From Granton to Paris

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Fri 14 Jul 2017

From Granton to Paris

On Wednesday 7 June I set off to Paris with some of the friendliest, most enthusiastic and talented filmmakers I’ve ever met; the Granton Primary School Film Club. We have been working with Granton Primary since October 2017 on our film education programme Understanding Cinema, which is affiliated with the Cinematheque Francaise Cinema Cent ans de jeunesse. This year the school agreed that their students could have the opportunity to present their final film at the Cinematheque in Paris, joining hundreds of other young people, teachers, filmmakers and project managers. And what a time we had. 


Resplendent in their royal blue 'Granton in Paris' hoodies, the fourteen young filmmakers from Granton were excited, if a little nervous when I met them at the airport. Although some of the group had never flown before they were all in good spirits and well supplied with all manner of snacks and sandwiches – a group after my own heart. Ms Donnelly and Ms Whelon had coordinated the trip and we were also joined by filmmaker Jamie Chambers and translator Alasdair Satchel. All the children took the journey to Paris in their stride, full of excitement and curiosity.


Our first full day in Paris saw us up early and at the Cinematheque by 9am. Close to Bercy Metro the Cinematheque Francaise is an impressive building set in the Parc de Bercy by the Sienne and offers a regular programme of classic cinema, often presented by visiting filmmakers from around the world. On Thursday 8th June all of the filmmakers were under 18 and they really had come from all over the world - Brazil, France, Portugal, Lithuania and the UK. The excitement was palpable as we gathered in the cinema for our morning screening and we were delighted that our first film came from Legsby Primary in Lincolnshire. Inspired by The Red Balloon their accomplished film told the story of a boy remembering himself as younger child wandering the streets of Lincoln and it was accompanied by a 'making of' film which revealed their filmmaking secrets, including the tricky street scenes and a spinning camera. The other standout films came from Finland, Portugal and France and the Q&A for each film was very lively as the young filmmakers asked  how films were made, why decisions were made etc.


Lunchtime gave the children time to relax and play in the park alongside their peers. The afternoon arrived and Granton’s short was scheduled as the penultimate film of the day. It had been a long day for the young people with so many films to see and discuss, and so many languages to navigate. We used iPads to connect the children with Alasdair’s live translation as the whole day is conducted in French with non-French films subtitled into French. Finally the lights dimmed and Granton’s film See You Tomorrow screened to an auditorium of 700 young people, teachers and filmmakers. The film tells the story of a young girl, Khadija, who suffers at the hands of a racist bully, but finds escape through dance and movement. The audience loved it, breaking into spontaneous applause midway, and booing the line ‘"go away black girl”! By the end the audience were cheering and clapping along with the soundtrack. The universal theme of the film and it’s fresh delivery connected with young people from France to Brazil, Finland to Portugal. It had been the hit of the day.


Alain Bergala, who created the Cinema cent and de jeunesse programme asked the first question at the Q&A and commended Maggie for her bold, hand-held cinematography. In a world where technology makes it easy for almost everyone to create beautiful images, he noted that the immediacy of the camera work in this film brought audiences closer to the characters. The young people answered questions from their international peers and took the accolades in their stride. 


The Cinematheque day ended with a picnic and play in the park for the Granton children and teachers, and a meeting with the Cinemathque team for Alasdair and I. Again Bergala praised the Granton film, which was very pleasing for all involved. While we melted in our stifling meeting – too many people in a tiny room  on a hot day – the Granton group played quidditch with the other children. Soon after we retired to a nearby restaurant with our colleagues/ peers from Legsby Primary School for dinner. The end to a very productive day. 


On our final day in Paris we took the opportunity to see some of the sights. Ms Whelon and Ms Donnelly had smartly decided that the quickest and safest way for a large group to do this would be on an open-top bus. We caught the bus to Gard du Nord and from there we strolled along to Opéra to catch the bus. It was a very hot day and the children were tired from the day before but everyone was in great spirits and excited to see and experience Paris. We stopped on the way to Opéra for lunch – fantastic pizzas – and on the way the group got a sense of how big and busy Paris is. The bus tour was fantastic, whisking us past the Louvre, Notre Damnes, Champs Elyeese and, of course the Eiffel Tower. While our time didn’t allow us to join in, we saw lucky people taking the zip wire off the Eiffel Tower, something we all agreed we would do next time. 


There was also ice cream, souvenir shopping and crépes before we headed for the airport and home. We are so proud of what the children achieved. As organisers we were relieved that the trip had passed without incident and everyone had enjoyed themselves so much. I know that the memories or the trip with stay with me, the other adults and the children for many years to come. 


The end of our journey with Granton this year ended this week with their final public screening of See You Tomorrow and the three other films the film club made as part of the project. The children had presented a different film, In My World, at Edinburgh International Film Festival on 23 June, along with young people from Leith, Glasgow, Dundee and Carnoustie. On 28 June parents and carers were invited to attend a special screening at Granton Primary School of all four films made during the project. As a little nod to Paris we were served coffee and croissants - and chocolate spread of course! We saw the photos taken during the trip and then settled down to watch the films again. Khadija, the lead actress in See You Tomorrow, hadn’t been able to attend the Paris trip so it was extra special for her so see the response to her bold, brave performance. Needless to say, it was a triumph! 


CMI thanks the Understanding Cinema tutor Jamie Chambers, translator Alasdair Satchel and the teachers Avril Whelon and Aoife Donnelly, who all worked so hard to make the project and the Paris trip such a success. Thanks also to Headteacher Shelagh Dow who believed in the project, her staff and her students enough to agree to the Paris trip. No other Edinburgh Primary school has taken a group to Paris so we appreciate the commitment of Mrs Dow and the support of the City of Edinburgh staff who advised her at every stage of planning.

Nicola Kettlewood

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