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Spam, star of silver screen

London pupils will be watching some odd films courtesy of The TES reports Michael Shaw

As evocative film titles go, it is hard to beat Spam Ku: I won a Haiku Contest about Spam.

The short film tells the tale of an office worker who, as the title suggests, writes a haiku about Spam and is awarded a lifetime supply of the canned meat. But will the prized Spam ever arrive? And will the meat-inspired poem help the hero woo his co-worker?

The short film by US director Steven Tsuchida is typical of the offbeat and sometimes downright bizarre movies that will be shown as part of education section of the London Film Festival, sponsored by The TES.

More than 3,000 schools in and around the capital have been invited to free screenings at the festival which starts next week.

One screening which is already fully booked is "TES Shorts", a selection of short films including Spam Ku, Out of Time, a tale of a man who wakes up to discover his mouth is out of synch with his words, and Hibernation, about two children in animal costumes who try to revive a dead bee.

The problem of getting pupils to make videos are explored in Special People, which follows a stressed director as he tries, and fails, to get wheelchair-bound children to act out scenes on a mountainside. "It's about struggle," the director explains. "This mountain is like the struggle you face every day in life."

Organisers of the London Film Festival had better luck with a series of real film-making projects, which they ran in schools this week ahead of the festival.

Briony Stephen, festival education co-ordinator, showed pupils at Furzedown primary in Tooting and St Mark's primary in Oval scenes from Viva Cuba, a film about two 10-year-old friends who run away from their fighting families in Havana.

Ms Stephen used the scenes as the basis for discussions about friendship and bullying, then helped the pupils as they made their own videos about these topics.

"It's showing the children and their teachers that there is more to experiencing a film than sitting there like a vegetable," she said. "You can explore the characters and the themes, then you can make your own."

Older pupils at two London secondary schools are receiving master classes in script-writing and will see their works performed at the end of the month by a group of professional actors including Colin Salmon, tipped to become the first black James Bond.

Other education highlights of the festival include a seminar for GCSE and A-level students on film classification, which will explore the myths surrounding the banning of A Clockwork Orange and the reasons why Austin Powers attracted complaints.

There will also be a special screening of the Irish film Pavee Lackeen: The Traveller Girl, where around a fifth of the audience will be pupils who use Traveller education services.


TES Teacher magazine 18

Details of screenings which still have free school tickets available as well as teachers' packs can be found at

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