Films

Partnering on the Swiss film "Ciao Babylon" and the PBS documentary "Language Matters", as well as many shorter film projects, ELA has worked to raise awareness about endangered languages through film.

Ciao Babylon

Ciao Babylon, directed by Kurt Reinhard and Christoph Schreiber and produced by Frank Matter (Soap Factory), is a film about endangered languages in NYC which features ELA linguists and collaborators. The film also follows NYC high school teacher Giancarlo Malchiodi from Brooklyn to the Swiss Alps on his way to rediscover his mother tongue Romanish, a language that may lose its last native speakers within a few decades. Giancarlo spoke perfect Romansh as a boy, but later, as he says, decided out of youthful exuberance to only speak English. He now regrets that he is no longer proficient in the language of his forefathers. This is why he has started to relearn the language and eventually embarks on a trip with his mother, Amalia, to Sagogn, her hometown. There they meet a Portuguese family whose children are growing up with the Romansh language, which they are learning with relative ease given its similarity to their mother tongue. As a result, the many Portuguese immigrants in Grisons are becoming the new hope for the preservation of Romansh in Switzerland.

Ciao Babylon is available via Documentary Educational Resources.

Watch the preview here:

Language Matters

Language Matters with Bob Holman, produced in conjunction with ELA, is a documentary in three acts, describing the struggles and triumphs of language activists in Australia, Wales, and Hawaii who are developing and revitalizing their languages and cultures. Directed by David Grubin and with major funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the film aired nationwide on PBS in January 2015, to critical acclaim.

Language Matters makes clear everything that is lost when a language disappears: a wealth of ecological, zoological, and botanical knowledge; a world of cultural creativity; and a lens on life, a unique and irreplaceable outlook on the world. Facing a catastrophic loss of cultural and linguistic diversity, people from all over the world are responding with unprecedented efforts to document, develop, and revitalize endangered languages.

In the film, Bob, a poet who is also an ELA board member, flies to the Australia and meets Charlie Mangulda, the last speaker of Amurdak, and the Aboriginal song man Solomon Nangamu, who is single-handedly keeping Manangkardi alive through his “song line.” In Wales, he meets poets, singer-songwriters, and even a rapper bringing Welsh rap to the pub — and Bob himself makes a go of competing (in Welsh) in the National Eisteddfod, a massive celebration of the language and its verbal art. Finally, in Hawaii, Bob observes at close hand one of the most successful revitalization movements, which is bringing the Hawaiian language back from extinction thanks to sheer determination and inspired education initiatives for young people (from birth through college).

Watch the preview here. Read more about the project here.

This Is Who I Am

‘This Is Who I Am’ is a short film produced by ELA friend and collaborator Kalvin Hartwig (Bear Clan Anishinaabe from the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa) about a young Ojibwe woman seeking to reconnect to her language and culture in the big city. First premiered at the United Nations, the film has been now been showing at schools, festivals, and venues across the US, encouraging young Indigenous people to engage with their traditional languages and cultures no matter where and when.