Are movies an art form or a language? 

Lessons in film making and film literacy


This project contains new lessons in filmmaking and film literacy for elementary students.
The paper has two parts, first it deals with the concept of “film literacy” and secondly it presents the new filmmaking lessons. In 2020 the document Icelandic Film Policy from 2020 to 2030 was published, a document that among other things deals with the total reconstruction of film education in Iceland.
In the Icelandic version of the document the passage concerned with elementary education says that the plan is to teach “image and media literacy”.
The concept “film literacy”, a concept prominently used in documents leading up to the Film Policy, is nowhere to be found. A likely explanation for its absent is public focus on problems concerning new technologies. But in leaving out the concept “film literacy” in a chapter that shapes the future of elementary film education we run the risk of making film education about analyzes of video and not the enjoyment of films.
Film theory is traditionally divided into three different schools of thought; “films as art or as recreation”, “films as reality” and “a contemporary film theory or a phenomenological way of thinking about films.” These three different ways of thinking about films suggest, in my opinion, that it is important to teach films in a diverse manner.
In the second part of the paper I present new lessons in filmmaking and film literacy for students in elementary school. These are recipes for 15 diverse lessons in filmmaking, planned so teachers that don’t have a formal background in films or film education can teach them. The lessons don’t have to be taught in a sequence, as most of them can also be taught as single lessons.
I believe that teaching filmmaking is a very effective way to get students interested in films as an art form, as well as it helps them to understand the rules of visual storytelling.
The paper ends on a report of my experience teaching two of the lessons to students in fifth and sixth grade. 
I want to thank Guðrún Helga Jónasdóttir for the conversations, Aníta Ómarsdóttir for letting me try out the lessons, Ester Rós Björnsdóttir and Gunnar Theodór Eggertsson for proofreading and reflections and my instructor Vigdís Gunnarsdóttir.


Hallur Örn Árnason
hallura [at]
Advisor: Vigdís Gunnarsdóttir