English - Master of suspense

Hitchcock's genius should be part of the curriculum

Mark Reid

This summer, a colossus of British culture will have his work honoured as part of the London 2012 Festival. Film director Alfred Hitchcock helped to define his chosen art form. He explored the murkier recesses of the human psyche, connected with the key ideas of his time and influenced generations of artists who followed. So why isn't he taught in schools? Shouldn't Hitchcock's work be "canonised" by inclusion in the national curriculum?

The British Film Institute's (BFI) celebration of Hitchcock's work focuses on the rediscovery and reappraisal of his silent masterpieces: remastered, re-presented and rescored by leading musicians such as Nitin Sawhney and Soweto Kinch. The Genius of Hitchcock is the biggest project the BFI has ever undertaken, and education is right at the heart of it.

The fun has already started with a multi-media, cross-artform performance of The Ring (the black-and-white silent version made in 1927, below). A hundred children from Lambeth, South London, used fairground music, zoetropes, film booths and Charleston dance steps to recreate the movie. Meanwhile, in another project, Telferscot Primary School in Balham, South London, re-shot and scored the film's central wedding scene. See it all at southbankculturalcampus.wordpress.com

The BFI Southbank in London will also be holding "suspense film schools" for 9- to 14-year-olds and older teenagers during July and August. These week-long summer schools will use workshops and screenings to interest children in Hitchcock's peerless suspense techniques. In September, there will be screenwriting masterclasses for teenagers using original Hitchcock scripts from the archive.

Later in the autumn, thousands of after-school film clubbers will be able to watch some rare Hitchcock titles for the first time, with accessible viewing guides to help them. In October, The Lodger and North by Northwest will be offered to thousands more as part of National Schools Film Week.

So back to our original question: why not study Hitchcock in school? Over the summer, we will open the debate on the TES website (from 5.30pm on Monday 9 July at www.tes.co.ukforums). Film is the richest, most complex medium of expression human beings have ever invented. Isn't it time to take it, and the people who have shaped it, seriously?

Mark Reid is head of education at the BFI. For more information on the summer suspense schools at BFI Southbank, email education@bfi.org.uk


Study Hitchcock's techniques with a lesson from rshades.

Get pupils writing about Hitchcock's film The Birds with EmmaBB's PowerPoint.

Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources042


Teachers debate what the greatest Alfred Hitchcock movie is. What are your thoughts?

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Mark Reid

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