Film: first festival for young people  

If you’re looking for something that’s educational, entertaining and different to inspire your pupils this autumn, look no further than the inaugural national Youth film festival (October 21st-November 8th)– a three-week programme of free screenings and related activities designed to engage young people and teachers across the UK with film.

The festival, which I’m involved with curating, will build on the legacy of National Schools Week as part of a new unified programme of film education in which the British film institute is investing £26million of lottery funds over four years – the largest investment in film education ever seen in this country. These developments are tremendously exciting.

As a curator for the education charity Filmclub, I’ve repeatedly witnessed how watching films in school film clubs can spark discussion, broaden young people’s horizons and stimulate their imaginations; this festival, with its emphasis on pupil voice, will provide many new opportunities for teachers to use the medium of film to bring learning to life and for young people aged 5-19 to watch, understand and make film in new and creative ways. Crucially, pupils will be consulted about what they want to watch and will have the opportunity to make their own selections and programming decisions on behalf of their peers.

The main focus of the event, which is also supported by cinema first and the UK film industry, will be free screenings of specially selected feature films for young people aged 5-19.  Guest curators from the industry, including filmmaker Mark Cousins and actress Tilda Swinton, will choose titles for primary, secondary and sixth-form audiences which they would particularly like to introduce to a new audience and which young people may never otherwise see.

Mark says: ‘The first thing you do when you want to curate something well is put to one side all the obvious choices. When you think of the best film for children you might think of ET or UP, you might think of Toy Story – put all of those to one side and think, ‘What’s left?’  What are the films that people aren’t so familiar with, the brilliant films for kids that we don’t talk about, so that’s how we select. Put away the obvious stuff and then begin to come up with exciting ideas.’

Films, screened in schools, cinemas and youth centres across the UK, will range from new mainstream blockbusters to diverse films from around the world and around the corner, in a themed programme of pupil premieres, recent international hits, classics, shorts, documentaries and locally-made British films.

There will be a strong emphasis on young people and film-making, with young people-made short films screened before all feature programmes, as well as film-making competitions and awards.  The festival will also highlight films from established UK festivals that have youth juries and programming groups, identifying and presenting titles that have particularly resonated with young festival audiences. One strand of the programme that I’m especially excited about is dedicated to the favourite childhood films of some of the world’s best known and respected film talents. Watching film at an early age can create some of our strongest childhood or teenage memories and watching them again later in life can bring a powerful rush of nostalgia.  We asked Helen Mirren, Sir Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman to tell us which films had meant the most to them growing up, giving us a wonderful opportunity to introduce today’s generation to a rich heritage of films from across the decades.

However, it’s not just about watching, it’s about taking part. School and community run film festivals will be held across the UK, with an information pack available to support schools in creating their own ‘one-day’ in-school festival.

Film-making workshops will be offered as will Q&A sessions with industry practitioners, enabling young people to gain first-hand knowledge of different aspects of the industry and the many further education and career possibilities within it. For teachers, new title and theme-related resources and post screening discussions will enable screenings to be used for educational purposes to complement topics in the curriculum, develop review writing and critical skills, or teach pupils about film and filmmaking.

With so much to see and experience, I hope the National Youth film festival – this year and in years to come – will help children from all walks of life and all corners of the UK, to discover those special films they’ll always remember and develop a life-long passion for film. And I hope schools and teachers will embrace the opportunities it offers to enrich their students’ cultural and educational experiences.

Moira McVean is Film club’s Programme Manager and NYFF Curator the first National Youth Film Festival will take place from October 21st-November 8th 2013, with free screenings, curriculum-linked resources, film-making workshops, competitions and awards, and a tool-kit to run your own in-school or community film festival.  For information and to register visit:

Our favourite films

Cameron, 14

Favourite Film: Step Brothers

Like it because: It makes me laugh out loud (LOL!)

Favourite Scene: When the brothers are trying to prevent people from buying their parent’s house. They go to outrageous lengths to put people off.

Favourite Character: Brennan played by Will Ferrell – just looking at him makes me laugh.

What age group would you recommend it to? 15

Dir. Adam McKay stars Will Ferrell, John c. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen 15 2008

Astrid, 12

Favourite film: A Cinderella Story

Like it because: It’s funny and puts a modern twist on a classic story.

Favourite scene: Austin and Sam are at the prom together and they realise who each other is.

Favourite character: Sam/Cinderella because she is kind-hearted and fun.

What age group would you recommend it to? This film suits girls aged 10 to 15.

Dir. Mark Rosman stars Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge, Chad Michael Murray PG 2004

Leo aged 12

Favourite Film: Anchorman

Like it because: I love comedies and this one keeps me laughing all the way through.

Favourite scene: When they are trying to get the female newsreader’s attention by wearing some really strong cologne called sex Panther but which smells like petrol.

Favourite Character: Ron Burgundy played by Will Ferrell. He makes me cringe and laugh at the same time.

What age group would you recommend it to? 12 + Dir. Adam McKay, stars Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd 15 2004