A pan-Europe film education policy would help to develop future audiences and invigorate the region’s film industries. Geoffrey Macnab reports 

The third panel of the Regional Forum’s MEDIA Conference on ‘Reaching New Audiences for European Films’ is poised to be a lively debate about how to develop the audience of tomorrow through a Europe-wide film literacy programme. It comes as the Bosnian film industry is lobbying for film to be included in the country’s high-school curriculum.

The panel is inspired by the report ‘For A European Film Education Policy’, written by Xavier Lardoux, deputy director of Unifrance, who will sit on the panel. One reason for a strong European film education, says the report, is as a means of resisting Hollywood hegemony. The report contends school students aged from three to 18 need to be taught to regard film as an art in its own right. It suggests they should learn to appreciate the cultural worth and diversity of the European cinema tradition. 

But as the report makes painfully clear, film education is still not taken very seriously across Europe. There are few training course in film education for teachers and funding is inadequate. The lack of “reliable and useful” statistics does not help either. The new Creative Europe programme may acknowledge the importance of film education but, even so, less than 1% of the MEDIA budget for 2014 is going towards film education.

‘We want to enable young people to be affected by the power of images and realise they can become film-makers’

Asja Makarevic, Sarajevo Film Festival’s Talent Campus

Lardoux has some radical proposals. He calls for the creation of a European Foundation for Film Education and advocates making European funding for distribution and exhibition more conditional on activities promoting film education.

“All the people interviewed for this report and all the case studies talk about the same thing — the need for audience development and for the development of future generations of cinema-goers,” says Asja Makarevic, project manager at Sarajevo Film Festival’s Talents and a panellist with Lardoux. 

Sarajevo Film Festival itself already has various audience development initiatives in place. These include Teen Action, which gives teenagers from Bosnia & Herzegovina the chance to make short films, a film criticism initiative and Operation Kino’s Punk Cinema, a year-round travelling cinema initiative where films are brought to younger audiences. 

The festival’s new I♥Cinema initiative is aimed at 40 film enthusiasts, aged 18-30, who are given access to festival screenings and debates. The aim is to trigger the curiosity of youngsters. “We want to enable them to be affected by the power of images,” says Makarevic. “And to question the films they see and to realise they can become film-makers themselves.”

The panel will see film education expert Ian Wall of The Film Space give a UK perspective on the direction of European film education policy. He underlines the need for the development of a film literacy programme to be conducted hand-in-hand with the industry itself, as well as the importance of monitoring film literacy initiatives to ensure they are of practical benefit. “What are the outcomes we really want?” Wall asks. 

He suggests not all of the report’s recommendations will be easy to achieve. “Establishing 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, is likely to be a real challenge,” he says. “We could spend a year arguing about that. There’s only 20. What about countries that won’t be represented?” 

For Wall, a vital element of any film literacy strategy is effective teacher training. “In the long run, without the teachers, you haven’t got a chance. European film will still be marginalised,” he says. 

Wider appeal

One of the report’s encouraging findings is the evidence that film education does broaden audience appetite.

“At Watershed and in cinemas across the Europa Cinemas Network, we’re very aware of this and focussed on the importance of thinking creatively about developing the next generation of cinema-goers and makers,” says Madeleine Probst, panellist and programme producer at the UK’s Watershed, a cross-artform venue and producer, and the vice-president of Europa Cinemas. 

To this end, Europa Cinemas’ Audience Development Innovation Lab in Bologna, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, provides a research and development space for cinemas to collectively evolve responsive and practical strategies for dealing with an increasingly disruptive and dynamic film exhibition environment.

‘In exactly the way we learned to analyse a poem, students learn how to analyse movies’

Katriel Schory, Israel Film Fund

Europe could also look towards Israel for inspiration around film education. 

Regional Forum adviser Katriel Schory, producer and executive director of Israel Film Fund, says a film education policy has helped to galvanise Israeli film culture. He points to the late 1990s, when there was little public funding for Israeli films and local audiences were disinterested in the ones that were produced. In order to revive a near-moribund industry, it was necessary to “reach out and start all over again”, explains Schory. Film education was the bedrock of a new film policy. 

“You have to create a welcoming environment for your product,” says Schory. “We didn’t wait for people to come to the cinemas. We reached out. We went out to the regions. We developed endless schemes, going with our movies to the audiences in order to gain their confidence again.”

Israel Film Fund struck a deal with 25 cultural centres around the country to preview Israeli movies, and every school in the country has a budget for art and cultural activities, including film screenings. High-school students can also study film and production. “This means there are small studios with lights and cameras on one hand and, on the other hand, there are two years of studying film, analysing, understanding the language,” says Schory. “In exactly the way we learned to analyse a poem, they learn how to analyse movies.”

Another innovative Israeli initiative is called ‘Lunchtime at the Movies’ and encourages factory bosses to hold lunchtime screenings of new Israeli movies for their employees. “I told them, ‘It’s a loss of maybe two hours of work which, of course, is money but you come out as an enlightened CEO,’” says Schory. “For us, we reach out to audiences to show them that Israeli cinema is good.

“One thing is clear,” he underlines. “We do not sit and wait. We go with our movies. We are out there all the time.”

While Sarajevo Film Festival has long organised its own film literacy workshops and initiatives that reach out to younger film-goers, it believes more should be done to cultivate and nurture the audiences of tomorrow. “We feel there should be a public policy, governmental action and public education assistance,” says Jovan Marjanovic, Sarajevo’s head of industry. 

“What we’re trying to do within the festival is related to schools but I think this collaboration should be even stronger. There’s much more that could be done.”