Historia de un Letrero (The History of a Sign)





In 2008, this five-minute video was selected by the National Film Board of Canada as the best of over 650 entries submitted to the Short Films Corner of the Cannes Film Festival. Director Alonso Alvarez Barreda was born in Mexico City in 1984. Barreda never formally studied film but was befriended and mentored by director Alexandro Monteverde. In "Historia de un Letrero," a blind man begging for change from passersby encounters a well-dressed stranger who, unlike the others, neither walks past without stopping nor gives him money. The film invites us to explore our motivations for giving, or not giving, when we are confronted with someone in need. It would make an interesting pairing with Jean Jacques Rousseau’s The Reveries of the Solitary Walker (6th Walk)".

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“Historia de un Letrero.” Directed by Alonso Alvarez Barreda. Wama Films, 2007.




Diversity and DifferenceGiving and ReceivingLove and CompassionMoney and WealthPoverty and Need

Big Questions

How do we connect with those who are different from us?What assumptions do we make about others?What does good giving require?What makes a good gift?When I give, what do I expect in return? What do I receive?What does empathy look like?What prevents us from being compassionate?Is money a good gift?What do those with more owe to those with less?What is poverty, how should we respond to it?How do we know what someone needs?How should we respond to people and communities in need?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. At the beginning of the film, why does no one stop to give the blind man money?
  2. Why does the well-dressed stranger stop?
  3. Why does the well-dressed stranger change the phrase on the sign? How is it effective in getting people to give money?
  4. Why does the well-dressed stranger come back? Is he expecting anything in his second visit to the blind man?
  5. How and why, if at all, does the presentation of poverty or need affect the desire to give?
  6. What has the well-dressed stranger accomplished in his act of generosity? What has he given the blind man?
  7. How do you determine when to give and when not to give? What influences these decisions the most?
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