L'Histoire de l'immigration en France is an impeccably designed online video presentation produced by the Cité Nationale de l'Histoire de l'immigration en France. It is part of a permanent online exhibit that precedes the completion of a brick and mortar Museum on Immigration History that is scheduled to open in 2007. The web site that contains the video also has related thematic and chronological dossiers on the topic of immigration. There are lists of resources on the topics and a current events section featuring very recent articles on immigration issues. The site, like the museum, is currently under construction. However, this does not prevent it from being a rich teaching resource now.
The video that is the focus of the review is made up of a prologue and seven chronological segments that trace the role and integration of immigrants in French society and culture. The video is made up of historic and modern still photos coupled with a very clearly enunciated narration. It can be viewed and discussed in segments or all at once in its entirety. Viewers can easily start, stop and rewind it.
Learners will develop their knowledge base and critical sense of the role of the immigrant in French society.
Target Student Population:
Advanced students of French language, history and/or politics.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Advanced level listening comprehension in French is a necessity.
Type of Material:
Video and html/text materials
For in-class or online discussion and as a companion to lessons on immigration.
Flash player and a high-speed connection
Evaluation and Observation
The immigrant story unfolds with an initial older photograph of an African man in uniform with a young European boy, side by side looking straight into the camera. This picture fades into a far more modern portrait of three young women, one of African descent, another of Asian origins, and a third European. These images are the focus as the narration begins with the textbook phrase "Nos ancêtres les Gaulois" (Our ancestors, the Gauls) The phrase is a point of departure for a chronological study of the inhabitants of France today, those who are descendants of the earliest known peoples of the region and those who came to seek refuge, asylum and a better life.
Instructors will recognize a rich resource for cultural discussions. The narrative itself offers rich statements that can be explored, further discussed, and debated. Given the recent spotlight on immigration in France and in other areas throughout the world, the video can be a very useful springboard for discussion. While viewing the video, users can stop at any time to explore chronologic and thematic dossiers. The individual chronological dossiers each treat the struggles of an ethnic group and their experience of adaptation to the
new French environment. The "Dossier Thématiques" documents are few at the moment: one on L'Affiche rouge, which talks about immigrants who joined the Resistance after fleeing their own countries' repression, and another on "La France qui gagne", which deals with the immigrant role in French sports. On the same Cité website, under Projet de la Cité, A la Une, users can find up to date articles about immigration stories in the news. At the time of this review,
the articles were very current.
As the Cité project develops, it will be interesting to hear more of the actual recorded immigrant voices. Interviews and oral histories from the immigrants themselves would be a welcome feature.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The video can be used for in-class or online discussion and debate. Students can use this video as background before reading literary works by Francophone writers who have lived or are currently residing in France. The video can be used in a cross-cultural comparison on experiences of immigrants in other countries. There is abundant stimulation for written assignments and even term papers based on the theme as a whole or any one of its segments. Faculty will appreciate the material for listening comprehension supported by the rich collection of photographs presented. The video segments lend themselves to the development of units for which questions for a comprehension learning assignment may be designed.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The video is very easy to use. The audio is clear and the images support the audio very well. Users can control volume, rewind, fast forward, and pause, all features that enhance listening comprehension practice. Users can also skip around in the video and access the precise historical period they wish.
High speed access is a must. The web site is clearly under construction, but updated regularly which gives the user confidence that it will constantly improve.