Hollywood heavyweights back free film festival for schools

Not every teaching resource is endorsed by the kind of big-name Hollywood cast usually only found in a multi-million-pound blockbuster film.

But the Into Film Festival for children has the backing of actors including Ewan McGregor, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes and Sir Ian McKellan, plus David Yates, director of the final four films in the Harry Potter series.

The Into Film Festival is the world’s largest event of its kind for pupils and teachers. The aim is to get 450,000 primary and secondary children watching and making films.

The festival, which will be held between 4 and 20 November in 520 cinemas around the country, will include preview screenings, film-making workshops and question-and-answer sessions with industry experts; all be accompanied by teaching resources.

The themes for this year’s event were released today, alongside a list of many of the films to be screened. A strand on cultural diversity will include a screening of Paddington; a series of showings designed to encourage teenagers to believe in themselves will include Selma and He Named Me Malala.

A theme for primary pupils on how children’s behaviour can affect those around them will be illustrated with films including Cinderella, Force Majeure and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

There will also be opportunities for pupils to meet and speak to industry experts, including critics, period-costume designers and special-effects engineers.

Teachers have commented on the value of these free screenings, particularly for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. A teacher at Derwendeg Primary in Caerphilly told organisers, “It has been eye-opening that so few of our children have been to the cinema. This was the ideal opportunity to broaden their experience.”

And the festival has been endorsed by an Oscar after-party’s worth of celebrities. Sir Ian, best-known to pupils for his roles in the The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, said: “There must be many children who don’t go to the cinema, because they haven’t got into the habit of it.

“Education is a very wide term, and it certainly should cover a stimulus and an introduction to ideas and topics and people who otherwise they might not know about.”

And McGregor, star of films including Moulin Rouge and two of the recent Star Wars films, said: “Any creative education is good. Anything that makes kids think about creating anything – writhing art, film, theatre – is great. I think it’s a really important part of education.”

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