We watch large portions of Gandhi in 7th grade social studies. It had been part of the curriculum long before I got there, and it doesn't look to be going anywhere.
Spoiler alert: Gandhi dies. As Gandhi was born in 1869, and the film was released in 1982, it shouldn't come as any surprise that Gandhi dies in it.
But what many... maybe most? of my students didn't know was that Gandhi was assassinated as a 78 year old. (I mean, who assassinates a 78 year old? Just let the man live out his life...)
Here's the thing, though: the movie starts out with his assassination. In the past, I've shown the beginning first. Then, after some discussion with colleagues, I kept his assassination a surprise. I'd go back and forth from year to year. Unsure which I liked more.
In 1982, when the film was released, the majority of people going to see it knew what had occurred. They knew who Gandhi was, what his life was about, and how he died. Like watching a movie about a husband and wife that work on separate floors of 1 WTC in August 2001 - we know where that story is going. And it would make sense to start with the planes. Or the opening of the Titanic with a submarine exploration of the boat. We already know.
But a 7th grader watching in 2017 (or whenever you're reading this) has little background on Gandhi. And they're not tied to him. So, watching some random man get killed at the beginning of the movie cheapens how horrifying the assassination really was. It makes sense to let them see the man, his cause, and develop an attachment to him so they can perhaps more fully grasp what happened. Context is everything.
Students can get extra credit if they read and discuss this blog post with an adult. Even though it wasn't brought up in this particular blog post, we've been been discussing India's independence movement for a while. So, they should discuss the following: who was Gandhi? What was he fighting for? Was he successful?
Write at least 3 sentences about your discussion, have the adult you discussed with sign the paper, and put it in the extra credit tray on Monday.