stedall’s steiner movie

Jonathan Stedall’s documentary movie about Rudolf Steiner (‘The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner’) is finished and will soon premiere at the Rudolf Steiner House in London. I’m not sure if it will ever be shown in ordinary movie theaters; it seems somewhat unlikely. I have a question for you though. This is from NNA:

For Jonathan Stedall the documentary marks the fulfilment of a project which has been long in the making: “The two parallel threads in my life have been my work as a documentary film-maker and my deep interest in the work of Rudolf Steiner,” he told NNA.

“Having made a number of films for the BBC about Camphill schools and village communities in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the USA, and in 1994 a promotional film for the Steiner Schools Fellowship in Britain, I have now, at last, had the opportunity to explore the broader picture – the life and legacy of someone whose ideas and insights are, I believe, ever more relevant,” Stedall explained.

Anyone seen these BBC films? What were they like? What picture are we getting of Camphill?

I’m sure that the new film depicts Steiner as a hero; that’s ok. Stedall is open with his allegiances (he clearly thinks he’s great) and it’s not — as far as I know — a BBC production. I suspect — unfortunately — that the film won’t reach any further than to his likewise enthusiastic audience in the Steiner House and similar establishements. It’s aimed at television, but I wonder if any of the broadcasting companies have bought it. There’s a list of a few scheduled screenings that has so far been announced; see the end of the NNA article.

I would like to see, one day, a great documentary about Steiner. Or even a feature film; perhaps even a better a feature film with mystical-magical elements incorporated! It could be splendid, riveting, interesting, quite lovely.

(Blog post from a year ago.)

6 thoughts on “stedall’s steiner movie

  1. Hi Alicia,
    here is a 15minute extract from ‘Candle on the hill’ made by stedall in 1989 (?) I think…

    Jonathon came to Plymouth to talk to some of the students last year with regard to his film. Personally, I’ve got high hopes for it. I have a copy of candle on the hill in full, I will try and dig it out for you if you are interested?

    I haven’t seen it for a while so can’t speak too much on it’s content and/or angle. But I don’t remember it being too preachy(?)

    I’m pretty sure that ‘candle on the hill’ was broadcast on the BBC. It is a three part documentary, looking at Camphill in Aberdeen as well as the USA. He does show the good side of Camphill but also interviews a lady who chose to move out of Camphill and into social housing as she felt as though she wanted independence and somewhere of her own to call home.

    For me, Camphill is a beautifiul thing but comes with it’s ups and downs and at the risk of falling into that wishy washy cliche, it doesn’t suit everyone. If you read the curative education lectures there’s some pretty heavy ideas to wrestle with- notably karma, etc. I think it’s important to remember that it’s ‘steiner inspired’ – not steiner founded. As time goes on, more and more of the philosophical steiner stuff seems to be falling away. What remains is the european model of social pedagogy, with a few old timers rattling on about steiner in the corner. As with anything, what works sticks and what doesn’t…well…doesn’t!

    When the first camphill was taking in students, the rest of the country was hiding people with special needs away in hospitals. My Grandmother’s sister was born with down’s syndrome, taken from her mother and put in a mental hospital from the age of three (don’t think it helped that she was born out of wedlock :/ ) A mental hospital is no place for a little girl with down’s syndrome.

    Back to the film, it should be good. A number of my friends were interviewed with regard to their practical placements. He was keen to engage with the ‘future’ of steiner education and more than once asked us if we even thought there was a ‘future’. He seemed to be very on the ball and I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of his latest installment…which I hope to be as challenging and non persuasive as he was in person :)

    Pip

  2. Hello — thanks! I hadn’t seen there was a clip available at all — and, yes, I might be interested in the whole film, if there’s a way for you to share it. It’s so rare to see anything from these environments, it’s interesting anyway (even if the critical perspective is somewhat neglected…).

    I just found the trailer for the new Steiner movie — I’ll post it in a separate post in short.

    You’re right — the situation for children with handicaps was absolutely horrifying, and in that perspective, the ideas of curative education were not all that bad… As for the situation nowadays, I’m less sure — it seems to me there’s a risk that people who work in curative pedagogy know too much Steiner theory and too little about the progress that has been made in knowledge and methods since Steiner’s times. (Basically, the same problems as with waldorf teachers who study too much Steiner and too little of other things.) And there have been some rather severe problems with these institutions in Sweden; punishments being used, for example. (And with punishment, I don’t only refer to curative eurythmy ;-) ;-)…)

    ‘If you read the curative education lectures there’s some pretty heavy ideas to wrestle with- notably karma, etc.’

    Oh definitely. They’re a very odd read. But a necessary read, because the basic concepts, like karma, are essential to anthroposophy… and they are anthroposophical insitutions even if not everybody who works there is equally well-versed in anthroposophy or equally inclined to accept every tenet.

  3. I’m not sure about how to ‘share’ the DVD…but can post it (in an envelope) if you want? So long as you post it back! I can post it to work, a friend’s or somewhere that isn’t your home if you’d rather not dish out your home address (which I totally understand). That said, I’ll have to find it first – it’s at the bottom of one of many boxes as yet unpacked since moving house!

    The situation for handicapped children was horrifying…but still, to this day, is pretty horrifying in places. One thing I have really taken from time spent in a Camphill environment is the idea of getting the kids DOING stuff – meaningful, will based activity, if you will – like gardening, weaving, woodwork, etc. Having a sense of purpose is remarkably therapeutic. You should (well, could) ask if you can observe or go to one of the festivals, that in the UK, at least, are normally open to the public. They’re, in my opinion, very special places indeed. I probably should say that some state special needs schools are similarly special :)

    Does one need to know that the reason for this ‘doing stuff’ is because steiner suggested (somewhere!) helping to harmonise the handicaps soul forces of thinking, feeling and willing by giving time to the force least used? Or is it enough to just do and see that for whatever reason, many children with special needs respond positively to ‘doing’ too?

    I feel as though once upon a time the steinery types set up camphill and had specific reasons for all that they did (based on anthroposophy), which were shared and well known by the staff members of the communities. As time has gone on, the practice has been passed on but the reasons for the practice have faded or are fading. Is this okay? Or should all practicing there be versed in anthroposophy in order to understand what they do? Is it not enough to just blindly do and do well (on the presumption that most with any ounce of intuition/warmth/courage/credibility as a teacher would cease doing that which didn’t work, even if steiner said it should?) Or is doing without knowing why you do what you do what makes anything steiner related so readily called a cult?!?!

    Right, I’m off to watch that trailer!

    Pip

  4. ‘I’m not sure about how to ‘share’ the DVD…but can post it (in an envelope) if you want? So long as you post it back! I can post it to work, a friend’s or somewhere that isn’t your home if you’d rather not dish out your home address (which I totally understand).’

    That would be absolutely brilliant if you would take the trouble to do that — and of course I’d send it back! When you find it, tell me and I’ll email you my address.

    Definitely — doing things, crafts, art, gardening, et c is paramount. With Camphill institutions, yes, I do believe one ought to know the reasons why things are done (and even why some things are done and others are not done!), which of course doesn’t amount to saying that if the advice to do a certain thing has an anthroposophical background it should not be done! I mean, there could be a very good reason for these kids to learn to knit (just to take one example) since it can be good training (physically and mentally and possibly even a good thing for self-esteem) or just enjoyable (for those so inclined). That’s reason enough for doing it, obviously. But the anthroposophical explanation is still not irrelevant… because it tells us why certain activities are favoured in this specific setting. It’s useful to know what kind of beliefs guide these institutions in general. Knowing that, one knows more about what to expect — practically, philosophically, professionallly (from those who work there).

    ‘Or should all practicing there be versed in anthroposophy in order to understand what they do?’

    Well, in a way I think it’s better if they are — since anthroposophy is still the guiding light. Even if it’s somewhere clouded in mist. There’s another reason for this: those who are higher up the chain, the managers, the ultimately responsible… they are usually/frequently committed anthroposophists. They are in charge because they have anthroposophical knowledge — whatever that is and however useful — for running anthroposophical institutions. For the co-workers to understand what it’s all about — and to know what is anthroposophical about it all — they need to know a bit about anthroposophy.

    ‘Is it not enough to just blindly do and do well (on the presumption that most with any ounce of intuition/warmth/courage/credibility as a teacher would cease doing that which didn’t work, even if steiner said it should?)’

    Well, now, that’s the interesting question, or presumption — would a teacher cease doing that which didn’t work even if Steiner said it should? I’m not so sure about that. Maybe because I think I notice a certain tendency to cling to tradition and to what Steiner said regardless of what.

    ‘Or is doing without knowing why you do what you do what makes anything steiner related so readily called a cult?!?!’

    Probably not. Although I guess it could be. (Knowing is usually a good thing, cultists prefer believing to knowing.) But I would say: it becomes cultish when people (usually, I would guess, knowing the reason) do what Steiner told them to do without questioning it critically. Without asking: is it good? does it work? does it help? could we do it differently?

  5. Everyone cordially invited to Stroud on 18th March for a chance to see this film FREE!
    It will be screened in two parts, each part 90 minutes, part one at 5pm and part 2 at 8pm.
    That is a long documentary.
    Seats to be booked in advance, clearly they are expecting a full house.

  6. What an opportunity!!

    Probably not a good decision to make such a monstrously long film. Seems like quantity is more worth than quality. Come to think of it, we see the same things with the waldorf movement bragging about numbers (of schools, students, et c) rather than showing results that would indicate quality.

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