A story: One day a teacher said to her class that each week they would ask one of the children who spoke a second language to introduce a favourite word or phrase and teach it to the group. The children were delighted to learn new languages and found out much more than words about each other. One day one child asked when it would be her turn. Her teacher replied “I didn’t know you spoke another language. Which language do you speak?” The little girl replied, “I speak Minion”. For me this moment sums up beautifully why children’s films should be taken seriously- they are at the heart of children’s shared experiences.
I am Becky Parry, an academic from the School of Education at the University of Sheffield. My research is focused on film for children, and film and media made by them. My passionate commitment to the role of film in children’s lives developed when I was a teacher and this led me to establish the film festival, Showcomotion in Sheffield. I remember gratefully the support of ECFA in the earliest stages of setting up the festival when I knew nothing of film distribution and festivals!
My recent work demonstrates that the moving image is often children’s primary experience of story and is therefore critical to their developing literacy and identity. I argue that film and other digital media forms should be integrated into the curriculum as sources of narrative and representations of the world. Film-making is also an increasingly accessible but underused creative tool for learning. Throughout my career I have also advocated consistently for more European films to be made, distributed and exhibited for children, especially in the UK, and especially films that feature girls as central characters.
I’ve become a member of ECFA because I am keen to ensure that my research is informed by those making film for children, as well as film exhibitors and educators and those who work with children to make films. I hope my membership will help to build strong links between academic research, teacher education and the work of ECFA members.
I am currently researching the ways in which children’s films are differently defined internationally and would be keen to hear from any ECFA member who might be prepared to be interviewed about their own understanding of what makes a children’s film distinct.