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English - It's good to criticise

Ask pupils to write film reviews and put their skills to the test

Ask pupils to write film reviews and put their skills to the test

Young people from all parts of the UK will gather at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) in London on 20 March to celebrate their success at being shortlisted for a national competition - and to hear who will join the select band of winners of Film Education's Young Film Critic Awards.

This is the fifth such ceremony and runs alongside Film Education's year-round screening programme for schools. "It's our goal to expose young people to interesting and challenging films, but also to help them reflect on what they've seen. Creating a short film review is an ideal way of shaping ideas and seeking to persuade," says Nick Walker of Film Education.

As soon as the dust settles on the Bafta event, the 2012 competition will begin, and a wealth of resources is available to pupils and teachers to help them maximise this opportunity. "Getting pupils to describe and discuss a film they have enjoyed (or not) can be a great way for them to use critical terms and attempt the kind of analysis they can struggle to apply to other works of art," Walker says.

Start by checking out previous winners' reviews, such as sixth-former Katie Snow from Exeter College, who won last year's award in the 15-19 age category with her review of Juan Antonio Bayona's 2007 supernatural thriller The Orphanage.

"I am easily horrified by gore, but this intelligent, psychological film was really satisfying," says Katie, now 19. "I think my review was popular with the judges because I tried to place the film in terms of audience expectations, identifying the importance of the mother-child relationship at its heart and explaining how this made the film so compelling and poignant."

In the celebrated Deadline at Dawn, film critic Judith Williamson writes: "Explaining is a big part of criticism ... people should know a little bit more after reading a review, not just about the film in question but about film as a medium."

It is a view that Katie has followed keenly. "It is important to keep your own response in reserve a bit, while showing how the film's technical elements and emotional impact are woven together," she says.

The English and Media Centre is also making its most recent film reviewing resource - previously published in MediaMagazine - available during 16-30 March as a PDF from It contains an interview with a newspaper film and arts critic and subjects one of his reviews to detailed analysis.

Jerome Monahan is a freelance teacher and journalist. He gives Inset and pupil enrichment workshops internationally

What else?

To learn more about the Young Film Critic Awards, visit

Decode film language and turn your class into critics with this colourful PowerPoint from mrushhero.

Find all links and resources at

From the forums

What would you include in a whole-school literacy policy? That's the hot topic of conversation in the TES English forum this week.

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