Film-Making in Spanish

By Dr Owen Williams

The film-making in Spanish option, as part of A-Level Spanish, would seek to combine study of the Spanish language and culture with the study of film form. The option would centre around the creation of a five-minute documentary film, which each student would complete as their final summative assessment. Spanish film texts and the formative work of other students would also be considered throughout the option, in order to inform and interrogate the study of film form within Spanish-speaking themes and contexts. Students will be required to narrate their films in Spanish, have a Spanish speaker or a Spanish topic as the subject of their film, use Spanish-language assets in their films and demonstrate a written understanding of Spanish through the creation of subtitles.

Currently the AQA Spanish A-Level contains the following papers: Paper 1 – Listening, reading and writing (50%), Paper 2 – Writing = literature and film (20%) and Paper 3 – Speaking (30%). We propose a change to this in the form of another option in paper two: Film-making in Spanish. By making a small change to a course that counts for 20%, we could entice students – many of whom are A* students, as our survey of recently graduated A-level students shows – who intend to explore film subjects to integrate Spanish into their course of study. We would keep the literature and film options for the traditional students, but increase our student intake by actively promoting Spanish A-level as an excellent fourth option for students interested in film.

In their summative work students would, through the creation of their films, engage with Spanish-speaking subjects and organisations. In appreciation of potential difficulties in finding Spanish-speaking subjects in more rural areas, or those without strong Spanish-speaking communities, we propose that two options are available for the summative assessment: the “Retrato” track and the “Metraje Encontrado” track.

In the “Retrato” track students would choose a Spanish-speaking protagonist and produce a five-minute film with that protagonist as its subject. Students would be expected to conduct an interview of the subject in the Spanish language and to use that interview as the basis for the final film. In the creation of this work, students would be expected to engage with the language of film in the portrayal of their subject. Students would be expected to provide Spanish subtitles of their film. Students would be encouraged to engage with Spanish language teachers, Spanish or Spanish-language community centres, Spanish-language cultural/arts centres, Spanish-language businesses or business groups, Spanish-language religious or charity groups and Spanish-language educational centres in order to find their subjects.

In the “Metraje Encontrado” track students would choose a topic from the wider Spanish A-Level and produce a five-minute found-footage film with that topic as its subject. Students would be expected to collect, collate and present Spanish-language assets in the documentary film. Students would be expected to have at least two minutes of their own Spanish-language narration within this documentary film. Students would also be expected to engage with the language of film in the portrayal of their subject and to provide subtitles for their film.

Ahead of the creation of these summative assignments, students would be expected to complete a number of formative exercises. These exercises would work to provide the students with the requisite film-making skills for the completion of the summative work. These formative exercises would be weekly tasks that the students would be expected to complete and bring to the class for round-table analysis the following week. These would include a one-minute self-portrait, a two-minute film of a protagonist, a 30-second exercise around conflict through editing, a one-minute film of a process, a two-minute film of an atmosphere of a place and a one-minute film created from found-footage.

An exemplar lesson in the film-making in Spanish option would include round-table discussions to consider the students’ work from the given exercise of the previous week. In these discussions students would be encouraged to critique their own film-making practices through comparison and discourse. These lessons would then introduce the week’s exercise through the study of a Spanish film text. Later in the option there would be time to work on the pre-production of the final summative film.

We believe that by offering more optionality within a new Spanish A-Level we can increase take-up of the subject, as well as providing a clearer path from A-Level Spanish to the specialisations within Modern Languages courses in universities. We believe that film-making in Spanish would provide a way to integrate Spanish and the study of film form and do so in a way which would provide a diverse set of skills that students would be keen to develop through further and higher education.

If you like the sound of this option, please let us know. Whether you are a Year 11 GCSE student considering an A-level in Modern Languages or an A-level teacher or university lecturer specialising in Modern Languages, please fill in the survey, which follows this article. 

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