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!
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.