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Sarajevo: Film education in Europe

The creation of a pan-European film education policy can bring civic and economic benefits that will strengthen the film industry and, crucially, form the next generation of audiences, says writer Xavier Lardoux, deputy director of Unifrance, in this executive summary from the report ‘For A European Film Education Policy’.

Culture is at the very heart of the project that is the European Union, asserted Aurélie Filippetti, France’s minister of culture and communication, in a speech at Cannes Film Festival in 2013. She proposed the development at the European level of provisions for arts and culture education in general and for film education in particular.

This inspired Frédérique Bredin, president of the Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée (CNC), to establish a commission tasked to investigate ‘ways of accelerating the development of European film education initiatives’.

This report is the result of the work of the commission, which consulted some 100 people from 22 European countries between January and April 2014.

The chief platform for film education should be the school, not often the case across Europe

Given the proliferation and omnipresence of video screens of every kind, and their domination by the major US studios (especially in the viewing of young people and now even of children) the report stresses the political and economic necessity of a European film education policy. It emphasises the need to provide such education to all school students - from three to 18 years of age - if Europe is to develop, on an on-going basis, the audience of tomorrow and thus to consolidate the European film industry and strengthen the cultural exception.

In its implementation, any such policy must meet a number of requirements. On the premise that film should be treated as an art in its own right and
not just as supporting material for other subjects, the report argues for an ‘education in film’ rather than an ‘education in the visual image’. For film education is, in a way, the necessary precondition for any education in the visual image, learning how to look.

The report reaffirms that the chief platform for film education should be the school, not often the case across Europe. It is the school’s mission to make knowledge democratically available to all, and this makes it possible to reach the greatest possible number of children, without regard to financial or cultural barriers.

Referencing the work of US philosopher Martha Nussbaum (Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs The Humanities, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 2010) the report argues film education must accord greater importance to the European dimension, for its cultural wealth and diversity, of course, but also in its civic aspect. To introduce young Europeans to the art of film is one of the ways of forming the citizens of tomorrow, citizens who will be led to pursue the European project.

The report offers a snapshot of film education initiatives in Europe, taken mainly from a study carried out by the British Film Institute (BFI) on behalf of the European Commission, published in July 2011. This describes, in general terms, the activities undertaken, distinguishing them by the time and place of their occurrence: at school in school time, at school but out of school time, or out of school.

It next considers the chief obstacles to film education in Europe today. In general, there is a lack of awareness of or attention to film education policy, at both European and national level. There is also a lack of reliable and useful statistics, and of appropriate pedagogical tools, of training courses for teachers in particular. Additionally, it is clear that funding is inadequate, at European, national and local levels.

In general there is a lack of awareness of or attention to film education ploicy, at both European and national level

Finally the report recalls the key points of European film policy within the framework of the new Creative Europe programme (2014-20) and observes the adoption of any European film education policy at all is very recent (January 1, 2014). Although the introduction of such a policy is to be welcomed, it nonetheless remains of marginal importance - accounting for less than 1% of the Media budget in 2014 - and needs to be strongly developed at the European level, as at the national and the local level.

The report attempts to catalogue those film education initiatives undertaken within the European Union which themselves have a European dimension. These are mostly initiatives and projects aimed at children and young people of between three and 18 years of age.

To compile this list, more than a hundred people from 22 different EU countries were consulted, including the directors of national film centres, cultural counsellors and audiovisual attachés in the French diplomatic service (and the Institut Francais), and representatives of the European Commission. It also featured those running projects including institutions, television stations, film festivals and film exhibitors’ associations, plus film-makers. 

This consultation revealed some 50 initiatives with a European dimension. Although many were organised by country, particular attention was paid to bi-national or transnational projects from which lessons might be learnt, thus assisting the development of a consistent film education in Europe.

Six types of relevant activity are identified and the most successful projects are those that manage to combine several of the aspects. These are:

  • Screenings during school time, often at the theatre, allowing school students to view classic or contemporary films that can be applied to their lessons, particularly in the teaching of foreign languages;
  • Practical workshops in which young people produce films, from first idea to final cut;
  • Events aimed specifically at the young, such as festivals, competitions and prizes that have been successfully developed over the last few years;
  • Training courses established for teachers, theatre operators and community workers to enable them to communicate film culture to the young;
  • The use of new media including dedicated websites, online video platforms and blogs, which are the increasingly favoured channels for film education;
  • Twinning between organisations, cities and regions in Europe, which is becoming an increasingly common practice.

Based on these examples of European good practice, the report makes 10 recommendations:

  • The creation of a European Foundation for Film Education;
  • The creation of a video platform making European films available to children and young people;
  • The large-scale development of film education activities that combine artistic and linguistic approaches;
  • The establishment of a library of 20 European films, old and new, to be circulated throughout Europe for use in school time, both at theatres and at school;
  • The development at the European and national levels of training in film education for teachers, theatre operators and community development workers, especially through the creation of a European film education website;
  • To make European funding for distribution and exhibition more conditional on activities promoting film education;
  • To encourage twinning between associations, cities and regions in Europe around the themes of film and film education;
  • To establish an online festival of European film for children;
  • To establish a proper European film prize for high school students;
  • To make film education a regular feature of the European Capital of Culture programme. 

Taking the initiative

‘For A European Film Education Policy’ was presented to France’s minister of culture and communication and to the presidents of Europe’s national film centres, who met in Cannes on May 18, 2014. It will also to be presented to the new members of the European Commission and to the officials responsible for the Creative Europe programme, as well as the European Council of Ministers of Culture and to the most important figures in the field of cultural affairs in the European Parliament.

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