As many of you may be taking snow days at home and planning your lessons and extra-curricular sessions in the run up to Christmas, I thought that an overview of FilmClub’s Christmas Season might prove helpful to you. The films are from all over the world, and I’ve included summaries below so that you can see the more interesting themes that they deal with (loss, crime, evil scientists..!)
Film Club is completely free to join (details at the end of this post).
8 Women (15, France)
The eight women in question – played by some of France’s most famous actresses, including Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Huppert – are members of an extended family, plus their servants, gathered together in a large country house at Christmas, with one (or maybe several) of them responsible for the murder of the owner. The film is part mystery, part musical and part comedy, as well as an excuse for the actresses to look glamorous and have a good time – proving that not all French ‘art’ films take themselves too seriously. Voiced in French, subtitles in English
A Christmas Story (PG, USA)
Ralphie is an excitable and charming 9 year old growing up in 1940s America. It’s Christmas time and he is desperate to get his mitts on a much-coveted model gun. Despite being turned down by a wonderfully incompetent department store Santa, he won’t give in – his heroic daydreams make sure of that! At the heart of this nostalgic comedy is Ralphie’s eccentric and endearingly recognisable family life. His father, ‘The Old Man,’ is the film’s hidden gem – a victim of comic misfortunes who remains resolutely determined to smile on regardless… at least until Christmas is over. Fun, silly and imaginatively told – this is a delightfully entertaining festive tale.
Christmas Story (PG, Finland)
When his parents die, young Nicholas isn’t just looked after by one or two people – everyone in his village cares for the boy. And to say thanks, every Christmas he sneaks around the village leaving presents for all the other children. Can you see where this is going? As he grows up, Nicholas decides he doesn’t just want to give gifts to the people in his village – there are many more people to make a happy… a whole world out there, in fact. A sweet seasonal film from Finland. Voiced in Finnish, subtitles in English.
March of the Penguins (U, USA/France)
The amazing documentary captures the remarkable journey the Emperor penguins of the South Antarctic make every winter. The birds in their thousands leave the ocean and embark on a twenty day walk to a place so harsh, no other life from exists there. Enduring blizzards, gale force winds and with only their instinct to guide them, the penguins finally reach their breeding ground to mate. But the journey of life does not stop there as they demonstrate sheer endurance and will power to make sure that their young survive.
Jack Frost (PG, Russia)
When you think of movie fairytales, what will probably come to mind first is the likes of Disney’s Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But classic fairytales can come from other sources too – like the wonderful Jack Frost, adapted from an old Russian folk legend. The story here follows the adventures of the boastful Ivan – who meets the beautiful, shy Nastenka in the woods but, after he foolishly tries to impress her, is turned into a bear. Can the arrogant Ivan win back his real identity and Nastenka too? The answer lies in this magical and memorable movie from Russia. In Russian, with English subtitles.
The Christmas Toy (U, USA)
Did you know that toys still play in the playroom when there’s no one else around? But they have to be careful not to be caught by a human, or they’ll be frozen forever! This story of the mischief toys get up to on Christmas Eve was made by The Jim Henson company, so if you’re a fan of Henson’s work with the muppets, be sure to check it out.
The City of Lost Children (15, France)
The City of Lost Children is a fantasy film that delights its audience visually and thrills them with its story. Evil scientist Krank doesn’t have the ability to dream, so he kidnaps children in order to steal their dreams – and to uncover the secret to eternal youth. Once kidnapped, the children live in a bizarre city far out to sea: The City of Lost Children. When Krank’s henchmen kidnap young Denree from his guardian, strongman One, he must find a way to get away from the evil scientist and his strange family. A wonderful French film full of imagination and life. Voiced in French, subtitles in English.
The Hebrew Hammer (15, USA)
A spoof for film lovers, packed with movie references, in-jokes and gags. When Hannukah comes under threat from Santa’s evil son Damian, who wants to make Christmas the only holiday, the Jewish Justice League hire a private detective known as the Hebrew Hammer to save the day. He seeks the help of the Kwanzaa Liberation Front to restore the holiday balance in the ultimate battle between good and evil. A clear homage to the blaxploitation genre, this film includes more cameos and stereotypes than you would think possible.
Tokyo Godfathers (12, Japan)
Fans of Studio Ghibli, will know that Japanese animation excels at the fantastical, but this anime from Satoshi Kon also shows skill at handling modern real-world problems. Homeless trio alcoholic Gin, runaway Miyuki and transvestite Hana, have been brought together by their unfortunate circumstance. When they find a baby on the streets of Tokyo at Christmas, they decide to return it to its real mother – but completing their good deed isn’t as simple as they imagined. Voiced in Japanese, subtitles in English.
Trading Places (15, USA)
As the result of a bet between two wealthy commodities traders, the lifestyles of a street hustler (Eddie Murphy) and a blue-nosed employee (Dan Akroyd) of the brokerage are reversed. The innocent victims of the bet scramble to make it in their new foreign environments, with hysterical results. Once they discover the switch played on them, they set out to exact their comic revenge on the execs, played by the grand old actors Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche.
FILMCLUB is an education charity which provides films, online tools, resources and support to help schools and youth organisations set up extra-curricular film clubs. This is completely free to state-funded schools, or independent schools and youth clubs can join for a yearly fee, and includes a LOVEFiLM DVD account, the screening licence if you don’t already have one, and full access to the FILMCLUB website where leaders can manage their club and choose from over 4000 films, and students can write and publish reviews. If you’d like to sign up, just head to www.filmclub.organd click on ‘Join FILMCLUB’, fill in a few details, and you’ll be invited to an introductory session to get you set up.
In addition, Filmclub has their own Network within Radiowaves which means schools in the Radiowaves community can contribute film reviews, add their own mini films and even get the chance to interview some stars of films. Radiowaves schools can also set up their own Filmclubs within their schools and post anything they do via this Network. Take a look at the Network www.radiowaves.co.uk/filmclub