KS5 Curriculum

Year 12

At the very beginning of year 12, we immediately immerse our students in the cultural importance of film in 20th/21st centuries by analysing a range of critically acclaimed films in order to introduce genre and narrative theory and to present how the ‘micro’ elements of film form (cinematography, editing, sound, mise-en-scene and performance) contribute to a film’s overall aesthetic and support the ‘macro’ elements of narrative and character in order to enhance spectator understanding of a film’s messages and values. From the beginning, we emphasise that film is an important medium because films reflect the social, political and historical contexts in which they were made. 

We believe this introduction to the course is essential in order to provide our students with a firm basis which will underpin their understanding of each component of the film course and is absolutely vital in building their confidence when utilising the language of film and challenging them to think sensitively and critically about how directors deliberately shape a spectator’s emotional response to a film through both macro and micro features.

From the start, students are encouraged to develop a critical, academic style in their written responses. We aim to deliver a KS5 curriculum that challenges students to think critically, through regular class discussion of the set films, while their awareness and understanding of key concepts is regularly tested through both formal and informal assessments which help identify gaps in knowledge. Lessons are sequenced so that students have the opportunity to repeatedly practise  key analytical skills in their writing, consolidating their understanding of essential film terminology and techniques and how to  successfully apply this knowledge to the film texts.

In terms 2, 3 & 4 of year 12 our students cover - US Film History in which they study The Gold Rush  [d. Charlie Chaplin, 1925], All That Heaven Allows [d. Douglas Sirk, 1955] & E.T. [d. Steven Spielberg, 1982] and Contemporary British and US Film in which they study Star Wars: The Force Awakens [d. J.J. Abrams, 2015] and Ex-Machina [d. Alex Garland, 2014]. 

We have specifically chosen these two sections of the course because they work cohesively, enabling students to analyse the more mainstream, commercial set films within the course and covering genres and styles with which the students should be familiar. Building on from term 1, both these components require understanding of narrative and genre and how micro elements contribute to a film’s aesthetic and its messages and values, whilst also consider context, representation and production values. 

In terms 5&6 students will also be introduced to the different modes of documentary – (poetic, expository, participatory, performative, reflexive, observational) through watching various critically acclaimed documentaries in preparation for studying the documentary theories of John Grierson and D.A. Pennebaker. This is designed to ground them in understanding how documentaries construct meaning in a way that is distinct from narrative films and the various ways in which documentary filmmakers convince the spectator (including use of micro elements) to believe they are being presented with a truthful account. The documentaries chosen for preliminary study, not only to provide examples of different modes, but also to engage the students in relevant, topical debates or subjects which relate to other parts of the film course (for example “The Social Dilemma” explores the effects of social media upon the individual, while Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine”, exploring US gun laws, directly relates to Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” which is studied in year 13 as part of the “Ideology” unit). This introduction to documentary is therefore designed to provide a firm foundation for the detailed study of the stand-alone set documentary film 'Man on Wire' part of the “Critical Approaches” paper which will be undertaken in term 6. Again, the firm foundation the students have in analysing micro elements in the first part of the course is essential to their understanding of how meanings are shaped in non-fiction films.

In addition to this, from term 4 onwards, students will begin preparation for, and implementation of, their coursework, which consists of 30% of their overall grade and which takes up considerable time, as the students will be producing either a 10 page screenplay (accompanied by a 20 frame digitally photographed storyboard of a key section of the screenplay) or shooting a complete short film of 4-5 minutes duration. Students will study various OCR prescribed short films as preparation, specifically designed to develop the students’ knowledge and understanding of narrative in short film and how it functions so that they can subsequently apply this knowledge to their own storyboard or short film. By this point in the course, students will be confident in drawing on their knowledge and understanding of how micro elements contribute to spectators’ understanding of narrative, genre, aesthetics and messages and values taught in the first terms.


Year 13

In addition to the ongoing work on their coursework, in Term 1 of Year 13 students will begin their study of European Film History. This consists of studying 2 experimental, surrealist films – 'Un Chien Andalou' & L’Age d’Or as well a set French New Wave film. This, more challenging aspect of the course, will draw upon their knowledge of film aesthetics, auteur theory and narrative and genre conventions taught in Year 12, showing students how experimental and surrealist films reconstruct films, often subverting conventional narrative structure.

In tandem with this, students begin the “Ideology” section of the ‘Critical Approaches to Film’ paper. This is essentially the synoptic unit, in which students build on previous learning to study three thematically linked set films in order to investigate their social, cultural, political, historical contexts. Building on from comparing 2 set films in the ‘US and European Film History’ and  the ‘US and UK Film Production’ components, in this section of the course students will compare three films - 'Elephant' , 'The Babadook' & 'Y Tu Mama Tambien' - with reference to the way they shape and have been shaped by ideology. This enables students to draw on knowledge taught earlier in the course, including genre and narrative and how micro elements create meaning for the spectator, whilst encouraging them to further develop their understanding of representation and how each films’ messages and values have been influenced by their social, cultural, political and historical contexts. Students will be challenged to polish  their analytical written skills, already honed when exploring the comparisons between two films, by now comparing three films.

In terms 3, 4 and 5 we revisit the set films, identify gaps in understanding and to ensure that key knowledge and relevant subject terminology is thoroughly embedded. During this period students have ample opportunity to undertake written assessments, specifically fine-tuned to target individual weaknesses and concerns. Regular live marking of essays and practice will enable students to grow in confidence and mastery of the various question styles in order to fully prepare them for summer exam.