly stated (the filmís subtitle broadly hints at it), the film seemingly yearns to carry the message that preconceptions about the otheróespecially others of another raceóexhibit prejudice and racism. True! Whether this film will bring home the lesson more effectively than other means is a question. Meanwhile the faces themselves say something about the strangeness, the uniqueness of every human face, their ability in one way or another to touch our human soul. The film may be used in the classroom in conjunction with zero acquaintance studies in psychology.