Raising the profile of Film and Media Education for Children and Shaping Public Discourse on Film

Submitting Institution

Nottingham Trent University

Unit of Assessment

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Martin O'Shaughnessy is widely recognised as one of the leading international scholars on the work of Jean Renoir, one of France's greatest film directors. His research into Renoir has generated a range of outputs which have enabled him to raise the profile of film and media education whilst broadening access to culture. The audience for this has been school children and cultural institutions like the Institut Français. This public impact can be tracked through the testimony of organisations that have been supported and strengthened by O'Shaughnessy's impact, and also his footprint in public debates related to Film and Media education.

Underpinning research

O'Shaughnessy has been actively researching the films of Jean Renoir since 1998. The initial thrust of his work (references 1 and 5 in section 3) was to take stock of existing research on the director and to update it in a series of important ways, looking, for example, at the important but neglected gender dynamics of his films, examining his mise-en-scène of the national, challenging reductionist accounts of the evolution of his political commitment, and drawing out the important critical dimension of his under-studied and underestimated later films.

More recently, he has built on this work in a range of ways. He has developed an in-depth study of Renoir's La Grande Illusion, combining high-level close analysis with detailed attention both to the film's intervention in a specific historical context and to its subsequent reception history. As part of his analysis of the film's genesis he discovered and discussed a draft of the film that pre- dated all known drafts (reference 2). He pursued his study of the film by discussing the originality of its use of sound compared with the other great war films of the 1930s and its important contribution to the memory of the 1914-18 war (reference 3).

By drawing attention to new sources, O'Shaughnessy's outputs effectively shared insights gathered during the process of research. This process has facilitated a direct impact on public discourse surrounding the film and ensured that the principles of public engagement have informed and shaped his work.

At the same time, building more broadly on his sustained attention to the politics of style, he has sought to correct the repeated critical over-insistance on the spatial dimension of Renoir's 1930s films. He has written about the mise-en-scène of 'deep time' in the director's great works, thus bringing out the vital links between their historical self-consciousness and their style (reference 6). He has pursued this work on the politics of style by re-examining Renoir's 1935 film, Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, reasserting the radicalism of the its political commitment and entering into debate with those who seek to downplay it (reference 4).

In focussing on French political cinema, O'Shaughnessy offerred new insights into existing works whilst stressing the rich cultural value of the cinematic text. This process of communication has extended to public discussions which have in turn fed back into his research and discussion of more modern works. By ensuring that public engagement has been strongly allied to his approach, O'Shaughnessy has augmented his own studies, ensuring they are better able to find traction within public discourse.

References to the research

Reference 1: Single authored book, Jean Renoir, 2000, 0-7190-5063-4
Reference 2: Single authored book, La Grande Illusion, 2009, 1-84885-057-3
Reference 3: Single authored journal article, `Silencing The War All The Better To Hear It:
Renoir's La Grande Illusion', Studies in French Cinema, 11:1, 2010, pp. 5-16, ISSN14715880, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/sfc.11.1.5_1.
Reference 4: Single authored journal article, `Breaking the circle: Le Crime de Monsieur Lange and the contemporary illegibility of the radical text', The South Central Review (John Hopkins University), 28:3, 26-44, 2011, 0743-6831, http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/scr.2011.0029.
Reference 5: book chapter, `Nation, History And Gender In The Films Of Jean Renoir', in France In Focus: Film And National Identity, 2000, 1-8597-3363-8
Reference 6: book chapter, 'Shooting In Deep Time: The Mise-En-Scène Of History In Renoir's Films Of The 1930s', in A Companion to Jean Renoir, 2013, 1444338536.


O'Shaughessy's Jean Renoir (reference 1) is listed as having 38 citations in other research by Google Scholar.
O'Shaughnessy's research on Renoir is extensively cited in C. Davis, Scenes of Love and Murder: Renoir, Film and Philosophy, Wallflower, 2009 and in A Companion to Jean Renoir, Alastair Phillips and Ginette Vincendeau eds, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013 (Reference 6 above). His research on Renoir is cited by all of the other six contributors to 'Re-framing Renoir', the special number of the South Central Review (John Hopkins University Press) where his article (reference 4) appears.
O'Shaughnessy was awarded £745 by the British Academy in 2006 to travel to Paris to research his book on La Grande Illusion. His work was extensively and very favourably cited in leading French film magazine, Positif (no. 67, pp. 63-65) in September 2011.
He was asked by Routledge (2010) and Continuum (2012) to review proposals for Renoir monographs. He was asked to be a reader for the manuscript of a study of Renoir's La Règle du jeu by the British Film Institute (2011). He was invited to endorse a new Renoir book by Wallflower (2009).

Details of the impact

O'Shaughnessy has contributed to a material and distinct improvement in the profile of film and media education in this country and internationally. Specifically, this impact has been targeted at schools (through film education outreach) and the general public (through his work with the Institut Français in London, the Maison Française in Oxford and international film publications). This impact has drawn directly from his research into the films of Jean Renoir in the context of French Cinema, with the reach and significance of his outputs strengthening his own ability to change perceptions of cinema and cement his impact with specific audiences.

O'Shaughnessy worked with Film Education from 2009 to its closure in 2013 and introduced films to schools audiences every year supporting their mission to champion film and present it as a learning tool and rigorous discipline in its own right. Film Education reports 1.6 million children and young people used its resources in class. Likewise, they highlight more than half a million attendees of free in-cinema screening events and festivals each year, a total of 4.4 million since the inaugural event in 1997. O'Shaughnessy presented Renoir's La Grande Illusion as part of National Schools' Film Week in 2012 with successful showings preceded by an introduction and followed by a discussion in Bristol (Watershed, 6/11/12), Birmingham (MAC, 7/11/12) and Nottingham (Broadway, 8/11/12). This followed the publication of his 2009 output, La Grande Illusion, demonstrating the subsequent reach of this original research supported by the UoA.
He was also commissioned to produce a study guide for the film (http://www.ntu.ac.uk/edu/specialist_centres/network_for_languages/document_uploads/1474 55.pdf ) that was made available to all schools in the country via the Film Education website. O'Shaughnessy's role in producing materials and speaking to non-specialist audiences about La Grande Illusion constituted an important strand of Film Education's educational mission, communicating the outcomes of his specialist research to a young audience.

O'Shaughnessy has engaged with other cultural organisations to broaden their appeal and to promote the importance of film education. The Institut Français in London is a cultural organisation dedicated to the promotion of French culture and language, guided by the French Embassy. Specific research activity is also used to broaden the audience (and hence reach) of such cultural engagement organisations through special events. These include:

  • The book launch for O'Shaughnessy's La Grande Illusion was accompanied by a public screening of the film at the Institut Français on 09/11/2009. O'Shaughnessy and Professor Julian Jackson introduced the film and took part in a Q&A session, allowing O'Shaughnessy to explain his work on the politics of style and on the broader politics of La Grande Illusion to a non-specialist audience of 150 people.
  • O'Shaughnessy also gave a talk on La Grande Illusion at the Leo Baeck Institute (London), an important centre for the study of the history and culture of German- speaking Jews, on the 18/03/2009. The talk was attended by about 30 people and followed by a long Q&A session which allowed O'Shaughnessy to engage with a non- academic audience committed to the exploration of representations of Jewishness and the public memory of anti-semitism.
  • O'Shaughnessy was invited to be a respondent at the Radical Footage: Film and Dissent day of public debate and screenings at the Nottingham Contemporary Gallery, March 2012. The audience was around forty people.
  • O'Shaughnessy gave the conference keynote (`Filming in the rubble: French film and the world of work) at the Lancashire International Film Festival and conference, 'Working life: now and then'; an open, public event, June 2010.

O'Shaughnessy's discovery of a previously unknown draft of the script of La Grande Illusion led to its publication in France accompanied by his own commentary upon it: a process of investigation leading to new insights effectively shared. This is exemplary of the contribution which O'Shaughnessy's research has made to public debate and discussion, demonstrated by the `footprint' of his research outputs in general and specialist media.

  • He delivered a paper, to an audience of about forty, at a public conference entitled 'France's mid-century crisis: 1930-1950' on 27/11/2010 at the Maison Française in Oxford. A recording is available for public access online.
  • A paper given on Renoir at the University of Warwick in 2011 was recorded and is publicly available online as a podcast.

This footprint can also be seen in O'Shaughnessy's influence on film publications internationally. Discussion of O'Shaughnessy's work in Positif, a popular French film studies journal with a circulation of 8,000, spoke of his Jean Renoir book as 'one that people had taken notice of' and his La Grande Illusion book as 'remarkable, due to both its intellectual rigour and the penetrating nature of its commentaries'. O'Shaughnessy's The New Face of Political Cinema was praised in Cineaste (a leading American film studies journal aimed at a non-academic audience with a circulation of 11,000) as "a powerful and eloquent polemic for retaining a class analysis of film." Here, O'Shaughnessy's research can be seen to be actively shaping the nature of public discussions of film, driven by the reach and significance of outputs arising from original research.

By engaging at an impressive scale with non-specialist audiences, O'Shaughnessy has changed perceptions of film and media education, as shown by enthusiastic testimonials, whilst exercising a strong impact on public discourse, as shown by his prominent 'footprint' in various media.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Testimonial letter from Head of Events and Director, Film Education: The letter underscores the way in which, through collaboration with cultural providers, public engagement and the creation of freely available pedagogic materials, O'Shaughnessy has helped raise the profile of film education while taking his own research findings to a broader audience.
  2. Testimonial Letter from the Programme Director, Nottingham Broadway Cinema: The letter shows how, through collaborating with a local cultural provider, O'Shaughnessy has contributed to film education.
  3. While it is difficult to evaluate the precise impact of cultural events on individuals, for an illustrative web review of the book launch and the Q. and A. session that followed the screening of La Grande Illusion at the French Institute, see here: http://www.eyeforfilm.co.uk/feature.php?id=747
  4. Illustrating collaboration with a public, cultural organization, and contribution to public discussion and memory, the programme for the talk that O'Shaughnessy gave at the Leo Baeck Institute can be found here: http://www.leobaeck.co.uk/wordpress/wp- content/uploads/2010/01/filmtalk_2008_2009_leaflet.pdf
  5. Providing evidence of another collaboration with a cultural organisation, and further contribution to public discussion, the recording of O'Shaughnessy's talk at the Maison Française in Oxford can be heard here: http://www.mfo.ac.uk/en/podcasts/france-s-mid- century-crisis-1930-1950
  6. Providing evidence of O'Shaughnessy's work with cinemas, schools and other cultural organisations, his introduction to and discussion of La Grande Illusion in Bristol is advertised here: http://www.watershed.co.uk/get-involved/opportunities/2012-11-09/national- schools-film-week/
  7. Providing further evidence of O'Shaughnessy's engagement with cinemas, schools and other cultural organisations, his introduction to and discussion of La Grande Illusion in Nottingham is advertised here http://www.broadway.org.uk/national_schools_film_week
  8. Providing an example of how O'Shaughnessy's work on political film played a part in broader public debates, the book review of 'The New Face of Political Cinema' in Cineaste, Spring 2009, p.89.