Wednesday, 12 March 2014

How afterschool film clubs encourage thinking

And the best thing about 3D films?
Those funky glasses. 

Film clubs provide young people with a rare opportunity to be part of something fun, creative and sociable. Sabrina Broadbent reports on an exciting initiative to give more children the chance to get involved.

Ask anyone over the age of 40 if they had a film club at school, and the chances are they will tell you that they did and it’ll be hard to stop them telling you what they saw. They’ll remember the teacher, the magic of having a familiar space transformed into a screening event, and they’ll always remember the film.

Sadly, those film clubs in the 60s and 70s rarely lasted long - sourcing the film reels was difficult and expensive, lacing up the projector was complicated, sound systems were unreliable and the teacher usually worked alone without support or encouragement. Nevertheless, the films that were screened remain as memorable events in the minds of the young people who saw them.

What is a film club?
A film club, like a reading group, is an intimate and informal gathering where people can encounter ideas, experiences and emotions that may not be everyday topics of discussion but which shape all our lives.

Film is a vast vault of stories stretching back one hundred years, across every continent and told in every language. It is an extraordinary cultural asset, yet British children see practically nothing of it. The theatrical releases represent a tiny and culturally skewed percentage of this archive of creative and intellectual endeavour.

Since its roll out in Spring 2008, FILMCLUB has curated and made available thousands of films to state schools. The idea behind FILMCLUB, brainchild of film director, Beeban Kidron and educationalist, Lindsay Mackie, was to give every child the chance to watch one film a week, free of charge, from beginning to end, with a chance to talk about it afterwards.

Now that both the technology and distribution methods are at a point where a model film club could be reproduced in as many schools in the country that wanted one, Kidron and Mackie decided the time was right for school film clubs to become a government-funded entitlement for all school children.

There are now over 7000 film clubs across all four nations of the UK, reaching over 200,000 children and young people every week. Based on a general survey with film club leaders on the impact of FILMCLUB, teachers report that the educational and social benefits to the children attending are considerable. 81 per cent say it develops children’s critical reasoning skills, 80 per cent say it makes children more positive about school and 81 per cent say that it integrates isolated or disengaged children.

An opportunity to be a part of something
Cinema, like theatre, was originally a social act – a collective spectatorship of a story played out upon a stage or screen. Sitting together, but apart, in the darkness and the warmth was integral to the experience. Many people experience film quite differently now and viewing is often an isolated act – on computers and phones. FILMCLUB is changing that.

‘A lot of the disaffected kids are smiling – you don’t often see those children smile,’ observed one teacher from a secondary school in Hastings.

A film club is one way that a school can help children to feel a part of something, not apart from everything. Inclusion is a central aim of many teachers’ film clubs, and headteachers are quick to see that a film club can make children more emotionally receptive to learning.

A film club audience is a unique, self-selecting group of children. It’s unusual to find a grouping quite like it at any other time or place in the school day. It cuts across age, class, ability, gender and ethnic boundaries and it is often a magnet for curious, shy and unusual minds who find their way each week to sit in the dark to watch what film writer, David Thompson, calls ‘the frenzy on the wall’ – who linger afterwards to listen and share their thoughts on films as diverse as Wall-E, Spirited Away, Madagascar, Shaolin Soccer, Mad Hot Ballroom and The Story of the Weeping Camel.

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