David J. Smith’s award-winning book, If the World Were a Village: A Book About the World’s People has done much to popularize the concept of shrinking the world’s population down to a representative 100 citizens and exploring demographic statistics on this much smaller, and therefore more understandable, scale.
In the animated DVD rendition – If the World Were a Village: A Story about the World’s People – of Smith’s popular work, expressive narrator Jackie Richardson sweeps young viewers into a bucolic village. There the inhabitants are cheerful and good-natured despite gross economic disparities; shielding children from the brutal realities of poverty while still evoking their empathy. The use of consistent named characters helps children to associate accurate demographic facts with colorfully animated characters.
The facts are presented gently without a great deal of sermonizing, but the call to social action is clear in the small acts of kindness that the villagers perform for one another. Questions about the wide spread in education levels, amount of available food, income, clean water etc. are sure to follow this awareness-raising film.
In the fact of such objectivity, a closing statement in the section on world religions is quite surprising. While the creators of the DVD (and possibly the originating book) are clearly in favor of peace throughout the world (as we should all be), the statement that all religions are at their core the same is fallacious at best. Few devoted followers of any of the faiths discussed would agree with such a statement, regardless of their dedication to inter-faith loving kindness.
Increasing numbers of school children find themselves living in bubbles that extend no further than their own communities and states. With the deplorable attrition of the study of world geography in most North American classrooms, engaging springboards like this DVD can (and should) be used to launch into previously unexplored territory, and ignite an interest about the global village in which we live.
Production quality is top-notch with bold, colorful illustrations based on the original title’s textured artwork by illustrator Shelagh Armstrong. An enthusiastic, eclectic soundtrack embracing a variety of musical styles from around the world adds greatly to the flavor of the animated feature.
With a total run time of only 25 minutes, the asking price of $29.95 will most definitely seem steep to individual families looking to explore this concept in an animated context. For schoolroom teachers and librarians the cost is more affordable considering that limited public performance rights are included along with the DVD purchase. A four-page free downloadable teaching guide is also available online.
Little is provided by way of extra features. English subtitles are optional on this English edition of the disc. Separate DVDs are available to purchase from Master Communications in French, Spanish, or a combination English/French/Spanish DVD. Each of the single language discs is $29.95; the tri-language disc is $59.95. Chaptering is excellent, allowing educators to zoom in on desired demographics: Nationalities, Languages, Ages, Religion, and so on are chaptered separately for easy navigation from the menu, or while the DVD is playing.
My young children have all found If the World Were a Village: A Story about the World’s People a pleasure to watch, proving its aesthetic and interest-maintaining qualities alongside its more apparent educational ones. No librarian's DVD collection should be considered complete without an inclusion of this disc. Homeschoolers, if your library doesn’t yet own a copy, ask them to get one, it’s worth taking the time to track down.