Il Monte di Pietà e la Sacrati Strozzi

Written by  Patrizia Segna
A brief history of the Progetto Cinema Scuola on its thirtieth birthday
The 'Cinema School Project' was initially launched in the autumn of 1976 and aimed to introduce students in Ferrara and the province to high quality cinema. There were three figures involved in this initiative, the first of its kind in Italy: the then president of the education department, Dr Giuseppe Inzerillo; Dr Alfredo Santini, the then secretary general of the Chamber of Commerce and now President of CARIFE; and Antonio Azzalli, who was at that time president of the national film makers' association (ANEC) and who provided the screening facilities. The birth of the national organisation Agiscuola in 1985 offered the Progetto Cinema Scuola in Ferrara the opportunity to work together with the new institution to foster the training of teachers and the updating of their skills.
The scheme works through grass roots contacts; each school appoints a teacher as a spokesperson to present their colleagues' requests for the film programme for the school year, with morning screenings in cinemas during school hours. Critical notes are drafted by one or more teachers or by critics from Agiscuola and are distributed to teachers some weeks in advance of the screenings for use as teaching materials. This type of programme is what makes the project different from the other projects which have been launched since. Thirty years of work by hundreds of teachers in Ferrara and the province who have thrown themselves into the project so that students can regard film studies as one of the many subjects studied at school. To introduce students to the cinema, and to encourage them to be active, critical spectators, teachers have always chosen films tackling complex themes that stimulate joint discussions. There have been numerous such courses in thirty years of activity. We will recall just a few, which by the importance of their themes and their popularity with young people have been among the high points in the Project's history. 'Meetings with the Science Fiction: 1989', a course given in the 1988/89 school year, stands out, as does 'Cinema and nuclear energy', in the 1989/90 school year. After the Chernobyl disaster three years earlier, 'clean' energy was a subject which attracted attention in many sectors, including the film industry. A three film cycle was offered which treated this theme in an interesting, accessible and visual way and in differing styles, linked to the different periods in which they were made, and illustrating historical, social and scientific aspects. The same year saw the series 'Three films between Cinema and TV' which tackled the relationship between film and television. Viewing 'Cinema Paradiso' directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, Maurizio Nichetti's 'Bicycle Thieves' and 'Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown' by the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, enabled the students to grasp the differences between these two forms of artistic expression. In the following year, staff from the Aleotti technical school ran a course entitled 'A journey through adolescence: awareness of history, comparisons with adults and the world of feelings'. The 'journey', in company with the students, used three 'means of transport', literature, cinema and theatre. The same year saw a series of films with 'Racism' as the theme, with the films 'Europa, Europa' by Agnieszka Hollland; 'Korczak' by Andrzej Wajda; and Roberto Faenza's 'Jonah Who Lived in the Whale'. '1895-1995 - One hundred years of cinema' was celebrated with 'Livia' directed by Luchino Visconti. More recent programmes include 'In other people's shoes Integration in cinema' which brought together film-makers, teachers and students to consider a current problem.
Among the Project's activities, the 'Cinema Circle' deserves a special mention. On 12 December 1983 the teachers' cinema circle was launched at the Apollino cinema, with a preview of Alain Resnais' film 'Life is a bed of Roses'. The aim of the Circle is to foster, support and coordinate the viewing of high-quality films by students. Between October and June the teachers meet each month (in the early years, at the Embassy cinema and now at the Multisala Apollo) giving them further opportunities to choose the films for the annual programme together. In recent years, students from secondary schools and universities and recent graduates with an interest in film have also taken part, and their presences ensure a constructive meeting of minds and debate. And it's to meet the demands of this young public that since last year there have been evening screenings of foreign films in the original language. The everrising numbers attending these events demonstrates the success of the choices. Collaboration with Ferrara University, which goes back to 1995, has always been an important resource for teachers participating in the project. This is shown in the significant numbers attending the series entitled 'Cinema and psychoanalysis' during the academic year 1995/96; 'Justice and the Cinema' in 1996/97; 'Cinema and Architecture' in 1997/98, 'Cinema 3 Litterateur' in 1999/00; and 'Good Evening, Doctor' from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in 2000/01.
Seminars and refresher courses for teachers have been provided in collaboration with the education department and sponsored by the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara. To get the students more involved and encourage them to play an active part, there is an annual competition reserved for students at any level in Ferrara and the province. Working individually or in groups (whole class groups in the case of elementary schools), participants produce a piece of work on one of the films they have seen through the project. The form of expression chosen extends from written work to collage, reviews and, in the last few years, work on cd rom. No less important is the Project's Recognition award which is given to figures from the world of culture and the arts who have paid particular attention to young peoples' issues. The award is presented at the same time as the prize-giving for the annual competition. Since 1976, the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara has sponsored the project and provided financial support for all its initiatives. Support from the Fondazione since 1992 has enabled the Project to expand its educational work.
The Progetto Cinema Scuola is now celebrating thirty years of work and hopes to continue to screen imaginative, stimulating and intelligent films so that young people can experience emotions, can leave the cinema moved or puzzled or amused, and preserve their dreams without forgetting the troubled reality of today. It is easier to think and to develop one's ideas when stimulated by an emotional process that draws inevitably on interest and involvement. The teachers of 2006, like their colleagues of thirty years earlier, know that if their work in the Project helps students to understand that they have two eyes to see, a personality to feel and a brain to think they will achieved their aim.