Around the world in seven days

With National Schools Film Week just around the corner, Yolanda Brooks previews some of the attractions and talks to British director Alan Parker

There's more to the seventh National Schools Film Week (NSFW) than free seats for blockbusters, says British director Sir Alan Parker. The director of award-winning catalogue of films including Bugsy Malone, Fame, The Commitments and Angela's Ashes believes that the annual celebration of cinema is an opportunity to introduce young audiences to a more adventurous mix of films. "Film is a fantastic medium to reach people but the Schools Week really puts the focus on what film is able to give to young people outside of casual visits. The main objective has to be to give more young people the opportunity to enjoy a wider range of cinema," he says.

Organised by Film Education, NSFW runs on October 10-18 (October 28-November 1 in Scotland). Up to 150,000 free tickets are available for films that cover the spectrum from the colourful fantasy worlds of Disney to the subdued style of Italian Neo Realism.

NSFW is the biggest event of several run by Film Education to encourage schools to make more use of film in the classroom. John Woodward, chief executive officer of the Film Council, which has handed over pound;100,000 to support the event, says that film has a natural place in the curriculum. "The way meaning and messages are communicated through sound and vision runs through everything from the internet and cinema to TV. So being visually literate in the 21st century is an incredibly important skill."

But NSFW isn't just about fitting in with the curriculum, says Sir Alan, who is also chairman of the Film Council. He believes that film is also a great way to discover new cultures: "Film Education as such didn't exist when I was at school - I only wish it had - but much of what I learned about the world, other cultures, and other people came from going to my local Odeon in Islington and seeing films which opened the world up to me."

Whether you're seeking to broaden cinematic horizons or enhance lessons, there's something to meet all needs at this year's National Schools Film Week.

Alternative highlights

The week also includes sessions on classification and censorship with examiners from the British Board of Film Classification, previews of five Wallace and Gromit shorts, a Dogme and Documentary strand for secondary schools and the IMAX films Space Station 3D and The Human Body. Screenings for students with hearing or visual impairments will also be held.There's no denying the pull of previews and big name films and there's certainly no shortage this year. Disney's Treasure Planet and Lilo and Stich, plus the screen adaptation of Meera Syal's Anita and Me, are among the most enticing previews on offer. Shrek, Minority Report, Spiderman and Thunderpants are just a few of the recent hits to be shown during the week.

The Matrix and the new M Night Shyamalan film Signs are among the films showing under the secondary sci-fi strand and Devdas, Monsoon Wedding and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon will be shown under the EuropeanWorld Citizenship and Cinema banner. Classics such as Brighton Rock, Battleship Potemkin, The Sound of Music (for sing-along audiences only), The Railway Children and The Third Man will also be on show.

Other categories include comedy, animation, representation, page to screen and British cinema. Some of the screenings will also be accompanied by seminars and workshops.

Each strand for primary and secondary will be supported by teaching materials. Primary materials are downloadable from the NSFW website and participating secondary schools will be sent a CD-Rom packed with related study materials.

National Schools Film Week runs from 10-18 October in England and Wales and October 28-November 1 in Scotland (excluding Edinburgh and EastWest Lothian). For more about events, screenings and resources, visit www.nsfw.org Email: maxine@nsfw.org

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