Understanding Cinema

Understanding Cinema is adapted Cinematheque Francaise’s successful Cinema cent ans de jeunesse, film education programme. It trains and develops filmmakers in this programme as well as providing practical experience of delivering film education to young people (8-18yrs) in schools and youth groups. Completed short films will premiere at the 2014 Edinburgh International Film Festival.


The Understanding Cinema project offers lots of opportunities to explore learning and sharing across the school year.

Our blog serves as a means to allow groups to see each other’s work; our tutors get together online and in person throughout the course of the year, sharing the experience of the project with each other, feeding back in to their groups; there are the sharing days at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June where the groups get to meet in person.

Yesterday at Eden Court in Inverness, following an invitation from Graeme Roger, tutor for the Inverness area, we ran a special day around the project showing films and running a workshop, which brought groups from Tain and Mosstodloch together for the first time.


Inspired by Mark Cousins’ A Story of Children and Film, Filmhouse and Mr Cousins created the Cinema of Childhoodproject, which screens 17 films from across the world to young audiences, who may not have had the chance to experience films from such diverse background before. We showed two of these films for our groups in Eden Court’s Playhouse Cinema.

The first to be screened was Herz Frank’s Ten Minutes Older, from Latvia in 1978. Filmed in a single long take lasting 9  minutes and 47 seconds, fitting in with our project’s theme this year, Ten Minutes Older follows the faces of an audience of young children watching a puppet play.

The group responded brilliantly to the film, we talked about the nature of the long take, and how it made them feel. When I asked them if any of them had ever seen anything like that film before, the majority of people said that they hadn’t, with the exception of one young man, who had already seen it. There was an overwhelmingly positive response to the film.

Following Ten Minutes Older we screened Djibril Diop Mambety’s The Little Girl Who Sold The Sun. Filmed in Senegal in 1998, The Little Girl Who Sold The Sun tells the tale of a determined young girl with mobility issues, who sells The Sun newspaper on the streets of Dakar to help provide for herself and her blind grandmother.  The film is, humble, positive and a testament to the power of self determination.

It was fascinating to watch Mambety’s Senegalese film with a group of children in Inverness. They sat, rapt, throughout the journey of the film. Used to conventional Hollywood narratives they found the end of the film different to much that hey had experienced before, proving a great source of discussion. The sound of Bagpipes on the film’s soundtrack provided an unexpected link to their home country and culture, giving a reference point that the group identified for both Scottish and certain African cultural identities.
When asked what they would change about the film one boy volunteered “Nothing – It was perfect.”  When I asked how many people agreed with him, the vast majority of hands in the room shot up.

We were fortunate to have Eden Court’s Gaelic Creative Theatre Arts Worker Ruairidh Nicolson with us on hand to help out with the day.  Ruairidh helps to deliver the Understanding Cinema project with Graeme in Tain, through the medium of Gaelic.

The whole day was delivered through a mix of Gaelic and English (and a splash of French for good measure, in keeping with the project’s roots), as I also run our group here on Mull through Gaelic.

In the afternoon the groups were mixed up together in a drama workshop.


Through a series of drama games we explored what the elements of a good story are, how an actor’s body reads in different states of tension and what drama is and what drama isn’t. The groups worked brilliantly together, all speaking the same language. The pieces that they created at the end of the session were clear, funny and thoroughly entertaining.


It was wonderful to get two of our groups together in person and explore what happens when we collaborate, and when we share a common experience of film together.

I look forward to seeing the final films of our groups from Mosstodloch and Tain, particularly after having met the artists behind their creation.

Many thanks to our partners in Eden Court for hosting the day, to Jamie – our projectionist, Ruairidh – for his fantastic pre-lunch workshop, and Graeme for inviting me over.

The Understanding Cinema blog has enable the seven filmmakers to discuss the idea of ‘ the long take’. In building on the course training and sharing their own knowledge, all have discovered new filmmakers and writers who perfectly explain or exemplify how the long take can be effectively used in fiction and documentary filmmaking. The growing list of ‘long takes’ for the course is at Understanding Cinema ’13.

Most of the filmmakers are now working in class with the teachers and their students. Using clips and physical exercises has been very effective in communicating the idea of the long take and the young people will now be supported to make their Lumière Minute. In the ‘Rules of the Game’ as laid out by Cinematheque Francaise the first exercise is:

Watching: Lumière Minutes – Recording the World Around You 

Each participant will film a minute of material in the manner of the Lumière Brothers. The shot will be from a fixed position, lasting one minute and include the sounds recorded on location at the time of filming. The minutes can be filmed either inside or outside. Chose a place, a subject, a moment and record it, with out influencing anything in the shot. 

It is requested that all the participants in the project, including teachers, group leaders, film makers and cultural partners put themselves in the firing line and also film their own Lumière Minute.

The filmmakers have posted their own Lumière Minute and the films so far can be seen at

This year the theme for Understanding Cinema is ‘plan sequence’ or The Long Take. By the end of November all our filmmakers and their partner teachers had received their training on the programme as created by Cinematheque Française and delivered by Project Coordinator Alasdair Satchel. The training was inspirational and informative and laid out the ‘Rules of the Game’ which the filmmakers will use in teaching different age ranges the principles of ‘The Long Take’

Understanding Cinema will involve over 400 young people aged 8-18 years, across nine different local authorities.

The filmmakers who will be working through the Understanding Cinema programme are:

Yasmin Al Hadithi – in Aberdeen with Holy Family PS and Belmont Cinema’s Movie Makers Youth Group.

Kate Burton – in Glasgow with St Margaret Mary’s Secondary, St Mungo’s Academy, Glendale PS and Castlemilk HS.

Jamie Chambers – in Edinburgh with Broughton HS and East Lothian with Law PS and Saint Gabriel’s PS.

Sandie Jamieson – in Dundee with Rowantree PS, St John’s HS and St Paul’s Academy.

Stephen Johnston – in Dundee with Cleppington PS, Blackness PS and Harris Academy.

Sandra Kennedy – on Isle of Lewis with Nicolson Institute and Sgoil na Pairc

Anne Milne – in Edinburgh with South Morningside PS and in East Lothian.

Graeme Roger – in Inverness with Craighill PS and Mosstodloch PS

Alasdair Satchel – on Isle of Mull with Salen PS

And we are delighted that Gary Swan at Aberdeenshire Council (with Turriff HS), Joe Mahoney at An Lanntair in Stornoway and Aiden Nicol at SKAMM in Edinburgh are also participating with the project and sharing their learning and developments with the group.


Alasdair Satchel

Isle of Mull

Anne Milne


Graeme Roger


Jamie Chambers


Kate Burton


Sandie Jamieson


Sandra Kennedy

Isle of Lewis

Stephen Johnston


Yasmin Al Hadithi