A shake-up at the British Film Institute will unite its separate arms under one roof. Aleks Sierz looks at the plans.
In Stanley Kubrick's classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey, a mysterious monolith appears on Earth and helps prehistoric apes develop into modern humans. In the year 2001, the British Film Institute plans to start building its own monolith - a new film centre on London's South Bank, which will help us all learn a bit more about cinema.
The complex will be the centrepiece of the BFI's recent restructuring. At the moment, the BFI's three main bodies - the BFI offices and library, the National Film Theatre (NFT) and the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) - are in separate locations, as are other related organisations dealing with resources and film funding. Bringing them together under one roof makes sense. Each of the bodies will retain its identity, but sharing a building will make them easier to use.
The new centre might even have links with the National Film and Television School. Jon Teckman, BFI acting director, says: "The likelihood is that we'll move into a purpose-built building on the South Bank, which will include a cinema, museum and library, as well as our new offices." The public will "be able to use the library, for example, before going to the cinema or popping into the museum". He also hopes the new location will be close to the BFI's IMAX cinema in Waterloo.
Rick Mather, an architect who has worked on the National Maritime Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery, is masterminding the recreation of the South Bank arts complex. Mr Mather publishes his findings at the end of November, and these should include a proposed new site for the BFI.
If the new film centre gets the go-ahead, it will take between four and five years to build at an estimated cost of pound;50 million. The money will come from the sale of the BFI's existing buildings, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council.
While this is happening, the NFT may have to close, but Jon Teckman is determined that its programme of films will continue at other cinemas in London.
There are plans for the BFI to collaborate with London's Science Museum and Bradford's National Museum of Film and Photography to run MOMI-branded galleries, as well as a touring exhibition with the working title "The Magic of the Movies".
Mr Teckman is also keen to encourage teachers to bring their pupils to IMAX. "It is an important part of our educational mission," he says, "partly because IMAX films tend to be documentaries and partly because its huge screen is another development in the history of cinema. Most schools that have visited it have found that the kids love it."
Plans for a new MOMI will certainly take education seriously. "In the past," says education officer Corinne Downing, "MOMI had a labyrinthine feel, with lots of narrow passages. The new building will bear in mind the needs of school groups and will have more room."
The new MOMI will also be more pupil-friendly. While the current one allows visitors to take only one path through it, the latest plans for the reworked MOMI are to make it more modular or gallery-based, so school parties will find it easier to navigate. "School groups could visit one area and not have people tripping over them," says Ms Downing.
But until that's built, MOMI is taking education on the road. One tour, called "Screenplay", has already visited Glasgow and Leeds, as well as towns such as Tewkesbury. Organised by the BFI and Puffin Books, it looks at film adaptations of classic books such as Babe, The Borrowers, and Pinocchio (all key stage 2).
It is led by two MOMI actors, one taking the side of the book and the other the film, and they debate with each other and the children how best to tell a story. After an hour-long interactive workshop, a film is shown.
"With the museum closed, we are keen to develop moving image education," Ms Downing says.
In December, there is Cinemagic, the children's film festival in Belfast (see page 18), while another project will look at adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and produce related resources for teachers that tie in with the literacy hour.
Other teachers' resources include "Entertaining the Victorians", which looks at music halls and moving-image toys, and "Entertaining the Nation", which will take an overview from wartime to the advent of pop culture.
MOMI will be touring "Entertaining the Nation" with actors playing an usherette and a commissionaire, and will show a medley of film clips. "The actors are great and well used to handling children," Ms Downing says.
Meanwhile, Jon Teckman paints a bright picture of the new film centre, "with its state-of-the-art technology in the film theatre, museum and library". It will be "a friendly and lively place, with people using the cafe and retail facilities as well as the free reading room".
He wants to encourage people to "come and find out more - not only about films but also about the moving image, whether on television or on the Internet".
For details of MOMI's education resources , contact Seema Sethi on0171 815 1339. For IMAX visits, tel: 0171 960 3120