Friday, December 16, 2011

Film education - to the power of Ghibli

To almost quote a well-known UK retailer, never knowingly underestimate the potential of film to educate in a whole range of contexts. Here at IFI Education, we are fairly used to full houses of teens glued to subtitled films on weekday mornings, despite the conventional expectation that ‘young people won’t watch subtitles’. Yesterday, however, we had a fresh reminder of just how much a good film can engage a hugely diverse audience.

The Secret World of Arrietty, the latest film from the famed Japanese Studio Ghibli, was showing as part of our schools’ programme. The previous day, IFI Education’s Dee Quinlan and Elaine MacGinty looked after a full house of primary school pupils who watched and loved the dubbed version. Dee introduced the film, and talked a little about Japanese animation and how they might compare it with more familiar animation titles. Positive feedback gathered by Elaine afterwards ranged from the observant, ‘I loved the small details in the house’, to the surprising, ‘Humans and small people could connect’.

But it was the second screening that offered both a snapshot of film education and the potential of cinema itself. The largest group in the house were from an Irish language medium secondary school where students study Japanese. Their Japanese teacher introduced the film in Japanese and they watched the film to hear Japanese being spoken and experience Japanese film culture. A second group were from a deaf school, for whom the film was accessible as subtitled and their teacher signed Dee’s introduction in English. The other schools were Transition Year students watching for film studies. While not quite Babel, engagement with the film was through five different languages, with the initial connection being the audience’s literacy in the language of film itself. 

During our two-year research project, Film Focus, the results of which are due for publication in early Spring, we and the many film educators with whom we worked observed a whole host of ways in which film education is taking place around the country. We also were consistently reminded of the fact that the world for young people, irrespective of ability, is a visually mediated one and it’s the job of education to reflect that. That’s why access to a range of film is essential, be it through subtitling, providing readers, schools programmes, festivals, special events. We’re hoping for many more babel-esque experiences with schools’ audiences during the new term, even if they yield nothing more than one of yesterday’s feedback remarks, ‘I liked the happy ending’…

Alicia McGivern
Head of IFI Education

Visit our website for more information on IFI Education and IFI Schools Programme.
For booking or more information on IFI Education events, contact Dee Quinlan (t 01 679 5744, e:


  1. This is so great to hear :)

  2. Fantastic Blog Alicia!! Lets have more of that. TT

  3. Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.