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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Primary ‘Play’ Films

We’re listing below a selection of ‘Play’ films made by primary schools – from London and Lincolnshire.  There are some common features – children daydreaming their way out of class; magic portals to different realities – while all following the core brief to ‘Make a film where the story is interrupted at a certain moment, and the character finds their freedom through playing, allowing them to escape the confines of their everyday experience’.




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Strodes College

And finally, from this year’s secondary screenings, one of the four pieces shot by Strodes College.  Actually, the group shot one film, but each of four students edited their own version.  This one is by Pete Messum, and creates something really cinematic out of the footage.

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St. Mary Magdelene: Daydream

Joe Hoddy is moving on from SMM after – 9 years? – having been a great supporter and advocate of the programme for the past 5 or 6.  This year his A level Film Studies group followed the programme after school, with a beautifully shot 4 minute piece – a classroom-set reverie that takes its daydreamer out into the country – in this case a small copse in Oakwood.  As Stephi HD said at the screening, another country that asks for ‘acknowledgement’…

A special shout out to Emmanuel Karikari, who composed and recorded the music.

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London Nautical The Escapist

Three Year 8 students at London Nautical, supported by CCAJ alumnus Ian Blackburn, and teacher JP O’Brien, made a short entry to ‘Le Jeu’.  In the end, it was substantially the boy’s own work, with the exception of one shot taken by emerging documentary maker Mohammed Al Jabaly,

There are lovely bits of disguised magic in the film, with the boys climbing a wall in March, and going over the other side in June, and a great sleight of hand shot of the seaside taken on Thames Reach outside the Southbank.  And it has echoes of a previous LNS film – No Escape – what is it about students wanting to get out of school?!


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Illawong is the name of a film, and a place, made by students (and some staff) at Menai High School in Illawong, New South Wales, Australia.  The film is very fixed on its setting: the makers were determined to use the film as an opportunity to introduce the world to their place, and at the end, they credit the history and provenance of that place in an ‘Acknowledgement of Country’.  In a great discussion about the film, with teachers and students at BFI on 23rd June, we wondered how similar acknowledgements might work, with films made in Islington, Lambeth, and Surrey.

Stephi Hemelryk Donald talked to us about the film, and its making.  Of the 30 or so ‘Play’ films I’ve seen this year, it’s the only one to feature ‘adults pretending to be children’.  And it’s wonderful!

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Play in Australia

Colleagues and students at Menai High School in New South Wales Australia have made this short film for Exercise 2: when two students are sent out of class and improvise a game.  I really like the way the two girls are dropped into reality via their fiction – passers by don’t know whether they’re real, or pretending..

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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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