Mankind is no island was shot entirely on a mobile phone, using signs found on the streets of New York and Sydney. The three-and-a-half-minute short film, directed by Jason Van Genderen, deals with the topics of homelessness and empathy. Its simplicity underlines a poignant message that is especially relevant today.
Before watching the film, students should speculate what is meant by the title and whether they agree with it or not.
The title is reminiscent of a famous line in John Donne’s (1572-1631) prose work Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is from Meditation XVII. He wrote it in 1624 when he was the Dean of St. Paul’s (Incidentally, it is here that Hemingway also found inspiration for the title of his novel For whom the bell tolls).
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.
The film’s simple format is a fairly easy one for older students to replicate. Having watched and discussed it, they could create their own films about an issue concerning the town in which they live. Alternatively, they could choose to explain a (famous) quotation of their choice. They should, however, avoid speech and use signs around them or make one or two of their own to make things a little easier.