Category Archives: short film

The best of April Fool’s Day

If you’re looking for something a little fun and are dealing with technology, the media or the environment, you might like to try out one or two of these April Fool’s videos with your students. They are not only fun but they will also provoke interesting discussions:


Google Nose (2013) is linguistically quite tough in places, but all students will be able to follow the general idea. Although it is meant as a bit of fun, the technology is being developed and scientists are looking into how “electronic noses” could actually be used. The following blog post on the Washington Post contains a few ideas and the students could then find out more on the Internet.

The Google Nose homepages for Germany and the US also shed some interesting light on intercultural differences: The headline on the US page was “Smelling is believing” (a twist on the saying “Seeing is believing”), but the German version had the somewhat plain and simple “Suchen und riechen”. The students should discuss why a different approach might have been chosen for each country and whether they think this was appropriate or not.

Guardian Goggles (2013) was a take on Google glass and shows how the media could influence our everyday choices. Although it is tongue-in-cheek, the students could discuss how much of what is presented is, in fact, possible (with smartphones, etc.).

Google Cardboard Plastic (2016) Google’s latest ad pokes fun at our obsession with seeing everything through special lenses and could either be combined with the Guardian Goggles above or with the following photo (a crowd of people watching an event through their mobiles and one old lady actually watching it directly) that went viral last year. It raises an interesting question of how we actually experience what is going on around us. You’ll find more suggestions at Louise’s Teaching Tips on the website where you can download the pdf “Mobile phones, social media and me” with links and teaching ideas.

The BBC video Penguins (2008) was so well-produced that many people were left wondering whether it was true or not. It is a short documentary-like clip about a special colony of birds that migrate to the Amazon each year to escape climate change … In addition there is short behind-the-scenes video Making of Penguins that shows how they managed to get the birds to fly.

Have fun and do send me your favourites!

Immigration to the UK

Seeking refuge

When I spoke in Hamburg at a modern language conference the other day, I was asked afterwards whether I knew of any short films to do with immigration to the UK. After a little research, I found these two that I thought I’d share.

Juliane by Mosaic films is part of a series of animated shorts called Seeking Refuge that offers insights into the lives of five young refugees who have sought asylum in the UK. They were screened as part of Refugee Week by BBC2 in 2012. In this film Juliane tells of growing up in an orphanage in Zimbabwe, how she was reunited with her mother, and how they were eventually resettled in Britain.

The second On Migration is a short historical documentary by Asheq Akhtar. Accounts by his parents provide an insight into how a migrant from Bangladesh experiences the UK and how those experiences affect their personal relationships as well as the world around them.

I hope they prove useful.




Mankind is no island

Mankind is no island

Mankind is no island was shot entirely on a mobile phone, using signs found on the streets of New York and Sydney. The three-and-a-half-minute short film, directed by Jason Van Genderen, deals with the topics of homelessness and empathy. Its simplicity underlines a poignant message that is especially relevant today.

Before watching the film, students should speculate what is meant by the title and whether they agree with it or not.

The title is reminiscent of a famous line in John Donne’s (1572-1631) prose work Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is from Meditation XVII. He wrote it in 1624 when he was the Dean of St. Paul’s (Incidentally, it is here that Hemingway also found inspiration for the title of his novel For whom the bell tolls).

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. 

The film’s simple format is a fairly easy one for older students to replicate. Having watched and discussed it, they could create their own films about an issue concerning the town in which they live. Alternatively, they could choose to explain a (famous) quotation of their choice. They should, however, avoid speech and use signs around them or make one or two of their own to make things a little easier.