Non-Academic Partners Workshop, London, 7 July 2015

The event took place at the British Film Institute, 21 Stephen St, London W1T 1LN. This workshop was a follow-up to a previous event held in January. See here for the report of the January event.

Present

  • Alan O’Leary (AOL), University of Leeds (chair)
  • James Earnshaw-Crofts (JEC), St Helen and St Katharine School
  • Austin Fisher (AF), Bournemouth University
  • Manuela Knight (MK), St Paul’s Girls’ School
  • Peter Langdale (PL), North London Collegiate
  • Deborah Parker (DP), Cinema For All

 Agenda

  1. Update on project
  2. Demonstration and discussion of pilot educational resources.
  3. Continued professional development for teachers and the role of the project
  4. ‘Pathways to Impact’ section of an AHRC major funding bid
  5. Thanks
    1. Appendix: Notes for the meeting by Andrea Piras

1. Update on project

Funding

AOL reported on progress with grant applications. An International Research Collaboration Award of £15,000 has been granted to the project by Leeds University to fund a major workshop in 2015 (see below). A major bid (€1.2m) to the European Research Council (ERC) has not been successful, though it was graded highly in the very competitive ERC process. A further major bid, with funding built in for impact and non-academic partnerships, will be submitted in early 2016 to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Website and publications

The project website continues to be developed with more resources and updates. Two book projects are in development: a short monograph on the 1966 film The Battle of Algiers and a survey of the Italian historical film (see here for more details). A long article setting out the aims, ethos, and methodologies of the project is forthcoming (Autumn 2015) in the Italian journal Studi Culturali, entitled ‘Cinema, storia, Italia: appunti per una ricerca in espansione’. A English version of the article can be read here.

Events

  • A panel devoted to the project took place at the prestigious annual conference of the North American Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) in Montreal (March 2015). Full details at here.
  • The project is a co-organizer of a major conference in Rome in November 2015, hosted by Roma Tre University. AOL will chair a workshop devoted to the project within the conference, with the participation of the three co-investigators Austin Fisher, Robert Gordon (Cambridge) and Catherine O’Rawe (Bristol), along with Paolo Noto (Bologna), while Robert Burgoyne (St Andrews), a member of the project advisory board, will act as respondent and deliver a keynote address. Conference details and call for papers  here.
  • As mentioned above, the project has won £15k to host a major international workshop devoted to Italian film and history in Leeds on 22/23 March 2016. Participants will come from Australia and New Zealand, India, Italy and the US as well from as the UK. A keynote address will be delivered by Ruth Ben-Ghiat of New York University. Non-academic partners are very welcome to this event.

2. Demonstration of pilot educational resources.

AF presented his impressive essay film ‘Spaghettis in Translation’, published on the essay film site ‘[in]Transition’. He explained the context that had generated the film (an increasing move by academics to using video to analyse film), and a commission from ‘[in]Transition’ (associated with the SCMS house journal Cinema Journal), on the editorial board of which he now sits. AF’s film can be watched here, and the page also contains a text by him on the reasons his film takes the form it does.

Austin fisher presenting film

The group was excited about the possibilities for the use of AF’s film in classroom and other contexts – like in festival scenarios, where it might introduce a roundtable or function as the ‘ad’ for a season. It was felt that the pleasurable but cryptic character of the film would be a great goad to discussion in school and adult education. It was also felt that a film like AF’s would also inspire viewers to make their own video films and could be used in tandem with training in film-making/editing techniques.

AOL presented a rather less polished film essay on Il caimano, Nanni Moretti’s 2006 film about making a film about Berlusconi. PL had used the closing sequence of the film for language and conversation exercises in class, and AOL’s ‘sketch’ (which can be watched here) was intended to suggest how resources could be built around such exercises.

Peter Langdale bored by Alan's film

The group commented that AOL’s film was probably too long (or too dull) for classroom use. It was felt that the film tried to do too much and so it was unclear what it was trying to achieve. Perhaps best to have a 5-minute (max) essay film do the work of contextualizing (or to focus on an aspect of the film itself) and let teachers work on exercises around it? For a more didactic piece like this, it might be worth having built-in moments where the film could naturally be paused and discussion initiated. Useful also to consider how a feature film might fit into the concerns of a syllabus: an short essay film could then elaborate on a relevant topic (the Risorgimento or fascism, for example) in relation to that feature film. Finally, it could be useful to develop editable films adaptable for different contexts. In any case, it was important for the project to think about what it can add with resources like this and to focus efforts on developing this unique contribution.

AOL also talked through a PowerPoint presentation on Il conformista (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970), a classic on the Italian fascist period. The presentation, designed by Luke Postlethwaite and revised by AOL, is editable and can be viewed and downloaded here. AOL showed how presenter notes can be added to the PowerPoint so that ‘non-expert’ users (non-expert on the topic, that is) can still talk through the material; and he pointed out that clips too can (as in this case) be embedded in the PowerPoint so that the talk can be illustrated with pertinent sections of a film without wasting time cueing DVDs etc.

Conformist PPT2

It is hoped that all resources can be piloted and tested with groups in classrooms of film societies etc. All promised to follow up on this.

3. Continued Professional Development (CPD) and the role of the project

Although the Pre-University Italian Course (rather than A-Level) is taught by our partner teachers in the UK, one of the contexts of the discussion on CPD was the reform of the A-Level syllabus. This reform – which so far has taken place for French, German and Spanish – may be challenging for many secondary school teachers because it places greater emphasis on cultural and historical topics, with more literature, cinema, translation and social history taught and studied than previously. AOL introduced materials in development by the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies (LCS) at Leeds, materials intended to empower teachers to deal with unfamiliar themes and media. He showed several short (1-2 minute) videos, intended for teachers, of his LCS colleagues discussing different themes and mentioned the workshops provided by LCS for secondary teachers on aspects of the new syllabus.[*] Such resources and events could and should be a focus also of the ICIH project.

 

Participants suggested that the project might help with training about film, and also through film (using film to teach other topics). MK pointed out that teachers need to know how to use and discuss film in a focused way to make the best use of classroom time. DP talked about training in leading discussion/analysis sessions on film for film clubs and societies. As mentioned at the 22 January workshop, the project could develop resources to help with the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), which is worked on by secondary students in the summer prior to their final year. And it was also suggested that the project could develop a MOOC.

AOL would like to create a discussion on the project website about the use and teaching of Italian/historical films by teachers, to add to the conversations already online here. This would involve the circulation of a set of questions to each of the teachers and other partners, and AOL would edit the responses together. AOL also drew attention to the extensive and useful notes emailed in advance of the meeting by Andrea Piras, one of the Italy-based teachers associated with the project.

4. ‘Pathways to Impact’ section of an AHRC major funding bid

AOL circulated copies of the ‘Impact Summary’ and ‘Pathways to Impact’ sections of a successful AHRC major funding from Leeds University. The material had been annotated by members of the Arts Engaged team at Leeds, who had noted where and why the application was strong. These included the provision of evidence of existing relationships and of institutional support. Workshop participants noted how the application material was most persuasive when it was most specific, giving precise information about past and future activities and plans, supported by figures when appropriate.

london ICIH 1

AOL pointed out how often beneficiaries or non-academic partners were quoted in order to demonstrate the value of the project. He explained that the auditing and measurement of impact was key to a successful application and that partners were therefore strongly encouraged to write to AOL with statements of the use and value of project resources and events to their own work and constituencies.

5. Thanks

AOL thanked the participants for a very useful afternoon’s work, and expressed his gratitude to DP and Cinema For All for having arranged the room at the BFI.

AOL adds (7 September 2015) his thanks to partners for the several emails sent after the workshop stating the value and use of the project for their purposes – such material will be vital for the AHRC application.

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[*] Development of the LCS resources and coordination of the outreach activity is the responsibility of Esther Harper, Educational Engagement officer in the Leeds Faculty of Arts – Esther attended the 22 January 2015 ICIH workshop.