By Breen O'Reilly, ISB Film Teacher
On the opening day of class a few years ago, I asked my students to tell me the name of the best film they had watched in the past year and then describe the characteristics that separated that film from inferior films. One student gave a surprising answer: "I haven't seen any films this year. I don't have time."
If I had vocalized my thoughts, I would have asked, "Then why did you choose this class?"
There are many reasons for a student to study film. Some intend to study film at university and go on to work in the film industry. Indeed, there are many International School of Beijing (ISB) alumni currently studying film at university. However, students who study film for the International Baccalaureate (IB) at most schools are very much in the minority.
In the early years of film at ISB, students would often choose it because they thought it was "an easy class where we get to watch movies." Word got around, however, and no one takes film for that reason anymore!
Film at ISB is not restricted to the IB Diploma Programme. We also offer a one-semester course in film studies open to all high school students.
Parents sometimes ask, "What's the benefit of studying film if my child has no intention of working in the film industry?"
Writing in The New York Times, Elizabeth Van Ness wrote an article asking "Is Cinema Studies the New M.B.A.?" A film student develops a wide array of easily transferable skills: communications, technology, critical analysis, creativity, flexibility, media-management, problem solving, planning, and teamwork.
It is Van Ness's belief that these are the very skills employers are looking for in prospective employees regardless of the area of employment.
So, what characterizes a film student? US film theorist David Borwell believes it centers on the asking of questions:
"I think that film studies is best defined as a process of posing and trying to answer questions. Most ordinary conversation about films serve other purposes – to share information, to have social exchanges with people, to learn more about others' tastes. Film studies certainly has these aims too, but like other academic disciplines, it seeks to answer questions in a systematic way, one that is open to discussion and criticism. So, film studies centers on certain sorts of questions: those that require explanations as answers."
You can learn more about film studies at ISB here.