Film, to many people, refers to a thin celluloid layer. In this sense, Citizen Kane on a DVD is not film. It may be movie, moving image, it may be cinema or, better, artistic audiovisual expression. Or, alternatively, right from the start of our final report, appealing to historical reasons, we may redefine “film” as an artistic audiovisual text, regardless of its storing technology.
A whole different discussion would also consider how films share common characteristics with other forms of artistic audiovisual expression (animation, video-art, creative recording etc) as well as other forms of audiovisual media expression (electronic journalism, advertising etc) which, undeniably, would contribute to the development of critical understanding.
An artistic audiovisual text (film) is not only “the meeting point between a creator and a recipient-spectator”, but also each film constitutes a mental meeting “place” (in the sense of Trafalgar Square or Alexanderplatz) where different individuals with different cultural backgrounds who agree to meet there, share the same experience and, potentially, communicate-exchange their differing points of view. This is a major component of cinema (an invention aiming to show moving pictures on a screen for the public). All audience-centered arts share this (opera, theater, musical performances etc though, there, the role of the audience may directly affect the final outcome). In a concise form, cinema may be a common experience between 3-10 children viewing a DVD in a classroom. While private experience of the same DVD in a laptop or home TV, can be a “study” activity practiced by an enthusiast. A Film Literacy project then, may focus more in developing conscious cinema audiences with critical skills, than developing critical skills for private cinema aficionados.
Experiencing films is of primary importance. But Film Education cannot just be random film experiences. Education may provide a systematic context for experiencing films and reflecting on them. Discourse elaborating on a film experience will encourage the “translation” of personal impressions into communication between the members of an audience which shared the same experience. Two examples for providing and organizing film experiences in an educational context:
- The educational power of categorizing:
Primitive and crude (often simplistic) categorizations of films by the pupils can be a powerful educational tool enhancing their argumentation and negotiation skills, essential for the development of critical thinking. Each time pupils watch a film or a film’s excerpt, it may be useful asking them to agree categorizing it in simple categories (e.g. silent – sound, color – BW, fiction – documentary, simple film technology – extravagant film technology etc) and to try to support their choice with an example. A template suggesting pairs of categories would be useful for the teacher.
- The educational power of comparisons:
Comparing films that share one major common characteristic (e.g. theme) made by different directors and representing a variety of film aesthetics (not only European), can reveal issues of film aesthetics beyond the common remarks of “what the story was about” to which the pupils usually focus. Do they tell similar stories? How do they differ? Can we describe our different impression for each one of them? Through comparisons children will develop their own perspective of film history.
e.g. Films with trains:
Clement’s “Battle of rail”, 1946
Keaton’s “The General”, 1926
Lumiere’s “Arrival of a train”, 1896
Frankenheimer’s “The Train”, 1964
Hitchcock’s “The lady vanishes”, 1938
(Slides from PPT used in teacher training to encourage comparisons. The corresponding DVDs are easily accessible in the Internet or in DVD libraries).