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Joyeux Noel: Use Analysis of this 2005 Movie to Bring the History of WWI Alive to Students

written by: Beth Taylor • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 8/2/2012

Based on a true story; the 2005 movie about Christmas Eve in 1914, on a French battlefield.

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    Joyeux Noel can be used in History, Civics, Government, and Psychology and Sociology classes on the High School level. Viewing this movie will spark classroom discussion about history, current events, humanity, and how what we learn from the past can shape our decisions today.

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    The Story

    The following is a direct quote about Joyeux Noel from Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com):

    In 1914, World War I, the bloodiest war ever at that time in human history, was well under way. However on Christmas Eve, numerous sections of the Western Front called an informal, and unauthorized, truce where the various front-line soldiers of the conflict peacefully met each other in No Man's Land to share a precious pause in the carnage with a fleeting brotherhood. This film dramatizes one such section as the French, Scottish and German sides partake in the unique event, even though they are aware that their superiors will not tolerate its occurrence.

    This movie depicts French, German, and Scottish soldiers on the front declaring a cease-fire through Christmas. Rather than a simplistic feel-good story, this film successfully explores various experiences on the front in 1914, including mixed emotions of those who were grieving the dead, those in command, and the various responses and repercussions of recognizing the humanity in the enemy.

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    The Movie

    Joyeux Noel was written and directed by Christian Carion. It was first released on May 16, 2005, at the Cannes Film Festival in France. It has been released in over 20 countries. The taglines for the movie include:

    France 1914. A moment of humanity that made history.

    Without an enemy there can be no war.

    This movie has been nominated for and won numerous awards. It is available in French with English subtitles, and can easily be found for rental.

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    Uses in the Classroom

    High School students studying WWI in history class are not the only students who should see this movie. It is also useful and thought-provoking for government and civics, psychology and sociology classes. Youth groups are well-advised to sponsor a group viewing of this movie followed by discussion.

    For history class, review causes of WWI and what each participating country wanted to achieve. Invite students to think about and suggest parallels that they may or may not recognize in current events. Watch the movie together.

    Regardless of which class you are teaching, after viewing this movie guide your students in discussion about what this movie says about humanity and psychology, how it relates to current events, and any universal themes your students recognize. Instruct your students to choose one of the many themes they come up with, and write a five paragraph essay relating their theme and the movie.

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