I was pulled right into this documentary about a high school teacher who set up an experiential learning situation in his Palo Alto classroom in 1967. The intent was to show the students how normal people can be pulled into a rabid group mentality like what happened in Nazi Germany. It was very compelling cinema. I caught a few folks as they left the theater:
This definitely would get my vote as best documentary (of the ones I saw.)
As a teacher who likes to use experiential learning, it was interesting to think this sort of thing would be very hard to put on today because of the need for informed consent and concerns for an unstable student to flip out. These are valid concerns. But they ought to be weighed against the fact that 40 years later at a class reunion, the students said it was the most important lesson they learned in school and it continued to affect their lives.
It is also similar to an elementary school experiment that was captured in a movie called "A Class Divided." The teacher divided the class into two groups - the blue eyed students and the brown eyed students. The blue-eyed students were praised as being good and smart and the brown-eyed students were chastised for being slow and lazy. Within a day, the blue-eyed kids began lording it over the brown-eyed kids and the brown-eyed kids were feeling oppressed. You can see the Front Line report on this experiment here.
I would add that the film suggested that the teacher, Ron Jones, was not that much of a planner and this whole exercise was pretty off the cuff. Enough so that one might question how apt the title is. Did he even have a lesson plan?
Both film show how easy it is for people to move into the in group if the conditions are right and to exclude the outsiders. It seems that most people are susceptible, though one in particular actively protested.
This is powerful stuff and important for as many people to see as possible - to see how easily this happens. Of course, the point of the movie is that actually going through the experiment is considerably more effective.
This is a film festival and a key criterion ought to be how well the movie was made as well as the content of the film. I don't think there was any particular magic in the film making, except that the story flowed without me really even noticing the technical processes at all. That's a sign of a good movie.