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Michelle Cannon attended a film education symposium in Bradford at the end March 2019 representing the MEA. Here's what happened:

In June 2009, Bradford was designated the world’s first UNESCO City of Film. Throughout 2019 it will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with a programme of film festivals, educational & cultural events and screenings that promise to reach a wide audience in a range of arts and community venues. As one of 72 countries in a network of 180 Creative Cities, the overall mission is to place creativity at the heart of local strategies for economic and sociocultural development. Along with Sydney and Rome, Bradford is also part of the Cities of Film network with its rich historical film heritage stretching back to the late 1890s, when the Lumière brothers screened the UK’s first commercial film. Bradford offers film producers a range of evocative and authentic locations, not only its City Hall most recently seen in Peaky Blinders and Official Secrets, but also its natural environment in classics such as Room at the Top, The Dresser, and Billy Liar.

As part of the March programme a 2-day International Film Education Symposium took place at The University of Bradford, hosted by David Wilson (Director of Bradford City of Film). Key note speakers included Alton Grizzle (UNESCO), Mark Reid, BFI Head of UK Educational Programmes, and other film education specialists – film-maker Simona Manni, James Durran, Tom Barrance, Philip Webb and Yongsun Lee from the Korean Film Council. The symposium gave rise to a number of debates, such as the possibility of developing the curatorial power of young people, and the importance of offering opportunities for young people’s voices to be heard in film programming, to increase cultural breadth and relevance.

The lamentable omission of film and media in KS3 curricula in England was discussed, as distinct from the more progressive curriculum planning in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. See Mark Reid’s slides on the subject here and his thoughts on a participative, critical and creative understanding of literacy that includes film and media. Drawing on the work of Cary Bazalgette, he highlights the ways in which children are enculturated into a range of representative modes beyond text, such as still and moving images, sound, speech and music, before going to school, whereupon children’s implicit and sometimes explicit understandings of these modes are side-lined in favour of developing competences based on much narrower views of what constitutes literacy.

On a more positive and imaginative note, we heard of award-winning approaches to engaging with dementia patients through film and the production of a categorised Memory Pack of DVDs featuring video clips of regional archive footage. There were presentations and practical demonstrations of film literacy practices in the primary classroom linked to reading and writing, from Philip Webb from the Bradford Film Literacy Programme, in which children and teachers from a local primary school also participated. Tom Barrance demonstrated some simple iPad film-making and editing tasks for any age, and James Durran introduced a range of critical thinking and speaking activities based on film adaptations in the secondary context.

Most of the presentations focussed on the ways in which film analysis and production foster particular ways of thinking, where the making of ambiguous meanings, nuanced representation and multiple interpretations are valued, deconstructed and discussed. Finally, delegates were treated to a tour of the National Science and Media Museum with its lively educational programmes and exhibitions, and extensive collections of historical film and photography artefacts.

The centre of Bradford is enjoying a cultural renaissance and has left an indelible filmic impression on visitors new to the city. Sofía Secin Flores Parkman develops independent non-professional film projects in Mexico City; she is currently doing a Masters in Digital Media, Culture and Education at the UCL Institute of Education in London. Sofía is interested in diverse cinema experiences: “I was glad to be able to witness how topics that matter to me are being discussed in a context like this such as the relationship between literature and film education, film education methods and techniques, the challenges and possibilities of film education with mobile technologies, and the importance of rendering visibility to films in alternative contexts to the film industry and for purposes other than entertainment, such as mental health and well-being.”

Also in attendance was Gabriela Campillo, MA student and journalist from Chile ….. “After participating in the presentations and visiting the Science and Media Museum, I can confirm my conviction that, not only in Chile but everywhere, education and society need to address film, media and arts as essential. Film in education can really make a change in the inequalities that result from a neoliberal economy. I believe, after the symposium, that we must commit to that in order to contribute to more equality and social justice.”

Overall this was a nourishing couple of days where delegates came away with new and inspiring ideas for classroom practice and an enlightened view of this cinematic powerhouse of a city, leading the way with multi-generational community-focussed film education initiatives.

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