Observations: Classic films a different class

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The Independent Culture

It's a perennially tricky time of year for teachers – exams are winding up, the weather is heating up and suddenly a DVD seems the only viable educational option.

It doesn't have to be a Pride and Prejudice or Planet Earth, though. Why not a Japanese film noir or South African gangster thriller? So runs the thinking behind a new Film Journeys season from Film Club, the nationwide after-school initiative which brings free classic, popular and foreign films into the classroom.

The aim is to introduce different cultures in an easily digested, and enjoyable, form. Primary-school children can enjoy Japanese anime in My Neighbour Totoro or the Mongolian adventure The Cave of the Yellow Dog. Older children are offered a wider selection of intelligently chosen foreign gems. They loved Kidulthood? Try them on Tsotsi, a look at the teen gangsters of South Africa. Perhaps they prefer men with guns on the run. Why not French thriller Tell No One or the 1936 classic Pepe le Moko?

This week, to launch a Behind the Headlines strand, pupils at a North London school were treated to a screening of Afghan Idol, Havana Marking's fascinating and lively documentary about the first television talent show in Afghanistan. It's a typically canny choice and like Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi's irreverent animated masterpiece about growing up in Iran, has obvious appeal for teenagers. More challenging will be the upcoming screenings of Hotel Rwanda, Iraq in Fragments and Burma VJ. Perhaps end-of-term doesn't have to mean cop-out after all.

Visit filmclub.org for details of how to set up a free school Film Club