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Explore the World Through Your Library

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Libraries today are offering more and more ways to consume information online. No longer simply physical structures where you can check out books, now they also offer a number of free access to services online such as Overdrive, a way to check out audiobooks, and Lynda, an online learning platform. Another exciting option is Kanopy, a streaming service offered exclusively through libraries and educational institutions.

Kanopy describes itself by saying that they "believe in the power of film to bridge cultural boundaries and bring people together." What makes Kanopy unique is not only the wide variety of films, documentaries, and informational videos, but the collections themselves. Yes, they have popular movies from studios such as Paramount, and critically acclaimed films like Oscar winners and the Criterion Collection, but they also have entire sections on different regions of the world and subject areas. The Global Studies & Languages section of the catalog includes: 

  • African Studies
  • Asian Studies
  • Australian Studies
  • ESL & Languages
  • European/Baltic Studies
  • German Studies
  • Indigenous Studies
  • Latin American Studies
  • Middle Eastern Studies
  • North American Studies

Within those sections, they are broken down into categories such as cinema, politics, economics and business, health, music, and much more. 

Whether you're planning to travel to another country, learning another language, or simply dreaming of where you'd like to go someday, watching films is a great way to peek into new places, and gain a new perspective on places you have already been to. Seeing films from other areas of the world not only gives you a glimpse into what life is like in other countries, but also a chance to see and hear what the ideas, dreams, and realities are that drive the people that live there. 

Check out some of these films, or let us know which ones you're excited to watch:

  • Guangzhou Dream Factory (2016): "Guangzhou, a.k.a. Canton, is southern China's centuries-old trading port. Today it's a booming metropolis - the Mecca of mass consumption - attracting more than half a million African traders each year. Over time, some of these Africans have chosen to stay, and to them China looks like the new land of opportunity, a place where anything is possible. But is it?"
  • Timbuktu (2014): "Not too far from Timbuktu, now ruled by religious fundamentalists, Kidane lives peacefully in the dunes with his wife Satima, his daughter Tonya, and Issan, their shepherd. In town, the people suffer, powerless, from the regime of terror imposed by the Jihadists. Music, laughter, cigarettes, even soccer have been banned. The women have become shadows but resist with dignity. Every day, the new improvised courts issue tragic and absurd sentences. Kidane and his family had been spared the chaos that prevails in Timbuktu, but when their destiny changes abruptly, Kidane must face the new laws of the foreign occupants."
  • Last Men in Aleppo (2017): "2018 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature, Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad's breathtaking work - a searing example of boots-on-the-ground reportage - follows the efforts of the internationally recognized White Helmets; ordinary citizens who are the first to rush towards military strikes in the hope of saving lives."
  • Framing the Other (2011): "Framing the Other portrays the complex relationship between tourism and indigenous communities by revealing the intimate and intriguing thoughts of a Mursi woman from Southern Ethiopia and a Dutch tourist as they prepare to meet each other. This humorous, yet simultaneously chilling film shows the destructive impact tourism has on traditional communities."
  • El Futuro Perfecto (2016): "A smart and innovative look at the possible futures of a young Chinese immigrant in Buenos Aires, told in the stilted language of an elementary Spanish language textbook."

Find out if your library has a Kanopy subscription; if it does, you have access to four free "play credits" a month, and you have three days to watch the film you check out as many times as you want. If it doesn't, then contact your local librarian to find out more.

Kanopy asks users to "start watching today and expand your worldview with us." Indeed, the chance to learn about another culture doesn't have to start with a plane ticket. It may just take a library card.

Scenic view of The Great Wall of China Landscape.