In elementary school, one could hardly contain their excitement when the film projector made an appearance. It meant it was time to turn off our brains and watch pretty moving pictures.
Most of the what we watched was the standard elementary school edutainment fare – kids teaching aliens about English grammar, the occasional episode of Ramona, etc.
But on the rarest of occasions, we got something really interesting (even a bit strange) to watch:
All Summer in a Day
This was based on a Ray Bradbury story focused on children living in a space colony where it rained all the time like Seattle. Because they never saw the sun, these kids would have to stand in front of UV light at certain periods in the day to get their daily dose of Vitamin D.
One girl has a recurring dream (I think?) where it stops raining; she tells everyone about it, but they just dismiss her and maybe even ridicule her. Then, one day, her dream comes true! It stops raining, and all the children run outside and play.
Then it starts raining again.
A 17-minute film about a war between the primary colors – each personified as a distinct society/country. I only remember that the Blue people were aristocratic-looking and had airships.
There’s one part where the Red people unleash their ultimate weapon, a giant fire hydrant balloon, and the Yellow people counter with a giant yellow dog balloon.
There was no spoken dialogue, all music. Fantastic visuals.
The Children’s Story
The United States loses a war and is conquered by an unidentified superpower. At an elementary school, a classroom of kids find that their dear teacher has been replaced by a new one resembling Mary Poppins.
However, instead of feeding her students spoonfuls of sugar, this teacher feeds them propaganda from the unidentified superpower.
At one point she takes out the American flag and tells all the kids to cut it into pieces for a fun activity. The kids are quick to indulge – all but one.
This kid’s upset because his dad fought and died in the war, but the teacher quickly wins him over with candy or something, and he happily joins his classmates in cutting the flag.
The sun is about to go supernova, and a starship full of really weird aliens lands on Earth to evacuate the populace. A party from the ship fruitlessly searches the deserted streets to find people to rescue, but to no avail. Earth has been abandoned – but where did everyone go?
The aliens’ ship leaves the Earth and detects a large fleet of human-made rocket ships not too far away. The aliens, who have faster-than-light travel capability, have a laugh, talking about the audacity of humans traveling in space with mere rockets.
Then, the moment that cemented this film in my mind. Fade to black, text: “Twenty years afterward, the remark didn’t seem funny.” As in, the aliens probably ended up getting killed by humans because humans suck.
Adventures in Odyssey
Okay, so this is a series, but it was a direct-to-video series with 1-2 episodes released a year, so it sort of counts as film. It’s based on an Evangelical Christian radio series that started in the ’80s and is still running today (!). Chick-fil-A would often give out cassette tapes/cds of the radio episodes in kids meals.
The school counselor showed my class the episode “A Fine Feathered Frenzy” (the title is all I remember). The weird thing is, we watched it again – the exact same episode – the next time we visited the counselor, weeks later.
When we told her we had already seen that episode, she went on to tell us the merits of watching something we’ve already seen before: “You’ll catch details you missed the first time around.” I think she was just feeling lazy that day.