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Vol. 8 No. 2 (2022): Academic Teaching with Short Films in Religion and Ethics

“Short Film Is Where Innovative Storytelling Is Born”: Using the Science Fiction Short Film in the Religious Studies and Sociology Classroom

April 20, 2022


“Short film is where innovative storytelling is born” – the website, a curated short film website, boldly and proudly declares. Such a bold and proud statement draws attention because short films lead a Cinderella existence: too often neglected, ignored, or not taken seriously, yet immensely rich, rewarding, and provocative. Their length but also their rich opportunities for engagement and immersion make short film an ideal conversation partner in the religious studies and the sociology classroom. The speculative fiction short, the science fiction short, and the documentary short are particularly able to document, address, visualize – and thus render visible – structures and hierarchies of power, financial and economic interest, gender, or resource distribution and the fears and anxieties about what it means to be human.

This contribution demonstrates that shorts, in particular science fiction shorts, can act as conversation partners in the religious studies and sociology classroom, even if the student-audience might not be particular avid science fiction film fans. In this contribution, I make references to three shorts, RISE (David Karlak, USA 2016), CODE 8 (Jeff Chan, USA/Canada 2016), BLACK SHEEP (Ed Perkins, UK 2018), and will provide a more in-depth discussion of the use of RISE in the classroom.