Making the Grades
WORLD WAR I RAGES in Europe as two of its victims -- orphans Helmut (Robert Karl Burke) and Brigitta Brink (Amber Willenborg) -- find themselves released from an American internment camp into the care of Pastor Douglas Simms, M.D. (Tony Lincoln). But the German siblings soon wonder whether the life left behind was better than the one now facing them in Waterville, U.S.A....
Many of the townsfolk harbor bitter feelings toward the young newcomers, and probably none more than Nicholas Emery (Jock MacDonald), whose son Ben (Elwon Bakly) recently returned from the battlefront with an amputated leg. In Nicholas' eyes, people like Helmut and Brigitta have rendered his oldest boy useless on the farm, reducing him to nothing more than another mouth to feed in financially difficult times. Adding insult to injury is the fact his second son is smitten with Fraulein Brink.
Growing weary of breaking up playground fights involving Helmut and his classmates, newly hired schoolteacher Martin Canlon (Peter Coyote) decides to tackle this issue of discrimination with some rather unorthodox instructional methods. Making use of the recently invented gramophone, Mr. Canlon acquaints his students with a German opera named Der Korb -- or, in English, The Basket. Since he only plays a snippet each day, the entire town is soon caught up in wondering what happens next.
In another revolutionary move, Canlon introduces basketball -- the unfamiliar invention of one Dr. James Naismith -- with the hopes of teaching his pupils something called teamwork. He even commits them to play against the undefeated Spokane Spartans, an adult team offering $500 to any squad capable of beating them. Little do the people of Waterville know how much the contest will transform their lives.
Although this heartwarming film contains scenes of tension and violence, these portrayals are non-graphic and never gratuitous. Furthermore, with language concerns being limited to a handful of mild profanities, all but the very youngest family members will be able to enjoy the fruit of The Basket -- a metaphor for life woven between the libretto of Der Korb and a team sport's demand for cooperation.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Basket.
Merriam-Webster defines Prejudice as:
- A preconceived judgment or opinion.
- An adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.
- An instance of such judgment or opinion.
- An irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.
In spite of all the good that can come from team and individual sports, we often see displays of aggression, anger, and other “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Why? How do negative and positive actions affect both participants and spectators?
The stranger in the opera claims his basket contains the secret to beating the barbarians. How could the explanation of the secret (provided in the film’s closing scene) apply to your family? Your community? Your country?
The German opera, Der Korb, exists only in the movie and on its soundtrack recording… for now. Apparently the composer, Don Caron, is working on bringing his opera to life. Visit www.geocities.com/doncaron_2000 to find links to a rough draft of Der Korb, and much more.