ABCinema Flatpack 2017: Archive and Young Audiences (Chapter)


Paul Holder, Workshop Leader at Chapter, Cardiff, tell us about his experiences at the ABCinema Sprint during Flatpack Film Festival, Birmingham:

“The ABCinema Sprint, part of Birmingham’s Flatpack Film Festival, brought together filmmakers, educators, archivists, programmers, and other creative professionals from across Europe to share and explore approaches to engaging young people with film archive and heritage.

The key challenges were summed up early on; how and why should we try to reach young people regarding film history? ; how can we bring digital mediums and methods into our attempts to encourage participation? ; how can we re-imagine the way in which audiences are invited in and experience film? Big questions, which over the course of the three-day event found many intriguing and innovative answers.”

Perhaps the most recurrent topic throughout the event was how we approach engaging with young people in the first place. It is all well and good developing workshops and events, but without finding a way of establishing communication with target groups these events will invariably fail to reach their potential. Representatives from several institutions brought interesting perspectives to this issue. A particular highlight was Hannah Higginson’s presentation on Rife Magazine, run from the Watershed in Bristol. Rife Magazine is Bristol’s youth-led online platform, which empowers young people with presenting to their own age range events which are taking place in the city. Furthermore, Watershed also runs a film programming scheme, geared toward encouraging young people to broaden their cinematic horizons. This type of scheme was also discussed by Florian Deleporte of Studio des Ursulines in Paris, who organises a youth panel that view and critically discuss films, with the end result being a season curated by the group. Consulting and co-creating events with young people, and allowing them to make the address, struck me as an effective way of overcoming some of the barriers that exist in a broad sense between one generation and the next, but also specifically in terms of generating interest in film heritage.


There were several presentations that looked at more practical uses of film archive. In particular, Kwame Lestrade of Doc Next Network (an organisation set up to provide a platform for young media-makers across Europe) spoke of projects he has undertaken in collaboration with BFI which expressly looked at engaging with archive footage. Often, these would take the form of remixing archive film with contemporary recordings made by young people. What interested me was how these projects seemed to use film archive to both forge a link and provide a contrast between the past and the modern world. From this perspective, there seems to be plenty of scope for using archive footage to explore social issues with young people.

There are many organisations now exhibiting film outside of conventional cinema spaces, and a couple of these came to share their experience of using archive film. The Floating Cinema, a canal boat with an attachable screen, has operated a number of educational projects in the London area, using archive footage as a stimulant and pedagogical tool to inform practical activities. Similarly, the Kinovan, part of Film London, exists specifically to showcase local film archives in the areas where they were shot, showing how life was lived in each area and how the city has changed. We enjoyed a lively afternoon devising potential Kinovan projects aimed at teenagers, which led me to reflect on how much social and educational value archives can have. Additionally, the attraction of unusual viewing experiences in engaging young people should not be understated.

Perhaps the most innovative and exciting (and exceptionally well-funded) project I heard about at this event takes place at the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam. Moviezone is a practical and educational multi-platform interactive scheme designed to inspire and teach young people about film history, language and techniques. The Moviezone website alone is a treasure trove of filmic knowledge and references, all of which links in superbly with the main web-series. That may sound a little vague and hard to visualise, because I can’t do justice to the scale and ambition of this project in a few words. All I can do is recommend you watch the promo video, then go and discover everything you can about the Moviezone projects. Then find someone willing to give you a six-figure sum to set up your own similar initiative!


With so many obstacles to overcome – competition for time, negative preconceptions about ‘old’ films, access to archives, to name but a few – the task of generating interest in film history amongst young people can appear arduous. But after three days of discussions, presentations and workshops, I now realise just what a wealth of exciting possibilities are available to those who wish to share their passion for film heritage with the next generation.


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