A Touch of Greatness (1964) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • In an era when Dick, Jane, and discipline ruled America's schools, Albert Cullum allowed Shakespeare, Sophocles, and Shaw to reign in his fifth grade public school classroom. Through the use of poetry, drama and imaginative play, Cullum championed an unorthodox educational philosophy that spoke directly to his students' needs. Many of Cullum's projects were recorded on film by then novice filmmaker Robert Downey, Sr. Weaving stunning black and white footage and rare archival television broadcasts together with interviews of Cullum and his former students, this is a portrait of a maverick teacher who transformed a generation of young people by enabling them to discover their own inner greatness.


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  • A Touch of Greatness is a feature-length documentary film focusing on the work of Albert Cullum, an elementary school teacher for over thirty years and a pioneer in American education. Albert Cullum ignited the imagination of his young students, and through his passionate use of poetry and drama, built their self-confidence and inspired them to new heights of originality and joy. Championing an unorthodox educational philosophy, Mr. Cullum regularly taught his elementary school children literary masterpieces, most notable the works of Shakespeare, Sophocles, and Shaw. The one-of-a-kind film will interweave scenes from rare archival television broadcasts and film footage documenting these projects (several recorded in the early 1960's by Robert Downey) with interviews from Mr. Cullum and many of his former students. What emerges in this film is a portrait of lives transformed by this maverick teacher who enabled children to embrace the "heroic deed" and through the power of language find their own inner greatness. Featured as the Opening Night Film at the Margaret Mead Film Festival and winner of Best Documentary award at the Ohio Independent Film Festival. Winner of the Golden Starfish Award for Best Documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival and People's Choice Award at the Starz Denver International Film Festival.

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