Film History – Week 6


I want to take a moment to tell parents to please preview any film listed here before letting your children watch them. Some of the films this week deal with mature themes and may have images that you do not want your children to be exposed to. Thank you.

1. Read The Young Oxford Book of the Movies p. 28 – p. 33. In your notebook answer the following questions:

a. Explain what the “superspectacle” movie was like and name the American director these films influenced.

b. What did WW1 do to the movie-making business in Europe? Which European country saw their film industry prosper during this time and why? Plan a family movie night to watch Hugo if you haven’t already seen it. It is wonderful!

c. Germany created a production company in 1917 to “raise the standard of German films.” What was this company called? What Expressionist film did it make, and how did this film use light?

d. What famous discovery did Murnau make? What about G.W. Pabst? Their discoveries went on to influence Hollywood? Can you think of any films where you have seen these techniques?

e. What influence did Surrealism have on the film industry?

f. Contrast Soviet Montage with Sergei Eisenstein’s editing. Explain the Kuleshov Effect. Teens may want to read more about it here.

Optional: Continue working on your film history timeline for your wall. Add in important dates and figures and films from your reading. You can get some ideas here. Also if you are interested in the UFA read more about it here.

This week’s viewing:

1. Watch the full movie of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

2. Watch a short clip from The Last Laugh and notice the ending where the camera acts as a performer.

3. Older teens might want to watch this short explaining the influence Salvador Dali and surrealist art had on Un Chien Andalou.

4. Finally you should read more about Battleship Potemkin and it’s restoration at TCM. Battleship Potemkin is such an important film in film history, so please take the time to watch the whole film and think about the editing during the Odessa Steps sequence. The acting, editing, and propaganda are still very powerful today. To learn even more about the film please visit Wikipedia.


If you or your student is enjoying this time period and these wonderful films, you should check out European Film Gateway which has a wealth of information available for everyone.

Next time sound comes to the movies!

Film History – Week 5

Buster Keaton, one of the great stars and filmmakers of the silent area.

1. Read The Young Oxford Book of the Movies p. 24 (from Enter the Genre) – p. 27. In your notebook answer the following questions:

a. What were the most popular genres of the time? Are these genres still around today? (If you are interested in the different genres or a specific genre see pages 72 – 129).

b. Who founded United Artists?

c. What was the Hay’s Office? Do we have anything today that is equivalent to this?

d. Explain the star system? Who were some of the major stars of the silent era?

e. “The sudden decline of silent filmmaking has no parallel in any other art  form.” (p. 27) Explain.

Optional: Continue working on your film history timeline for your wall. Add in important dates and figures and films from your reading. You can get some ideas here.

2. Visit Britannica for kids and read more about this time period in cinema. Also watch this short on Buster Keaton at Britannica.

3. Read a short history of the MPAA here.

There are so many great films to watch from this time period. I encourage you to explore YouTube, Netflix, and other sources to find some full length classic silent films to watch with your children. Here is a great list of the top 100 silent films for your reference.

In the meantime here are some clips to watch from a few of my favorite silent films:

Harold Llyod in Safety Last

Buster Keaton in The General

Charlie Chaplin eating a boot in a famous scene from The Gold Rush

And here is one of my favorite clips from the Thief of Bagdad

Next up in film history sound comes to the movies!

Film History – Week 2

Week 2: Movie Cameras and Projection

1. Read Oxford Book of the Movies p. 16 -19.  You should be able to list several advancements and inventions that led to the birth of the movies. In a notebook write a short summary on William Dickson and the Kinetoscope and Louis and Auguste Lumiere and their Cinematographe projector. Answer the following questions:

Black Maria

a. What was the Black Maria and why was it important?

b. What miscalculation did Edison make in the early years of film developtment?

c. What was George Eastman’s roll in all of this?

Optional: Create a film history timeline for your wall. Click here for an excellent resource on important dates in film history.

2. Visit EarlyCinema and read through the wealth of information there.

3. Watch the following videos:

This one is Muybridge’s famous horse sequence.

Here is one of William Dickson’s kinetoscope films.

The next film has no sound, but I included it because it recreates the kinetoscope.

Next watch these early films by Auguste and Louis Lumiere, including the film The Sprinkler Sprinkled. Why was this particular film such a hit with audiences?

Finally, the last clip is of a short film made by Dickson. It was the first attempt at a sound film ever.

Film History – Week 1

I am putting together a film history course for Truffaut this year, and I thought I would share it on here. I majored in film studies in college, and I am very excited about Tru’s interest in film and about studying film together.

I have spent a good deal of time searching for a spine to use for our study of film history, but I have not found a solid film history book for children that I would want to use. There seems to be a major gap in this area in regards to kids, which I find surprising given our media-rich world. I would think film history would be a great topic for children to learn, but there just does not seem to be that much interest in it.

I did pick up The Young Oxford Book of the Movies a few years ago, and although I don’t feel it is the perfect book for our studies, it will do. There is much I like about the book, I just don’t care for the way it is organized. It does cover the history of film though, so we will be using it as a guide. In addition I will link web pages, videos from you tube, and Netflix films to watch. This, along with some projects that will be assigned, will make up the bulk of our studies.

Week 1: Precursors of Film

1. Read Oxford Book of the Movies p. 10 -15.  You should be able to list and talk about the earliest forms of picture shows, such as shadows thrown on  a cave, puppet shows, the diorama, and the magic lantern. You should also be able to explain the importance of  optical toys to the history of film. In a notebook define persistence of vision and write a short summary of your reading. Optional: Research one of the men and their inventions talked about in the reading. Read this Wikipedia entry on precursors to film.

2. Watch the following videos.

It is important to note that music was very important to these shows. Music and the moving image have been connected since the earliest times, and this idea has persisted through the years.

You can read more about magic lanterns here.

Please note that in the video above the man mistakenly calls the device a zoetrope. It is not a zoetrope but a thaumatrope.

This video illustrates a zoetrope. You can read more about a zoetrope here.

Finally, here is a short film of an early flip book.

Project for the week: Make your own Thaumatrope. You will find the directions in the book on page 14. Here is a video of a dragon thaumatrope that someone made.

Or make a Phenakistoscope.