Apr 082014
 
Two boys surviving winter in Norway in a small wooden hut

Connor (Year 9)

NorthoftheSun

I first came across this extraordinary independent film at the 2014 Banff Mountain film festival. It’s won countless prizes and awards and deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. It’s downloadable at Vimeo on demand from this link. The teaser pretty much sums up the plot line…

I was curious to see how the film would be received by students of different ages and took the opportunity of an enforced absence to set it as cover. I set three simple tasks to complete after watching:

1) Where’s the geography? (Why do you think you are being shown this film?)

2) What questions do you have after watching it?

3) Sum up the film in a sentence

Collating the key words from the responses to the first question highlighted interesting variations in the way the film spoke to different year groups. Despite evidence to the contrary, Year 7  have not done any work on recycling, although the landscape project is still fairly recent in their collective memories and we did make reference to Svalbard at the start of the year. It does look as though they’ve been exposed to a degree of “greenwashing” (though hopefully not in my lessons.) Year 8 on the other hand, did weather last term, and clearly thought that the film was being shown for that reason. Year 9 have just finished a unit of work on development which included a reference to Bhutan’s slogan “Gross National Happiness is more important than GNP”  so I was very happy to see several students reflecting on the film’s references to quality of life vs standard of living.

Year 7

7nots

Year 8
8nots

Year 9

9nots

Responses to the second question were perhaps more predictable, with many students asking somewhat disappointingly what the two characters were trying to “achieve”. It’s quite telling that few students seem to be able to conceive of outdoor adventure and fun being an end in itself. Encouragingly, several wanted to know where the beach was located, which is slightly more encouraging and would make a good piece of detective work. (I found it in about 15 minutes on Google Earth)  More interesting was the student from year 8 who wondered if they could have managed without mobiles and a supermarket.

As a potential offering for the four word film review site, Ellie from Year 7 managed to be the most concise with…

“Surfing til dawn”

and Kathleen from Year 9 offered…

A truly amazing winter

nots

I’m certain that there’s a great deal of potential learning to extract from this wonderful film. Despite the prevailing orthodoxy, occasionally there is a strong argument to be had for not splitting films into bite sized chunks, and instead just give students the chance to be captivated. Whether the theme is landscapes as part of a “fantastic places” – type unit, the impact of latitude on weather and seasons,  a comparison place study, or extreme tourism at GCSE, the film has a lot to offer. I suspect it could be a good precursor for introducing the John Muir Award into a school.

If you do discover the location of the beach – do keep it a secret. I might even see you there next summer!

North of the Sun on Vimeo