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English Short Films for the Classroom

12/07/13

Gareth is a Secondary Teacher from Australia who is working in West London schools through Protocol Education. In today's post he shares with us his top 5 short films to show to his class.

Short films are the perfect way to engage the YouTube generation when studying narrative in English. I was finding it rather challenging to have students analyse short stories, especially when the majority presented in English textbooks are more often than not dull. Short films provide a visual medium and students can jot down basic notes on plot, characterisation or setting as they watch the film. I would suggest focussing on one convention per viewing. And repeating the exercise with different short films has certainly concreted conventions in my students’ hippocampus.

These are five of my favourite films for the classroom:

Chicken of God

Comedian Frank Woodley directed this short film. As a massive Lano and Woodley fan, this is by default one of my most favourite. Whilst having some cutesy animation, it is certainly no Chicken Run and provides plenty of poo related jokes and a rather gruesome ending.

Spider

Spider is an exercise in patience for most students. It has a terribly slow (yet intriguing) build up with a wonderfully dark pay off. I’ve shown it to at least 20 different English classes and every time I find it funnier and funnier. In fact, I found the ending to be so funny on one occasion that it garnered the response from one student that “Sir is a bit psychopathic I think. That was not a funny film.”
It’s also worth checking out the other films by Blue Tongue Films on their You Tube channel. There is some pretty mind bending content.

$quid

This film is proof how engaging a single conversation can be. Two men trapped in a boat, a reference to a dinosaur costume and a musical number all make this no brainers for classifying $quid a favourite. Not to mention the hilarity of acting buddies Ed Kavalee and Josh Lawson together. Most of the time students finish the film wondering what they have watched. Therein lies the challenge and it certainly took me a number of attempts to clearly relate the plot structure of this narrative.

Pigeon: Impossible

A Mission Impossible spoof never looked so contrived. Pigeon: Impossible is good as any Pixar or Dreamworks animation in its use of humour and pathos. Its fantastical slapstick makes it perfect for any age group. I am perhaps attracted to it because of my general hatred of the rats of the air. This film points out what unintelligent creatures they are highlighting the lengths they will go to eat some free crumbs.

Be My Brother

Gerard O’Dwyer is an actor who has down syndrome and inspired this short film. O’Dwyer won best actor in 2009 at Tropfest for Be My Brother which also won best film. As with $quid, there are minimal characters and setting. I love this film because it is a real life example of people with down syndrome demonstrating their creativity. It not only provides a useful tool to discuss ‘treatment of disability’ as a class topic, but simply watching this film is uplifting.
The Tropfest You Tube channel is also worth a look – just check the language content first.

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