Can Cinema Save the World?

This month we welcome our new ISJ student intern Matthew Peyton who kicks start his first blog post with a consideration from his area of expertise- the world of film.

I am a recent graduate from York St John University, where I studied Film for my undergraduate. I wanted my first blog post to relate to a subject I already had knowledge in and one that I was deeply passionate about. This just so happened to be about a project I worked on as a student-as-researcher during my final year. After working on the project and seeing how far it has come, I believe that this echoes the message of the ISJ and also speaks to the students of York St John University in showcasing how creativity and social justice together produce important dialogues and opportunities for action.

I was recently invited to the film premiere for the short film ‘The Cost of Living’, followed by a Q&A with the project leads and the director of the film. The film was commissioned by the Yorkshire Film Archive, by York St John University’s Cinema and Social Justice Project, a project co-run by Dr Martin Hall, Dr Lauren Stephenson and Dr Steve Rawle. The film explores the theme of socio-economic justice in the north of England, looking at poor housing, food prices increasing and other issues that still affect so many in the UK today.

I was part of this project as a student-as-researcher, working alongside my lecturers and the Yorkshire Film Archive to provide a student perspective. I recounted my own experience studying film at A-level, explaining why a project like this matters, not just to film studies, but also how film can contribute to all sorts of subjects.

During the Q&A, the panel explained how they wanted to show the film in further education institutes, to students who are studying media or film, or even those that aren’t, to encourage young people to think about the way cinema can change the world and possibly invite them to study film and media at university. When asked about the possible other uses for the film, the panel explained how they wanted to use the film to create more opportunities for students and young people within Yorkshire and the North East. Steve Rawle explained how they planned to create a filmmaking competition and would use the film to inspire young filmmakers to make films that deal with similar issues of social justice. By doing this he hoped that it could open up opportunities for young people in the region who want to get into filmmaking but cannot travel to London to pursue these aspirations.

This focus on students and young people in the project prompted me to ask the panel whether they had made a conscious effort to represent students and young people whilst editing the film. The director of the film, Graham Relton, explained how they made the film with students in mind as an audience. This was affirmed by the featuring students’ protests throughout the film, while images of poor housing, and the issues of rising food prices and heating, are all things that many people, including students, can identify with.

Whilst the project explores social justice, and how film can be used as a tool to analyse these issues, the identification with students is interwoven throughout the project. From the plan to take the project into schools to develop understanding of what film can do to tackle important issues, to creating filmmaking competitions that provide new opportunities for young people. The Cinema and Social Justice Project communicates the belief that students and young people are the ones that can make change within society.

The work of the Cinema and Social Justice Project, like the ISJ, aims to address the inequalities and injustices that still effect our society. Though the project has only just started, the work that they have done so far is immense. From the ‘Cost of Living’ film to the recently published blog page the project is steadily growing with the content they are creating. Be sure to check out the Cinema and Social Justice webpage. Here they post updates about the project and where you can submit blog posts to the project to have them published. You can also see where the project goes next with their Twitter page which can be found @CinemaJustice.