Master Class Discussion of the Film Glory

Recently, two faculty members hosted an interdisciplinary Master Class to discuss several scenes in the film Glory. Dr. Meditz in Humanities discussed the history of what is depicted in the film and Mr. Crowley in Theater and Film Studies helped the students understand the challenges the actors faced in bringing the Civil War to life. The film will reach its thirtieth anniversary in 2019 and it is just as emotionally powerful today as it was when it debuted. To prepare for the class, the students read the diary entries of Captain Robert Shaw (played by Matthew Broderick in the film) so that they knew the real history of the events they were about to see. Having the chance to discuss what they observed and to compare and contrast the reality with the film version of history was an illuminating experience for the students.

One powerful scene the group watched is when one of the African American soldiers (played by Denzel Washington) decides to leave camp to get a pair of shoes that fit. Upon his return, he is detained and subsequently whipped for breaking the rules of leaving camp. He exposes his heavily scarred back and stands resolute as he receives the punishment given to him. The girls found this scene hard to watch and shared some strong insights. “This really amplifies the horror of the time period,” Adriana K. ‘21 said. Paige P. ‘21 agreed: “You see all of his scars and it’s a history of both his pain and the pain of slavery.” Mr. Crowley discussed how the filmmaker chose to do close-ups of both Denzel Washington’s face and Matthew Broderick’s face and how this gets the audience more invested in these characters. Dr. Meditz also emphasized the visceral nature of a film compared with reading a historical account: “A novel asks you to imagine things but a film asks something else. There is nowhere to hide.”

The group watched several clips and in each case, Dr. Meditz and Mr. Crowley helped them analyze how the film depicted the historical events and the choices the director and actors made. Talking about the soundtrack, which features the Harlem Boys Choir, was especially poignant. Several of the girls commented that the angelic and innocent qualities of the boys’ singing was very moving. Dr. Meditz added, “It’s a juxtaposition between the brutality of war and the beauty of music.”

The high level of collaboration between Dr. Meditz and Mr. Crowley and the unique points of view they both shared based on their academic backgrounds greatly enhanced the students’ experience. This is an excellent example of the interdisciplinary approach faculty at The Academy take as they teach both core and elective classes. The two are discussing future opportunities for Master Classes on other historical dramas.