Taking Wonders to the Margins: delivering community cinema workshops within marginalised communities in Chile
Young filmmakers dressed as the Lumiere Brothers welcome the audience to a screening of their film
Taking wonders to the margins (Maravillas al Margen)
Alicia Vega is a Chilean film scholar, educator and outreach worker. In 1985 she initiated a series of cinema workshops within highly disadvantaged communities across Chile, which sought to provide younger children with early, formative understandings of cinema. Over the next 30 years Alicia and her team of instructors delivered hundreds of workshops across the country. Illustrated with photos, examples of the children's work, and testimonials from participants, her article is a rich and intimate account of how film can be used within community learning and outreach programmes.
“The main achievements of the workshops certainly include that children experienced an increase in their self-esteem, developed their creativity and learned some fundamental values, such as working in a team. But our main objective, which was fundamental to us, was that the children had a good time.” - Alicia Vega
Key points to explore
Vega’s workshops consisted of weekly sessions where children watched films and then undertook various arts and crafts activities which were designed to break down the mechanics of filmmaking for them. This later developed into practical filmmaking sessions where they wrote, acted and filmed their own short films.
Vega introduces readers to the workshop methodology, particularly its focus on the history of early cinema and screen pioneers such as the Lumiere Brothers and Charlie Chaplin. Other topics covered in the article include:
A detailed description of the arts and crafts activities which were designed to explore the history and mechanics of creating moving images, including the recreation of nineteenth century optical illusion toys such as zoetropes, the ‘magic roll’ and kinetoscopes (pp. 196-197)
Vega's pedagogical approach - her belief of treating everyone equally, allowing the children a large amount of autonomy, and her solution to behavioral issues (pp.201-205)
A discussion of the funding difficulties the workshops faced, including a frank overview of the economic hardships experienced by the local communities (pp. 205-215)
A description of the films that were shown to workshop participants and their reactions to them (pp.216-221)
Ideas for the classroom:
Creating thaumatropes is a simple yet effective way of introducing learners to the concept of 'the moving image’ in its most basic form. The Norris Museum provides free downloadable resources and video instructions of how to create your own thaumatropes and kaleidoscopes: