Running a multilingual film competition
The Connecta project, a multilingual short film course, competition and festival run by the University of Roehampton, was awarded funding by Creative Multilingualism, a research programme led by the University of Oxford and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the Open World Research Initiative.
In our Media, Culture and Language department we teach several subjects such as Photography, Journalism, Linguistics, Media, etc. but Film and Modern Languages seemed to perfectly match the objectives of this programme, one of which is to explore multilingualism in language learning via the medium of performance. Of course, film is much more than performance and many would argue that film is a language on its own.
Our main objective when we embarked on this project was to provide secondary school students and teachers with the appropriate tools and ideas to create a film ‒ resources that they could use in the classroom or in their own time. At regular intervals, learning packs were released in English, French, German and Spanish (you can view and download them here). We also created a Google Class environment to provide support to teachers.
With these learning packs, our objective was to create materials which could be used or adapted in the future for other purposes and also to provide a structure to those willing to take part in the short film competition because, as mentioned earlier, Connecta was also a competition culminating in a festival in the summer to showcase the selected films.
Five final year Film, Journalism and Languages students created the majority of the learning packs as part of their Work Placement requirements. They designed the booklets, created the activities and translated them, while lecturers helped to fill in the gaps; for instance by translating them into German or proofreading the translations. The students also created the Connecta presentation video.
Over 20 schools signed up to Connecta. Enthusiastic teachers wrote to us from all over the world but in the end the students who managed to finish their films were all from Kent and the London area. We know how difficult it is to complete a film during the academic year and only four films met all the requirements, namely being under ten minutes long and using more than one language. One of the schools, Dartford Grammar School for Girls, could not be represented at the Festival but the three other schools were: Christ’s School, Westminster School and The Grey Coat Hospital.
At the time of the Festival we had a timely visit from a scholar from Universitat Jaume I in Castelló, Spain, whose main research was multilingualism in schools. We also had five students from Esher College doing their Work Experience that week, which came in very handy: they designed the certificates, the voting form and even decided on the prizes.
The Connecta Festival, introduced by the Acting Head of the department, took place on 10 July 2019. The short films showcased included over 10 languages from Europe, Africa and Asia, including sign language. The films showed subtitles used in different ways and even innovative Translators’ Notes. The students proved to be creative, ambitious, motivated and hard-working and this was reflected in the final products.
Students were given the chance to present their films and after the screening all the attendees were able to vote for their favourites with a voting form.
We watched a celebration of languages at school, a thriller filmed as far away as Tenerife, a suspenseful film showcasing a great range of languages at high negotiating level, and a satirical comedy about a slightly deluded English teenager.
The popular vote considered that the Best Short Film was Boicoteamos Manuel, Christ’s School. Alex Chase and Julian Wiltsher accepted the prize consisting of a certificate and cinema and restaurant vouchers.
A certificate and restaurant vouchers were awarded to these three films as voted by the public:
The Best Storyline prize was for Elementary, Westminster School.
The Best Use of Foreign Language(s) prize was for Elementary, Westminster School.
The Best Acting prize was for Mr Xenon in Elementary, Westminster School.
A certificate and cinema vouchers were awarded to these four films as voted by a jury:
Elementary, Westminster School, was awarded a special prize for the Best Use of Locations.
Boicoteamos Manuel, Christ’s School, was awarded a special prize for the Best Use of Comedy. This was accepted by Alex (actor, director) and Julian (cinematographer).
Out of Sight, Dartford Grammar School for Girls, was awarded a special prize for the Best Soundtrack.
Something More than Sacred, The Grey Coat Hospital, was awarded a special prize for the Best Use of Diegetic Sound. This was accepted by Emily Rose (writer, editor, director).
We thoroughly enjoyed designing and running this project, and were delighted by the creativity of the films submitted. From the feedback we received, we discovered that students loved the experience, but teachers acknowledged their lack of time during term to incorporate the Connecta project and materials in their lessons. Therefore, if we were to run the competition again (which we would love to find the funding to do), we would design the materials to directly target the students rather than their teachers. We would also adapt the materials to ensure they work for filming done on a mobile or tablet, as this is the likely the equipment students would have readily available.
We believe in the power of film and languages to change lives and societies, so we'd love to make this project available and achievable to as many students as possible!
Inma Pedregosa is a senior lecturer in Spanish and translation at the University of Roehampton London. A trained secondary education languages teacher, she takes part in outreach and widening participation programmes at her university to encourage take up of languages in schools and HE. Her main research interest is the use of translation (particularly audiovisual translation) in language learning.