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Teaching film

The Language Teacher Toolkit by Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti is now available from Amazon.

 Why film?
film
 Film, le septième art, has long held a high status within French culture. It is worth incorporating in an A-level course for several reasons. First, it is one way of becoming more closely acquainted with French-speaking culture. Second, films are an excellent source of authentic listening material. Thirdly, students who are going on to study modern languages at university will feel better prepared for the study of film at that level. Finally, watching a film, although less intellectually daunting than reading a novel or play, can be a stimulating challenge.

Which films?

 A number of factors should be kept in mind when selecting films or directors to watch.

Here are some examples of films and directors which have been successfully studied in recent years:

Berri: Jean de Florette, Manon des sources, Germinal, Lucie Aubrac

Truffaut: Les 400 coups, Jules et Jim, Le dernier métro, La nuit américaine

Barratier: Les choristes

Malle: Au revoir les enfants

Jeunet: Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, Un long dimanche de fiançailles

film3Kassovitz: La haine

Philibert: Etre et avoir

Cantet: Entre les murs

Polanski: Le pianiste

Carné: Le jour se lève

Clouzot: Les gages de la peur

Dahan: La vie en rose

Nakache/Toledano: Intouchables

 

How to teach the film(s)

film2In preparation for study the teacher may wish to take detailed notes including timings, scene changes, soundtrack themes and which characters are on screen. This will be invaluable for the students later on, since, unlike with a book, they cannot instantly locate a scene from the film.

I would advocate watching the film in its entirety with subtitles. At A-level most students find a film without subtitles too difficult to follow, therefore enjoyment is lost.

During the second watch in short sections there is a range of activities possible.

 

Preparing for assessment

film4For some examination boards at A-level assessment of film is an integral part of the examination. For AQA, for example, the most popular board for languages, the oral includes ten minutes devoted to discussion of two cultural topics, one of which may be the work of a film director. Questions are of a general nature and focus on the candidate’s personal reaction to the film, rather than a detailed knowledge of the film’s content.

The AQA A2 examination includes an essay which may be on the work of a director. Candidates are invited to write at least 250 words on questions of a general nature to do with characters, themes, film-making techniques, the director himself or herself and personal reactions. Subject content cannot be assessed, but marks are awarded for answering relevantly, coherently, developing content points, showing a good level of personal evaluation and using complex language accurately.

The WJEC board offers a prescribed list of directors under the rubric The World of Cinema with a choice of questions of a general nature, usually relating to characters and general themes.

The Edexcel board allows candidates to prepare a “research-based essay”. Titles in the examination are along the lines Examinez l’importance d’un personnage dans un film que vous avez étudié. There is no oral assessment of the film study.

The OCR examination board does not assess film in its written paper, but it is possible to present cinema for part of the oral examination. Teachers who wish to teach films in detail may choose to avoid the OCR.

The SQA (Scottish Higher) examination allows for “extended viewing” and suggests devoting up to 40 hours on this, with the ultimate aim to develop language skills generally. Any film studied is not formally assessed, however.

Students need plenty of practice for their written essays, so the teacher needs to instruct them on effective essay technique and how to play to the mark scheme. It is a good idea to do timed essays, either in class, or at home.

Students are undaunted by watching films and positively enjoy the process as film is such a commonplace part of their cultural life. The challenge for the teacher is to get them to watch critically, want to watch more French films and to enhance their future viewing of all films.