Rethinking the future of Film Education in a changing world

Film education is, in itself, a discipline and a field of action. This means that, by definition, film education imposes on itself a regular and constant revision of its approaches and methodologies according to transformations taking place in the environment. The audiovisual sector is, in fact, an area of society’s artistic, cultural and public life that is continually subject to transformation. In the past new developments in technology and the ways that these affect circulation, consumption and production of moving images have produced certain reappraisals and transformations of what we might mean by film education and the effects that these might have on the lives, experiences and education of our students.

This perennial need for introspection and self-analysis in which audiovisual education practices are refined and developed has been affected by a completely different outside influencer in 2020  – the COVID 19 pandemic. Closures of schools, cinemas, social distancing and a general increase in consumption of films via streaming services have all forced us to rethink and remodel our educational practice in order to continue to engage students with the study and creation of moving image media.

It is a scenario that requires all of us to continually rethink the function of film education in a world so radically transformed. We need to reconsider methods, approaches, techniques and tools to adapt them to a situation that is experiencing a period of profound transformation, one in which none of us can predict what will happen in the future.

The aim, therefore of the Film Corner seminars which we recently organised as part of the 13th edition of the Piccolo Grande Cinema festival was to start a discussion on recent developments in the delivery of film education and how the pandemic has forced us to rethink and redeliver the 3C’s. The 3C’s which underpin our work are the critical, the creative and the cultural contexts of film education according to the highly influential study “A Framework for Film Education in Europe” edited by the BFI in 2015 in collaboration with a wide European network of film education providers.

Film Corner’s seminars on Rethinking the Future of Film Education

In the first seminar “Learning on screen. Online teaching resources for Film Education” we examined new ways to introduce a critical approach to film via interactive activities delivered via the Internet – a way of continuing students’ analytical work whilst living in the isolation imposed by the pandemic. We presented three interactive models of film accessibility and analysis: The Film Factory promoted by the Institut Français, Run Lola Run promoted by Neue Wege des Lernens and The Film Corner promoted by Fondazione Cineteca Italiana.

Our second seminar, “Young people make films. From creativity to self-expression”, looked at the creative context of film education. Whilst the organisations presenting their projects set out their normal practices they also explained how they had managed to continue to involve children and young people, who might normally work together in groups, to continue to explore creative approaches to film during the crisis. This, of course, had involved a rapid rethinking of what practices could take place within lockdown, a change of focus from the collective to the individual. We discussed those topics together with representatives from NGOs from different parts of Europe like Karpos (Greece), Northern Ireland Screen (Northern Ireland), Valve Film School for Children (Finland) and A bao a Qu (Spain).

The third seminar, “Screenings and festivals for children and social distancing. What impact for the future?” brought together several representatives of film festivals and projects dedicated to young audience: Cinema in Sneakers (Warsaw), Cinemagic Festival (Belfast), Corti a Ponte (Ponte San Nicolò, Padua) and the international program CinEd promoted by Cinemateca Portuguesa. It is within the cultural sphere where the pandemic had its most severe effect – film festivals and workshops which were cinema-based were directly affected through the closure of cinemas and cultural centres. The majority of festivals moved their screening to online streaming platforms although this often raised issues of copyright and also screening rights issues, in places restricting the number of films available. At the same time some festivals saw an increase in participation from schools – the ease of screening film in a classroom outweighed losing the atmosphere of the cinema itself. There are implications here for the future, once cinemas have fully reopened.

The final seminar, “Film Education. A European perspective” explored the idea of where next for film education in a European context. Based on the research carried out during the past year by institutions grouped in the informal network FLAG-Film Literacy Advisory Group, pan European approaches to film education have been developed. This happened first through the development of the aforementioned “Framework for Film Education” and more recently with the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Film Education – A users Guide” developed in the framework of the project called “From Framework to Impact” introduced by representatives of the Danish Film Institute, BFI and Vision Kino. We discussed this complex topic with representatives from the European Commission-DG Connect and EFADs-European Film Agencies Directors.

The Film Corner project also hosted an Italian day: “Tra vedere e fare. Storie e testimonianze di film education”. Among the institutions involved in the round table there were Fondazione AAMOD-Archivio Audiovisivo del Movimento Ooperaio e Democratico, Nuovo Fantarca, University of Udine, University of Padua, Sinapsi Produzioni Partecipate, Cinemovel Foundation, Lanterne Magiche – Regione Toscana, Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and Cineforum Teramo.

Our conclusions

The idea of film education depends on the context (national contexts, educational contexts, cultural contexts) in which it is delivered. Being European means to be plural: but can a pluralist approach in film education be maintained and how does it relate to the search for a common framework of film education, particularly when there are many different conceptions of film education across Europe? Perhaps key areas of cooperation might aim at identifying suitable measurement methodologies, impact, results and outputs among different institutions in order to produce better projects, find better methodologies and better evaluation frameworks.

These thumbnail sketches of the seminars does not fully justify the depth of discussion which took place in each one, nor do they highlight the complexity of the issues which were raised. Whilst there is talk of a return to normality, or the need to live in a new normality, the idea of where next for film education will need to be considered within the current context. The use of zoom or similar technologies for running conferences, whilst lacking that important face-to-face experience, does at least allow for greater participation by those who would find it difficult to attend events in other countries. How important is the development of more interactive ways of teaching as exemplified by our online examples? What is the future role of cinema in film education? These amongst many other questions were addressed in the seminars. The answer to such questions will continue to occupy us for quite some time in the future.

Recordings of the conference available here.

Find out more about the Film Corner Project.

“Film Education. Rethinking the future – The Film Corner international Online Conference” took place from 22 October to 5 November 2020 as part of the 13th edition of the Piccolo Grande Cinema festival to focus on the role of film education in a changing world. The conference took place in the framework of the “The Film Corner” project, co-financed by the Creative Europe program of the European Union, MI, the Italian Ministry of Education and MIBACT, the Italian Ministry of Culture and promoted by Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, The Film Space, Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, The Georgian National Film Center, Otok Institute, The Nerve Centre and the University of Milano-Bicocca.

Article written by:

Silvia Pareti

Fondazione Cineteca Italiana

Simone Moraldi

Fondazione Cineteca Italiana

Ian Wall

The Film Space