Le Cinéma: cent ans de jeunesse

In the summer of 2009, BFI joined a film-making programme established by the Cinémathèque Française in Paris called ‘Le Cinéma, cent ans de jeunesse’.  These pages track the progress of the English participation in the project, which ran for the first time through 2009 into July 2010.  2015/ 16 was our seventh year of participation.

What is ‘Le Cinéma, cent ans de jeunesse’ ?

In 1995, the Cinémathèque Française set up a young people’s film-making programme to celebrate the centenary of cinema. The programme had a specific approach and working method which is still going strong 20 years later.  Firstly, all the young people involved in the programme follow the same process: to make films that respond to an aspect of film language.  Second, the programme is very tightly structured into exploratory exercises and the production of a final ‘film essai’.  The whole process takes between 30 and 50 hours, over two terms.  Thirdly, there is a comprehensive ‘viewing curriculum’ of clips taken from the history of cinema and from around the world. Fourth, each workshop is run by a film-maker and a teacher, each with particular responsibilities.

In 1995 the subject was ‘Lumière’: all participants made films in the same spirit, and under some of the same constraints, as the Lumière Brothers.

Over the next 15 years the programme grew to involve 25 – 30 workshop groups or ‘ateliers’ each year.  In the last few years workshops from Spain, Italy, and Portugal joined the original French groups, and in 2009 the BFI brought groups from south London into the programme.  In 2010 our first cohort of Lincolnshire primary schools joined, and in 2012, several groups from Edinburgh and Dundee, led by the Centre for the Moving Image at Edinburgh Filmhouse.  In 2013/14 there were 31 workshop groups in Scotland, and more in Lincolnshire, London, and Taunton.  By 2015/16, the international cohort had expanded to Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Belgium, and Brazil and Cuba.

The film language topics covered include ‘light’, ‘colour’, ‘figure/fond’ (foreground/background), ‘camera movement’, ‘hiding/revealing’, ‘real/fiction’, mettre en scene’ or ‘staging’.  In 2013/14 we followed with ‘plan sequence’, or ‘the long take’, and the year after it was ‘L’Intervalle’, or the gaps and spaces between characters, and between film and audience.  In 2015/16, the programme joined the international climate change conference in Paris, COP 21, by exploring weather and climate: ‘Le Meteo’.  In 2016/17 the focus is on ‘play’ in the cinema.

Film-making groups in education settings in the UK are welcome to join the project by emailing mark.reid@bfi.org.uk.

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Exercise 3

And finally, two examples of Exercise 3, from Lithuania and Legsby, Lincs, both featuring roundabouts, but different weathers.  Legsby had watched clips on the recommended list from Les 400 Coups, and The Little Fugitive – especially the sequence on the carousel, whose point of view shots fascinated the children.  The music track was improvised and recorded live by two of the classmates of the film-makers, aged 8 and 10.  Ivor took the laptop to their house with a number of Exercise 3 clips on and asked them to choose the one they liked best.

 

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St Margaret’s Withern Wink Murder

Exercise 1 from St. Margaret’s deserves a post of its own.  Headteacher James Siddle has been in the programme for a few years.  For Exercise 1 though, he hd to leave the group to go to a meeting, and left them in the care of another teacher, with no film background.  The children decided to film a game of ‘wink murder’ as their Lumiere Minute on play; they shot the game a number of times, from different positions, including one with the murderer behind the camera.  When they played the sequences back, they chose this one, because it gave the audience a clear view of what was happening.

Whether deliberately chosen or not, the sequence is beautifully compatible with a number of aspects of cinema: film is based often on the ‘interplay of looks’ – those gazes and glances between characters that we draw inferences from.  Wink Murder is premissed on the same set of exchanges, making it a very cinematic game.

But more than this, the point of view of the camera encourages the viewer to do more than watch: we become players in the game, actively following the looks between participants.  This was the case in Brussels, when even those in the cinema who didn’t know the rules were busy actively interpreting the game: it’s play that we all joined in with.

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Comparing Exercise 1 in Brussels

On 25 Feb around 25 of the participants in this year’s project spent the day at the Cinemathek in Brussels, generously hosted by Freddy Malondo, to share Exercises 1,2 and 3.  We had St Margarets Withern and Legsby from Lincolnshire; Granton PS from Edinburgh; Romain Rolland HS from Paris; and colleagues from schools in Lithuania and Brussels.

We picked out a selection of Exercises from each section to host here – to compare and contrast with work going on elsewhere.  For some reason – maybe because we all met up the night before, or the sessions were in English and French, or because we had more time – it was the probably the most relaxed and productive ‘bilan’ many of us had been on.

The first examples are of Exercise 1: to take one or more ‘Lumiere Minutes’ of examples of play – real play, in the wild, as it were.  Not everyone was able to film play in school – if your in an after school setting, chances are you’re the only children on site.  Children were encouraged to film play at home, indoors, on phones.

These two examples are from Granton primary school in Edinburgh, and Jono Biliuno Gimnazija, in Anyksciai, Lithuania.

 

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Romain Rolland Exercise 2

Sarah and Nora, teacher and film-maker at Romain Rolland HS in Paris, helped their group of 16 and 17 year olds with this piece as one of their Exercise 2s.  Sarah teaches them film for 5 hours a week, a couple of hours of which are spent following CCAJ.  This sequence is based on Clement (the director)’s little brother playing with a toy helicopter and making the noises out loud.  The group included sound effects and music (from Kill Bill, to mirror the references in gesture) as an expression of the imaginative world the girls create – which is then burst by their third friend coming into the room.

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Little film about CCAJ..

The multi talented Dr. Carol-Mei Barker, in her role as co-ordination of the Childhood Cinema Nation network, made this short interview with me about CCAJ, and edited it to make some kind of sense.

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Play, Vittoria PS

Katy Jones at Vittoria Primary has given us permission to share some of her pupils’ play exercises – a mixture of Lumiere Minutes Exercise 1, and Exercise 2, when two children are sent out of class and have to improvise a game.

 

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Sample Exercises for Play

At our annual introductory training session last week, groups of 3 or 4 from our cohort of 15 teachers tried out exercises 1, 2, and 3 for the ‘Play’ theme.  All of the pieces were planned and shot in 15 minutes..

One group went outside BFI to the river, following the brief from Exercise 1 to find examples of people playing.  They were pleasantly surprised at how.. playful people are; they didn’t have to look far.  of course, the subjects of the film (pretty much a Playful Lumiere Minute) played up to the camera..

Another group followed Exercise 2: ‘take on the roles of two naughty children who have been sent outside the classroom, have found a small space to sit down in, and innovate a game out of whatever is to hand.’  We liked the variety of angles used in the film, and the way they withold some of the offscreen action.  And those last two shots, starting with the setting down of the cup in extreme foreground..

And finally, a more extended piece that leads to Exercise 3, in which the film-maker must reproduce the sensation of dizzyness or vertigo in a character..

Well done, and thank you, Joe, Carly, Michelle, Hilary, Martin, Jo, Dan, David, Michael, Stephi, Seb, and Katie!

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