Le Cinéma, cent ans de jeunesse

In the summer of 2009, BFI joined a film-making programme established by the Cinémathèque Française in Paris in 1995 called ‘Le Cinéma, cent ans de jeunesse’.  These pages track the progress of the English participation in the project, from our first venture in 2009/10 (‘Why move the camera?’).  The latest theme is ‘sensory cinema’, 2019/20

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 more than 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 2018/19, the international cohort had expanded to Lithuania, Bulgaria, Germany, Finland, Romania, and Belgium, and Brazil, India, Japan 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 was on ‘play’ in the cinema.  In 2017/18, the programme moved on to consider the relationship between ‘places’, and ‘stories’: how particular places can generate, or be associated with, stories in cinema. 2018/19’s theme was ‘the situation’: the common patterns of narrative, and relations between characters, that make up different types of story situation, followed in 2019/20 by ‘sensory cinema’: how film mobilises the senses in creating stories, characters, and feelings.

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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TIme in Cinema: CPD 23 November

I just want to follow up on the CPD session we held last night to introduce this year’s theme to everyone; great to see people from Scotland, Lincolnshire, Wales and London! Here’s a quick note of the kinds of thing we covered:

On the differences and similarities between the ways in which film and print handle time:

  • how you can have flashbacks and other temporal leaps in both modes
  • time montages – only in film? montage as exclusively a time-based device
  • slowing down time in film – but also expanding moments in print
  • multi-modal nature of film (image, sound, voice) makes simultaneous time frames possible in film/ print is usually linear not multi-layered (but picture books?)
  • both film and print can give the appearance of ‘aging’ in their stock/ pages
  • doing ‘summaries’ – both modes can do this
  • reading a book at your own pace vs willingly submitting ourselves to time in film viewing

We watched the Lumiere Bros films. Anne M spotted the ‘fourth’ layer of time in the Washerwomen on the Seine clip, which we usually think of as having three horizontal layers; it turns out, the river itself is running in its own time frame.

We looked at how time is defined in the Arival of a Train clip – from the moment the train stps, the doors open, to when it leaves; at how ‘waiting time’ (the passengers on the platform) is a different kind of time-scape, and ‘anticipation’ is a time-world where we mix present with future. How ‘train-time’ is its own time world as well.

On the ‘waiting’ aspect, we thought of how close mindfulness is to being ‘outside time’, being in a perpetual present, being ‘in the moment’.

Vimeo playlist here: https://cloud.cfav.fr/index.php/s/PjDWTzycqkyRot6?path=%2F

People suggested other films that had ‘timely’ relevance;

  • Father and Daughter, by Michael Dudok de Wit, a 9 minute summary of a girl’s life, with a devastating ending..
  • The opening of Soylent Green, where a back story is told through still images (and what a great idea for a mini exercise!
  • The Big Blue, by Luc Besson, about free diving, and the time anxiety it provokes in viewers
  • Little Terrorist, 15 minute short from India, and India’s only Oscar nominated short

And there are a couple of links to clips illustrating the ‘pause’ in diegetic/ film story time that we get with big song and dance numbers in musicals:

You can access the recording of the session through this Dropbox link below:


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Time in Cinema: 2020/21

The 2020/21 edition of Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse is following ‘time in cinema’ as its theme. The international participants gathered virtually at the Cinematheque Francaise on 7 november, and were taken through the highlights by Alain Bergala. Below is the Powerpoint I’ve put together to introduce the theme to UK teachers, and the sample scheme of work we usually have as well.

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Highfields Exercise 3

Saskia’s group have recently finished Exercise 3 – they’re going to Paris in the summer, so have to be slightly ahead of the rest of us. Their films are all on Vimeo in the Bromley Film Club collection. For a Exercise 3, different groups all made films responding to a piece of music by Årvo Påart. My favourite is Adrian’s play of lights on a wall: https://vimeo.com/389520479

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William Ransom

Lucy Eldridge from William Ransom Primary School in Hitchin has been running ‘sensory cinema’ after school since Christmas. This is what she’s been doing:

‘We started our first sensation by discussing the theme and working through the PowerPoint, talking about what activities we’ll be doing and thinking about what the final film might look like. We then spent time after school getting familiar with the camera on an iPad and learning how to download our footage. We took advantage of the fact that it was a windy day and did some filming of various things around the school that was being affected by the wind, with the aim of showing how it affects everything differently.

The following week we watched Arabesques and Dieu Sait Quoi. With both clips we discussed the objects featured, why they’d been shot this way, how it made them feel and with Arabesques, what may have been the reason for the repetition. Dieu Sait Quoi also raised discussion about how the idea of the same thing (in this case water) being portrayed in different ways changes the effect it has on us, plus the difference the music made to our emotions. We then used this idea to do some filming of our own. Each child chose their own item (a light, a spoon etc.) and put together a collection of shots that looked at the same object in different ways.

Most recently, we watched the clip from Tree of Life and revisited some of our earliest memories but focussed on those connected to school and what they saw/felt when they started at William Ransom. We shot at the entrance and in and around the classrooms they would have first been in. All of the children chose to shoot the things that were personal to their experiences but shared ideas on how they could film them e.g. at a low angle, ideas that we took from the clip.’

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Highfield’s First Session

HIghfield Juniors in Bromley are along for their second year of CCAJ; this year, they’ll be going to Paris!  Saskia van Roomen is running the programme as part of their Into Film club – she’s an Into Film Ambassador.  She writes of their first session:

We had a fun session yesterday and I used lots of Alastair’s exercises to bring the subject a bit closer to home. These included blindfolding children and then scratching their head with one of those scalp massage tentacles. It definitely gives you a frisson…

I also showed them ASMR videos and the Susan Boyle audition at Britain’s Got Talent to illustrate that sensations come before emotion or feeling and that something can be experienced as a pure sensation.

Another film they loved was the clip from Post Tenebras Lux (p/w is sensation) by Carlos Reygadas and they begged me to watch it until the end and they all speculated what may have happened to the little girl (they agreed she probably died). I loved some of their comments such as: ‘what kind of world are we living in’, ‘where are the parents’? They really noticed the change in mood as the light faded and felt that whereas the dogs initially were perceived to be helpers and friends to the little girl, as the light faded they became threats.

They also had lots to say about Brakhage (Anticipation of the Night) and Arabesque. One child commented that the reason why it was called ‘Anticipation of the Night’ was because it felt like the disconnected images where a bit like those images that get recorded on your phone as you are fumbling about to make it work, in a way the random images are what you see before you get to the main event, so in anticipation of what will happen later which I thought was very profound! One child felt that the different pacing, sometimes slow, sometimes very fast were disconcerting and he didn’t like the pink sky either which he thought felt threatening. They did like the refracted light and the water images in Arabesque which they felt was very relaxing and beautiful.

We finished with Lifeline and they were all mesmerised by it including the teacher.

As we are watching so many clips and tackling such an obscure subject I think it is very important to do something active in each session. Next week I will do the little exercise that Alastair suggested about filming a word.

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Sensory Cinema launch – what I learned

This week we’ve met with both groups of participating teachers and film-makers in this year’s CCAJ programme: 8 teachers from Lincolnshire and Mansfield, and 8 teachers and film-makers from London and Cambridge.  Following the clips and PPT and SoW below, here’s what I learned:

Watching the ASMR video of Kinder eggs, we realised how important the voice is, to sensory cinema.  Get children to try whispering on the voice track of Exercise 2; in fact, get them to try out some whisper-tracks as audio recordings.  What sensations can they produce in a listener?

Several childhood memories latched on to colours as defining the memory: almost as if the sense-memory can be reduced to a colour as single point of reference, or signifier.

The 5 Obstructions
We’re uncertain how to interpret the instruction in Exercise 3 for teachers to establish their own ‘rule of the game’.  Usually our friends in Paris do this for us – and we just follow!  How to use this power?  Hans reminded us of Lars von Trier’s ‘Five Obstructions’, where he gets veteran Danish film artist Jorgen Leth to recreate one of his short films from 1967.  The five obstructions are:

  • remake the film in Cuba;
  • remake the film but no shot longer than 12 frames (half a second);
  • remake the film in the ‘worst place in the world’, but ‘without showing it’ (he makes it in the red light district of Mumbai, but shoots from behind a screen);
  • as a cartoon;
  • with a voice-over scripted by von Trier.

Ok, so we’re not going to transfer these wholesale.. but setting a limit on shot-length, shot-type, or prescribing a space – be imaginative!  call out some ideas in the comments.

Amy recalled a sequence of an Iranian woman cycling, prompted by the scene from Petites Fugues by Yves Yersin;  (https://cloud.cfav.fr/index.php/s/MJtqH7AfTAt92Mz?path=/0.%20Introduction).  We think it’s from The Day I Became a Woman, which you can rent for £2 on Vimeo:  https://player.vimeo.com/video/132339704

And then, there are so many other sequences of cyclists experiencing the sensation of freedom..


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Hale County, This Morning, This Evening

A thought occurred to me while compiling the powerpoint to launch ‘sensory cinema’, this year’s edition of Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse: the clips we get to choose from just aren’t very diverse in their representations.  Which led me further, to Barry Jenkins’s film Moonlight, in which a character remarks that ‘black skin, in Moonlight, looks blue’, and from there, to Ramell Ross’s extraordinary documentary Hale County, This Morning, This Evening, a title that both says exactly what the film is about (Hale County is in Alabama), and signals that like the title, this film isn’t like other films.

Ross is an African-American photographer, and he takes a photographer’s eye not so much to the people and places of Hale County, but to its textures and sounds, especially, like Moonlight, paying close attention to black (which is never black) skin-tones.  it reminded me of Arthur ‘A.J’ Jaffa’s extraordinary talk at BFI a few years back recounting his desire to find an ‘aesthetic of the moving image – the black moving image’ equivalent to the way black music had evolved into its own distinctive idioms – from blues and jazz, to reggae, hip-hop, soul.

Hale County seems to me to be close to a specifically black rendering of documentary, not just in content, but in form and style: the close attention to the textures of skin, and hair, to the movements of the body, in gesture but also in sport, and to the cadences of speech and song – all features of A.J.s chosen clips that day at BFI: gospel singer Lateria Wooten singing Nothing But the Blood (which he said he played to students often without sound, just to focus on Wooten’s physical performance); and a short-lived Youtube star called Missilanyus Melkizeech, whose account has since been deleted.

Here’s a clip from Hale County, This Morning, This Evening.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening – Clip



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Sensory Cinema: PPT and SoW

Here are the launch powerpoint, and the sample plan for this year’s theme, ‘Sensory Cinema’.  The link for the recommended clips is on the last slide of the PPT, and the opening page of the SoW.

Download the docs from the links below:

Sample SoW for Sensory Cinema

CPD launchSenses

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Final films: ‘situation’

The brief for the final film of 2018/19 was to:

Make a film where the establishing incident affects how the characters relate to each other.  The situation will ‘flip’ during the course of the film, which will mean that the way that the characters interact changes.  The viewer should identify at first with one, then another of the characters during the course of the film.

The two main challenges were to switch the situation around, and then, to change the audience’s allegiance from one character to another – a rare thing in film.  The film below, from Ecole Francois Arrago, in Bompas in the south of France.  The children are around 8 or 9 years old.  The story features two children, both outsiders in their own way, brought together when one of them is caught stealing.

LA SITUATION – Ana from CCAJ VIDEO on Vimeo.

From England, three more films: Blossom, from Legsby Primary, in which a girl is cheered up by a visit to a local farm; Whispers, from Fosse Way Academy, where our sympathies towards a group of friends are tested; and Out of Bounds, from Highfield Juniors in Bromley, in which an accident leads two children out of school.

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Mid-term meeting in London

We had a very productive reflective meeting today at BFI for schools from Lincolnshire/ Nottingham and London.  Legsby, North Summercotes, Brierley Forest, St. Vincent’s, Vittoria, Tyssen, and Highfield Junior School in Bromley.  We looked at Exercises 2 and 3, and I’ll share a couple below.

First, special mention to Emma from Brierley Forest in Nottingham, first time on the Cinematheque programme, and shared with us this pair of Exercise 3 films, whose brief is to film the same situation in two different ways, bringing out different emotions and dimensions in each.  Emma’s group have a child who is using a wheelchair at the moment; an extra constraint, chosen by the children, was to ensure the films both gave her a role, and enabled her to participate.  The results are two very powerful pieces of film, but with fascinating contrasts.  We noticed how in the second film, with the children playing basketball, the group were so absorbed in the activity that they forgot to ‘act’.  Their performances are more natural for being set in a real activity.  We remembered ‘real/fiction‘ from a few years back, where one Exercise required children to carry out a real activity (tying shoe laces; washing dishes; playing football) while in a story.  In the first Brierley Forest film (Exercise 3 Part 1) the children are ‘play acting’, rather than playing a real game.

And two similarities: both films start with beautifully framed close- or medium close-ups, with the sound of other children enjoying themselves offscreen: our protagonists are already isolated.  Second, we had been talking about the tendency in children’s stories/ films for conflict to be resolved (in a hug, often), and how children seem to want to resolve stories in this way.  Brierley Forest chose a more realistic – or just sadder? – resolution, in which friends don’t make up, loners don’t get asked to join in.  In fact in Exercise 3 Part 2, the movement out of frame of our heroine, unnoticed by the group, is quite devastating.

We had quite a discussion about music – when to use it, when not to, what it adds, what it subtracts/ distracts.  How it’s most powerful when children devise and perform the soundtrack themselves.  Leo, from Legsby Primary, has been soundtracking their cinematheque films for what seems like years.  He gets given the film on a laptop and asked to improvise, then record, a soundtrack to go with the film.  We like what he’s added to Legsby’s two tales about odd shoes.

Legsby’s film also prompted discussion about the challenge this year of children creating situations that conveyed emotion – and then how to perform and film those emotions.  One of the hardest – but most powerful – to convey is ‘shame’, or ‘la honte.’  There is a special section in the CCAJ Vimeo channel on shame this year, and we looked at the end of the Bicycle Thieves.  Legsby’s two films – ‘Odd Shoes’ – creates a sense of shame in their characters, but we also noticed how putting shoes centre frame liberates the camera height and angle.

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