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A cinema scheme that's a reel success

An `extra birthday' and gift-wrapped films are drawing pupils into classic cinema. Henry Hepburn looks at a foundation with star appeal

An `extra birthday' and gift-wrapped films are drawing pupils into classic cinema. Henry Hepburn looks at a foundation with star appeal

Every child in Scotland has surely heard of Toy Story and Shrek. But how many know about Jacques Tati's shenanigans in Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, the avant-garde animation of Norman McLaren, or B-movie classic The Incredible Shrinking Man?

Scottish Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton and documentary-maker Mark Cousins want to enthuse children about a world of cinema beyond Disney, and have hit upon an ingenious tactic: give children an extra birthday.

For the past year, their 8 12 Foundation - with the help of schools and cinemas and funding from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland - has been sending out gift-wrapped films to children approaching their 8 12 "birthday". Last month, the foundation announced that it had sent out its 2,000th film.

Children ask for their favourite film from a shortlist devised by the foundation's directors. Their selections are wrapped in fine paper, and an individually addressed "Happy Movie Birthday" card enclosed.

About 80 primary schools around Scotland are involved: the hope is that, with the support of teachers, there is little chance the films will be left unwatched.

Project manager Matt Lloyd expects that 5,000-plus DVDs will have been given away to 2,500 children by the summer.

One teacher told the foundation: "There was great excitement when the post arrived." Comments from pupils included: "I thought that (Laurel and Hardy film Our Relations) was hilarious! I watched it with my mum and we laughed our socks off."

"We are beyond thrilled at the passion and wonder with which so many children are seizing on our invitation to take this beautiful, shared adventure into magical, unknown cinema," Tilda Swinton said.

eightandahalf.org.

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