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Film Classics for the Classroom

July 18, 2003

A team of representatives from the world of film has agreed on a list of films it says are essential to the education of German school children. It aims to incorporate the medium into the official school curriculum.

The German government wants to make cinema an integral part of childhood education by screening classic films.Image: illuscope

Until recently, film was not a medium common in German classrooms.

That may change soon. This week, the Federal Center for Political Education (BPB), with the help of a few of Germany's top film directors, presented a list of films to be included in the German curriculum next year. With the list, the center wants to incorporate the world of film as a permanent element into German school education and hopes to make school children familiar with "a medium that like no other has influenced the culture and everyday life of modern people," BPB President Thomas Krüger said on Wednesday.

Essential for education

"Although film is the medium of the 20th Century, it still hasn't been recognized properly as such in schools, as is the case with literature," Thomas Krüger said. The film canon is the result of a congress in March titled "Film Goes To School" during which both educational policy makers and representatives from film companies and cinema associations agreed on the need for the introduction of film in Germany's school curriculum.

Der Herr der Ringe II
Lord of the RingsImage: AP

This week, a commission made up of people and personalities from both the world of film and politics including directors Tom Tykwer and Volker Schlöndorff, got together in Berlin to discuss the issue and decide on those films thought essential for children's education. The jury members described the process as a difficult task and one which proved particularly difficult for modern films made in the past decade -- only two were included.

No action, please

The film canon as it stands now is to include both German and international movies. The list runs the gamut from all-time classics such as Charlie Chaplin's "Gold Rush" (USA 1925), Orson Welles "Citizen Kane" (USA 1941), Federico Fellini's "La Strada" (Italy 1954) to more unconventional, yet highly acclaimed movies like Martin Scorcese's "Taxi Driver" (USA 1975) and "Alice in the Cities" by German director Wim Wenders (Germany 1973). All 35 films on the list were selected "as particularly suitable for making children familiar with the various forms and content the medium film."

Schüler üben die neue Rechtschreibung
Image: AP

Although the list covers almost 100 years of film history, there is a noticeable absence of action films and light, modern-day movie hits. "Not every film which is the talk of the town is suitable for education," Krüger said on Wednesday. Recent blockbusters such as "Matrix" or "The Lord of the Rings" (photo), which attracted worldwide acclaim alone due to their usage of new computer technologies, do not belong to the list. To choose action films like "Matrix" would be absurd, said Alfred Holighaus, who directs the German film program at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Classics still relevant

"In the classics there is much to be discovered which is still relevant today," Hans Helmut Prinzler, the Director of the Berlin Film Museum, said. Whether Laurel and Hardy and "Gold Rush" will stay on the list, however, remains to be seen.

The selected films will now be debated by the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Culture Affairs of the German States, the body responsible for national education curriculums, and in an open debate planned later in the year. In autumn, the body will make its final decision on which films teachers are required to screen with their pupils.

The following films are on the list:

"Battleship Potemkin" - Sergei Eisenstein, Soviet Union 1925

"M" - Fritz Lang, Germany 1931

"Nosferatu" - F.W. Murnau, Germany 1922

"Gold Rush" - Charlie Chaplin, USA 1925

"The Wild Child" - Francois Truffaut, France 1969

"Taxi Driver" - Martin Scorcese, USA 1975

"La Strada" - Federico Fellini, Italy 1954

"The Bridge" - Bernhard Wicki, West Germany 1959

"Vertigo" - Alfred Hitchcock, USA 1958

"Dr. Strangelove" - Stanley Kubrick, USA 1964

"Emil and the Detectives" - Gerhard Lamprecht, Germany 1930

"The Wizard of Oz" - Victor Fleming, USA 1939

"The Jungle Book" - Wolfgang Reitherman, USA 1967

"Where is the Friend's Home?" - Abbas Kiarostami, Iran 1988

"Stagecoach" - John Ford, USA 1039

"To Be or Not to Be" - Ernst Lubitsch, USA 1942

"Germany, Year Zero" - R. Rossellini, Italy/Germany 1948

"Breathless" - Jean-Luc Godard, France 1960

"The Apartment" - Billy Wilder, USA 1960

Laurel & Hardy - (film still to be selected)

"Rashomon" - Akira Kurosawa, Japan 1950

"Blow Up" - Michelangelo Antonioni, Great Britain 1966

"The Marriage of Maria Braun" - R.W. Fassbinder, West Germany 1978

"Stalker" - Andrei Tarkovsky, Soviet Union 1979

"Sunless" - Chris Marker, France 1982

"Citizen Kane" - Orson Welles, USA 1941

"Shoah" - Claude Lanzmann, France 1985

"Night and Fog" - Alain Resnais, France 1955

"I was Nineteen" - Konrad Wolf, East Germany 1969

"Alice in the Cities" - Wim Wenders, West Germany 1973

"The Ice Storm" - Ang Lee, USA 1997

"The Sweet Hereafter" - Atom Egoyan, Canada 1997

"All About My Mother" - Pedro Almodovar, Spain 1999

"Blade Runner" - Ridley Scott, USA 1981