02 Amelia’s Closet
With the second film in our Lesson Plan on Identity, we introduce realistic fiction while revisiting the ideas that we’ve touched on so far, including themes of diversity, inclusion, prejudice, and bias. We share questions, prompts, activities, and further resources to support you and your class in engaging in meaningful conversations.
Content Warning: This film deals with bullying, racism, and discrimination. It is important not to make assumptions about the ways students might respond to the film. Stay open to diverse responses and varied perspectives from your students.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to read the Note to Teachers—you’ll find tips for watching short films with your class and helpful resources for inquiry-based discussions.
Revisit your Community Agreements to ensure that you have created a safe space for students to share with one another while encouraging them to disagree respectfully, ask questions, share their own feelings and listen to the feelings of others.
This film might look like nonfiction to some students. It’s important to remind them of the ways that we can tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction films, some of which we will discuss in this Film Guide.
- What do you think the term live action film means?
- What would make a film live action?
- How can you tell whether a live action film is fiction or nonfiction?
Visit the Glossary + Film Terms page for definitions of these terms or have students research the answers.
- We’re going to watch AMELIA’S CLOSET by Halima Lucas.
- The film is about 17 minutes long.
- This film is live action and realistic fiction, making it different from the previous film we watched in this Lesson Plan.
- It’s important not to talk or take notes during the first viewing, since it may cause you to miss something important!
Watch the film together and gather initial reactions using open-ended questions.
Follow the film screening with a moment of pause for the group to gather their thoughts. Ask the open-ended questions below and record students’ answers. Have students support their observations with evidence by asking, “What did you see that makes you say that?”
- What did you notice about this film?
- What did the film make you feel or think about?
- What moments in this short film stood out for you? Why?
- Did the film give you any new ideas?
- Did anything about this film surprise you? Why?
- What are some words you might use to describe this film?
- You can watch the film as a group by sharing your screen, and selecting the “optimize for video sharing” option. Make sure all participants (including yourself) are muted while the film plays.
- Engage students in Think, Write, Pair, Share before discussing as a group. Consider using Breakout Rooms for small group discussions.
- Try using Mentimeter on Zoom to collect responses.
If you need a link to share this film with your students, email us at email@example.com.
A Closer Look
Since the film is quite long, you may opt to re-watch only certain parts of the film. You can choose to pose a question in advance and have students take notes while viewing this time.
Ask the questions below, taking a pause to give students time to think about their answers. Encourage them to support their answers with evidence from the film by asking, “What makes you say that?”
- How would you describe the protagonist Amelia? How do you think she might describe herself?
- How would you describe Amelia’s classmates and her teacher? How do you think they might describe themselves?
- Think about the school project that Amelia’s class was assigned. Why do you think Amelia’s model might have been singled out by her classmates? Was this fair?
- In what ways is Amelia’s situation similar or different to T-Kesh’s in WELCOME TO MY LIFE?
- Compare and contrast the ways Amelia and T-Kesh respond to their bullies.
- Who does Amelia turn to for support? Who does T-Kesh turn to?
- How might you describe Amelia’s relationship with her father?
- What do you think of Amelia’s decision at the end of the film? How might your opinion change if she had handled the situation differently?
Pause the film to observe still images and see if there are new details to notice.
- What do you notice in the still images?
- Why do you think Halima Lucas included that in the film?
The Bigger Conversation
There is no perfect way to have a conversation about race. It may be uncomfortable or challenging. That is okay. Your role in this conversation is to be a facilitator, not to be an authority on topics of race. Create a safe space with your students (revisit your Community Agreements), so that they see you as a trusted source and will be more likely to engage with you on this topic. Be transparent, avoid generalizations, and be open to having the discussion.
- The protagonist in AMELIA’S CLOSET experiences hurtful discrimination in her classroom and it’s important to acknowledge this with your students. Use examples from the film to anchor your conversation. You can have students watch the film again or select specific scenes to study closely. While some students might see race as the underlying cause of the bullying in the film, some students may not and may bring up other reasons for why the protagonist is being treated differently.
- We suggest an inquiry-based approach to facilitate and support this and any challenging conversations that may come up.
- Watch this interview with Halima Lucas (45 mins), where she discusses her inspiration for the film. You may find value as an educator in hearing her discuss the teacher’s role in this film (and you can decide if you want to share the video with your students). Invite other teachers or staff to watch with you and reflect. What new perspectives can you gain about the role educators play in ensuring inclusive and accepting classrooms?
- Why do you think the kids were bullying/picking on Amelia? If useful, rewatch the scene where Amelia recounts her bullying (10:45).
- What do you think about the way the teacher responded to Amelia’s situation with the other students? Do you agree with her response? Why or why not?
- Have students research the California Mission Project referenced in the film. Share articles about this controversial assignment which was a real part of California elementary school curriculum from the 1960s until 2017. Students can read opinion pieces in favor of or against this project.
- Talk about how the assignment requires resources and materials as well as parental support and how it may impact students and families. Do you think this is a fair project for all students? Why or why not?
- Invite students to create an Identity Chart [PDF] for Amelia. Discuss with students how identities are complex and layered.
- Read Teaching at the Intersections and watch this brief video on Intersectionality 101 for more planning support. Find more on intersectionality in the Additional Resources of this Lesson Plan.
- Conversations About Race Need to Be Fearless [PDF] – by educator Glenn E Singleton
- Ending Curriculum Violence – Teaching Tolerance Magazine
- Talking About Race in a Mostly White Classroom – tips and strategies from the Anti Defamation League
- Why Are Black Girls Disproportionally Pushed Out of Schools – by Monique W. Morris, author of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools
Behind the Scenes
Remind students that everything they saw and heard in the film was based on an intentional decision made by the filmmaker, Halima Lucas.
Examine the ways that a live action, realistic fiction film is different from the previous short film.
- Briefly recap WELCOME TO MY LIFE and ask students to share a one sentence summary, including what they learned from/about it.
- Ask students to list some ways this film was similar or different from WELCOME TO MY LIFE. Did it look similar or different? Sound similar or different? How?
- Explain that, while everything we saw in AMELIA’S CLOSET could happen in real life, what we see in this film are actors performing a script or story. What were some ways that you were able to tell that the story is fictional, though realistic?
- Why do you think the filmmaker may have chosen to tell this story with live action instead of animation or documentary?
- If you weren’t sure if a film was fiction or nonfiction, how might you try to find out?
Films are made by filmmakers who have something they want to say, which might be inspired by their own experiences or something they’ve encountered in the world. Therefore, a film often has an underlying message, or multiple messages.
Explain that there are no wrong answers to the questions below. Works of art, including film, can be interpreted in many different ways.
- Why do you think the filmmaker might have chosen to include Amelia’s father in the film? How might the film have been different if we only saw Amelia at school and not at home?
- How would you describe the way the teacher treats Amelia? How does the rest of the class treat Amelia? Why do you think the filmmaker might have chosen to include these characters in the film? How might the film have been different if the teacher had treated Amelia in another way?
- Earlier we discussed the school project. Does this assignment seem fair to give to all students? Why or why not? Why do you think Halima Lucas may have chosen to feature this project in the film?
- Why do you think the filmmaker, Halima Lucas, might have wanted to tell this story?
- What questions do you have about this film that you would like to ask the filmmaker if you could? Remind students that the filmmaker may sometimes leave out information intentionally.
Halima Lucas is the writer and director of the live action short film AMELIA’S CLOSET. She attended USC’s School of Cinematic Arts where she created AMELIA’S CLOSET and other short films. Halima recently completed a year-long term in the acclaimed Nickelodeon Writing Program and is currently poised to launch an original project. She is also working at Disney TV Animation on the series MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR. Her passion as a storyteller is to make people laugh while amplifying voices from marginalized communities.
Let students know that while the filmmaker might have had a message or idea in mind, we are all welcome to interpret the film in our own way.
Did you consider different endings for this film?
The film in its earlier stages originally had an ending where the teacher apologized to Amelia and gave her the pep talk that her father gave her, but when I shared the script with others, they asked me if that was the experience I had, and the truth was, it wasn’t. I, and many students from marginalized communities who get mistreated in school or remain unsupported by our educators, often don’t get that kind of justice from our teachers or administrators. We often don’t get an apology for the way we were treated and that’s largely because the teachers don’t even realize that they are treating us a particular way. So, when I was asked that question, I realized that in order to tell the story as real and honest as possible, I need to have a more true-to-experience ending and I’m extremely happy that I did.
How or why did you become interested in filmmaking?
Filmmaking for me is an empathetic tool. It ties you in the shoes of a character you’ve never met and allows you to see the world from their point of view. Hopefully, walking in someone else’s shoes helps you understand their experience in a way that allows you to understand them, and hopefully, that new understanding makes you more considerate and sensitive to others. My goal is to shift people’s perspectives and build bridges of understanding between communities and points of view through the media I create. In my opinion, understanding is the foundation of empathy and peace.
What is some advice you would give to young students interested in filmmaking?
Go make movies and videos! And different kinds if you want! You don’t need fancy cameras or famous actors! Use your friends, family, and phone to start telling stories and tell the stories YOU want to tell because your unique perspective is what matters the most! And don’t be afraid to share your stuff! Post it on social media, share it with people. The more you do it the more you’ll grow. Don’t fret over whether you think your project is perfect or not. Trust me — it’s all about getting practice! All of my short films are online, from the ones I shot early on to the ones that have won awards and I’m proud of each and every one of them!
What is something that you think people don’t know about working as a filmmaker?
It is an incredibly collaborative job. Sure, people know more than one person makes a movie or a show, but take some time to look at the credits of a movie. ALL of those people were part of making it happen. Every single one. So, if you don’t like group projects, filmmaking isn’t for you! Most of the job is learning how to exchange ideas, delegate, and keep people motivated.
Also, people don’t often think about how adaptable filmmaking skills are. There are so many roles and things outside of just writing, directing, and acting that people can explore and find their niche. For example, many people I went to school with began thinking they wanted to direct films and later found that they really enjoyed sound designing for films or picture editing or special effects make-up, or even costume designing! Having skills in different areas is helpful when it comes to working on your own project. I’ve done video editing, costume design, even make-up on my own projects! There are tons of roles that use almost every skill on earth, from tech support to number crunching a film’s budget! ∎
Film trailers can be a great way to make connections to persuasive writing.
Watch the trailer for AMELIA’S CLOSET. Consider the following questions: Why are film trailers created? What is the audience told or shown in the trailer? Not told or shown? Why? Does watching this trailer make you desire more information? How is a trailer different from a short film?
Invite students to imagine they are writing a letter to one of the characters in AMELIA’S CLOSET, or to the filmmaker, Halima Lucas. Use the prompts below as inspiration.
- Which character in the film would you want to write a letter to?
- What might you want to say to Amelia? To her classmates, her teachers, or her father? Are there questions you would like to ask them?
- What would you want to say to Halima Lucas, the filmmaker? What did this film mean to you? Are there questions you would want to ask?
- Discuss the ways you might have related to one of the characters in this film.
- Share a story about a time you witnessed bullying or racism. What did you do? How did it make you feel?
- Share a story about a time you experienced bullying yourself. How did it make you feel? How did you respond then? How do you think you could have responded differently? Where or to whom did you go for support?
- Share a story about a time when you stood up for something that you believed in. Was it hard to express an opinion that other people didn’t agree with? Why or why not?