Bill Hicks samples a pack investigating where film stories come from
In the movies, sequels rarely live up to the expectations created by the original blockbuster. It's almost a law of nature, a rule proved by the occasional exception, such as The Godfather Part 2.
Film and Literacy: Part Two is the follow up to Film Education's innovative video resource for the literacy hour, favourably reviewed on these pages earlier this year (TES, March 5). It's safe to predict that Part Two will be just as warmly received by teachers eager for stimulating, targeted materials to fill all those literacy hours.
It is also a bit like Jaws II. That is, well and carefully constructed, successful in its purpose - but inevitably, less able to surprise with the freshness of its predecessor's approach. It is more of the same - the same, in this instance, being a 45-minute video containing 22 clips from eight recent films, backed by a 40-page A4 study guide crammed with exercises, photocopiable worksheets and suggestions for further classroom activities.
Everything is painstakingly cross-referenced, term by term over seven years, to the relevant aims and objectives of the national literacy strategy.
While part one of Film and Literacy covered the wide open territory of book-to-movie adaptations, part two focuses on genre and story structure. The chosen genres are myth, legend and fairy tale - providing, you might have thought, a golden opportunity to dig deep into the movie archive. Film versions of the classic tales have hardly been thin on the ground over the past century.
However, Film Education has chosen to stick to a limited range of quite recent films -presum-ably on the basis that a child's attention is more likely to be caught by a movie that they have seen and enjoyed (and not, I hope, simply because these were the titles that the distributors who back Film Education wanted to promote in classrooms). Whatever the reason, the clips from Disney's Mulan , from the trailer - are likely to hit the desired buttons. And those from A Bug's Life - terrific stuff for illustrating how even the most modern, fabricated movie storytelling draws on the structures and conventions of myth and legend.
There's good counterpoint created between these animations, the misty Celtic romanticism in clips from The Secret of Roan Inish and Into the West - and the hard street talk of buddy movieArthurian romance, The Mighty.
Another, to me less familiar film, The Boy From Mercury, also has an Irish setting. The clips from this child's-eye-view of the world, used here as the basis for activities on story setting and character creation - are so intriguing that you'll want to follow the advice on page 2 and take your class to the cinema to see the complete film. If it's on, anywhere,that is.
The beauty of this resource is how it manages to provide plentiful raw material for each strand, aim and objective of the literacy strategy - and at the same time lead children into a range of activities that will stretch their imaginations in very different directions.
The "plot into pictures" section , for example, requires quite rigorous investigation of the filmaker's techniques - and the differences between visual and literary storytelling.
There's frequent encouragement of storyboarding and role play activities, and a bit on camera angles at the end which is pure media studies. In the hands of a good teacher - preferably one with advanced VCR fast-forward and rewind skills - the pack will certainly inspire children to read, to write, to widen their vocabularies.
Film education, tel: 0171 839 5052