National Schools Film Week

In the 1930s, a film producer sits with a novelist who has been hired to write a script. But it is full of hackneyed scenes in which characters fight duels and fall down wells. Exasperated, the producer tosses the script on to his desk and asks the novelist if he ever goes to the movies. "No," the novelist replies, "they are full of people duelling and falling down wells."

Thankfully, times have changed since F Scott Fitzgerald satirised Aldous Huxley's attempts to write for Hollywood. It is now not uncommon to find Great Expectations sharing space on a curriculum alongside Citizen Kane or Psycho. And even at primary level the national literacy strategy framework makes explicit suggestions about the usefulness of film in teaching English.

For the past 15 years, Film Education has been promoting and supporting such innovative practice and today sees the opening of the latest National Schools Film Week.

Last year, 150,000 pupils attended screenings, seminars and celebratory events at more than 300 cinemas nationwide. This year the week opens with a screening of Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, for which the audience is invited to dress up, and continues with showings of contemporary successes (such as Shrek) alongside old favourites such as Black Beauty. A highlight will be the London screening of the award-winning film The Testimony Of Taliesin Jones, accompanied by a question-and-answer session with the director, Martin Duffy.

While the main thrust of the programming relates to film studies and links between literacy and film, other movies fit well with science and history. This year also sees the festival linking up with the organisers of Black History Month.

Film Education has backed up the screenings with online resources notable for their user-friendliness, high expectations and relevance to the national curriculum. As a teacher in the throes of organising a school-wide film week, I would also recommend buying the study packs (which arrive with all the necessary film clips strung together on one video). These resources all have clear objectives covering familiar themes such as genre, adaptation, characterisation and narrative structure. The website also offers useful posters, CD-Roms and articles on the use of film within the classroom, all of which might be used to support Film Week.

When Fitzgerald satirised Huxley's Hollywood efforts, he was acknowledging that film and literature had much to learn from each other. As a scriptwriter and novelist, he was acutely aware of the importance of open-mindedness to the evolution of both mediums. One of the best features of Film Week is that it promotes such open-mindedness and tries to ensure it is carried back into the classroom.

As the week's patron, director Terry Gilliam, says: "This initiative plays a crucial roleI by helping students break through the formal boundaries of learning and develop a multi-dimensional understanding of the 21st century's most powerful medium." Perhaps just as crucial is the opportunity that the week provides for children all over the country to assume more than just a walk-on part in their own culture.

TIM SCOTT

Tim Scott is English co-ordinator at St Michael's Church of England primary school, Highgate, London borough of Haringey.Details of screenings, events and resources on www.filmeducation.orgTel: 0207 976 2291 or e-mail: postbox@filmeducation.org

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