Let us be sure about what we are talking about here. This is not an article examining films that have been made from books or their less common cousins, books made from films. That is another story – as it were – altogether. It is more about the relationship between, say, poetry and film – a relationship which is reciprocal.

For example there is a certain inspirational zeal that inspires the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival to offer a significant prize for the best film based on a poem – the prize is awarded to the filmmaker whose use of verse in film opens new artistic vistas and inspires children to a deeper appreciation of poetry.

It is also about a collaboration between filmmakers and writers which leads to the adaptation of short, previously published texts – poetry or short stories – resulting in either very short ‘poem-films’ or dramas based on short stories. The result is an interpretation rather than a retelling of a story using another medium.

Ideal classroom material
The use of these media are ideal for using in the language classroom for two fundamental reasons:

  1. they are short and can thus fit into demanding syllabus timetables without much problem;
  2. the combination of visual images and audio presentations together with text driven activities provides a satisfactory range of stimulus for the most jaded student palate.

Most teachers immediately realise the effectiveness of introducing stories or poetry by using visual stimulus. After all, we have been using visual props to teach language for a long time. This form goes beyond a simple back up process of ‘see and hear’ reinforcement. Because of the collaborative nature of the process and the communicative purposes of both the writer and the film maker, the student can also take part in the creative process through comparative analysis, perhaps, or further creative stimulus on the part of the student. At the very least this powerful combination should provoke stimulating discussion.

Locating resources
The British Film Institute has a section for teachers and students (BFI Education), within which can be found a book and DVD 'Moving Shorts' (ISBN 9781844572403) which are designed to enhance students' grasp of a wide range of literary concepts as well as promoting their media literacy. Useful essays include Stacey Harwood’s ‘The Well Versed Movie’ and ‘Poetry Movies: A Partial List'. Further inspiration can be gained from Sadho, a voluntary organization that aims at taking great 'poetry to people' from all walks of life through the innovative use of arts, media and social action. There is also the BFI's screenonline website with education pages containing numerous lesson ideas, starters and plenaries as well as some short films on media literacy.

Some enterprising poets have released short films to go with some of their poems, usually made in conjunction with a film or TV company.  For example, Benjamin Zephaniah’s powerful ‘Rong Radio’ is available to download.

In the UK one of the pioneers of collaborative poem-films and short story-films is Comma Film, part of the Comma Press publishing company. They offer free downloads of films and poetry, with both poets and film makers coming from the North West of England. 

Your sources
While the links mentioned above are only a small selection of what is available, if you have a link that is worth sharing, then please add a comment below and let us know!

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