Evidence taken in camera
Roger Nash and Keith Farley are obvious film enthusiasts, but they have attempted to cover too much in too little space. As a result, they have failed to show that film evidence is a worthwhile source in the classroom. Their booklet may help teachers who already have experience of working with film, but it could also perpetuate inaccuracies if it is taken at face value by those with no expertise in the area.
If the authors had been able to develop their ideas fully, they might have given more hints to help teachers who haven't yet attempted to use film in any format other than purely illustrative. The questions provided by the authors, although good, don't go far enough to help the uninitiated and more emphasis needs to be placed on the potential problems of dealing with film material in the classroom.
Little is said about external influences on film-making which also need to be considered by anyone using it as an historical resource. This type of expanded information could have been developed within the "key questions" provided by Barry Jones. In fact a useful aspect of a booklet such as this would be to develop in detail some of the points raised by Jones. It looks as if the authors were too keen to get on to the section dealing with the specific study units where some of the exercises, such as the suggestions and examples in the area dealing with Plains Indians, are excellent but, which again, assume that both teachers and pupils know how to use film. No mention is made, even in passing, of television or documentary film, which is probably a more widely used source than feature film and from which extracts often appear in schools broadcasts.
If teachers are intent on using feature film it would have been useful for them to know where they can find some of the films listed in the appendix. However, the descriptions given needed to include comments about the reliability of the source. A simple list of the study units where they would be applicable is not good enough, as a number of the examples are very biased and subjective and should not be used in a classroom as a historical source in their own right without a great deal of support material.
The authors are right in saying that their ideas should not be seen as an "instant set of remedies for harassed teachers" but, whether we like it or not, an inquisitive student of feature film still requires many skills which are not touched on in this booklet.