If, like me, you were born in the 1970s (or earlier), you had the opportunity to see the birth, development, and coming of age of the use of filmic material in education, from its first steps at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s to the present day.

If, on the other hand, you belong to a later generation, you are aware that audiovisuals are a basic part of the training apparatus, in the same way as texts (print or digital) and experiential exercises.

Whether you belong to one or the other group, I would like to go over together the essential stages of the history of the use of filmic information material, partly out of nostalgia, partly to try to reflect on its present use and begin to consider how it might further evolve in the immediate future.


The difficult, timid first steps: "Cinema is an invention without a future" (in a formative sense)

Brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière, entrepreneurs and amateur photographers, in 1895 created and experimented with what they thought would become a great support for scientific research and the dissemination of knowledge, the cinematograph. Given the results, legend has it that Auguste sentenced, "cinema is an invention without a future."

Given what happened, everyone always laughed at Lumiere's "shortsightedness" but, at least as far as scientific dissemination was concerned, he was partially right: indeed, it was not until the 1930s (with the rise of sound cinema) that educational films and documentaries became a truly common product. However, it is common knowledge how quickly this film material lost its appeal to the general public: by the 1950s, the educational film was already synonymous with boredom and uselessness.

It is necessary to wait until the 1980s for someone to speculate that precisely narrative and spectacular cinema may have, in and of itself, considerable educational potential. It was during this period that some high school professors-and some organizational trainers-proposed the viewing of certain films as "stimulators" of thought and reflection. Of course, we are talking about "arthouse" films, works unanimously considered worthy of attention, at least on an artistic level.

It so happened that at the beginning of a training course or, in the case of off-site training, at the end of the classroom day we would lock ourselves in a room and, in "appropriate" movie theater darkness, watch a film that would be discussed that evening or, alternatively, at the opening of the next training day.

The film was used exclusively in an "exemplification" mode: after the viewing, the teacher emphasized the behaviors acted by the characters, depending on the objectives of the training, were to be commented on or severely criticized (Varchetta, 2011). This was a kind of "cineforum" with didactic rather than hermeneutic goals.

Accustomed to long and tiring days spent listening to trainers, the participants reacted well to this new modality, which stimulates specialists in the field to further explore the potential of the tool: during the 1990s, a considerable body of studies is produced that certify the value of film material as an emotional activator and cognitive stimulant(Ghislieri, 2006). At this point, trainers feel empowered to develop alternative modes to simply watching a film....


A star is born!

A first thought that is quickly arrived at is that, no matter how beautiful and interesting, a film cannot be presented in its entirety: apart from the length, which would steal too much time within an educational course, there are many scenes in a film that, relative to the educational objectives, are just distractions.

Thus, the work needs to be "manipulated" and adapted to the goals of education (Cortese, 2014)

 These different uses require different professionalism on the part of the trainer: if the "cineforum" mode did not require much preparation, either of the material or of the trainer - a completely "plug & play" tool - the four types of use require "treatment": once the DVD of the chosen film has been purchased, the scenes must be selected, cut, edited and a minimum of an introduction prepared in order to "frame" the film and present the clips that, made to be seen "cold," might be unintelligible and even out of place in a training course.

In addition to sensitivity to organizational issues "found" in films, the trainer must then create a path of meaning and have the technical ability to turn it into a video.

This does not mean that all trainers at the turn of the century have become experts in the handling of film material but, more simply, that the clips, equipped with their "instructions for use," become as much a part of the trainer's equipment as the scripts for role-plays and structured exercises.

And so, as has already happened with some exercises (who among us has not participated in a discussion related to the list of objects in "Shipwreck"?),some scenes have become great classics repeatedly (ab)used such as, for example, Al Pacino's "inches" speech in Every Damn Sunday (M. Scorsese, 2000).

On top of that, the trainers faced hostility from filmmakers and critics who were strongly hostile to "butchery."

It so happens that, starting in the second half of the 1990s, film material entered the toolbox of almost all trainers on a permanent basis.


It's the ShowBiz Social Media baby!

The first years of the new Millennium saw the stabilization of the tool, the achievement of its maturity and, therefore, its evolution with the emergence of a new mode of audiovisual enjoyment, Social Media.

We saw how movies had "eliminated" educational films and documentaries in the early 1980s, and no one expected this mode to "resurrect." Instead, thanks to the emergence of YouTube, around 2007 the prestigious foundation that organizes and runs Ted Talks opened its free-access channel bringing back the "descendants" of educational films: these are short lectures (from 20 minutes to an hour) given by both major figures and "emerging" personalities from different disciplines, all sharing an effective communication strategy.

Ted Talks then enter the trainer's "toolbox" alongside the film material, used to introduce/explain themes and concepts within training tracks.

It must be said that, in recent times, the use of this material has been scaled back because, in the opinion of several trainers, relying too much on these lectures can give the idea of devolving the teaching objective of the course to this material, giving the idea of a certain "laziness" of the lecturer with respect to his role.

Other milestones include 2010 and 2014, the birth years of Instagram and TikTok, respectively, the Social that greatly expanded the audience of new "authors/interpreters." The user interface of these apps provides trainers and participants with a recording and editing studio to create films with educational value "on the spot": from simulations to the creation of dissemination material related to the company's principles and values, participants simultaneously become authors and users of self-produced film material.


That's all Folks! (for the time being)

I close this article by contradicting the article's subtitle: today we can no longer speak of "film material" given the multiplicity of sources and forms that this training tool has taken. Using the old-fashioned (but more accurate) designation of "audiovisuals," trainers today use stories, reels, and TikTok as teaching tools (or media) in addition to films, TV series, and web miniseries.

Despite the variety, the key to this teaching mode continues to be the mix of emotional and cognitive impact: the combination of images and sounds has, on the human mind, a stimulating effect for reflection and memory.

While waiting for the next evolution-perhaps the long-awaited virtual reality that will allow full immersion in a totally "manipulable" environment-we will continue to watch movies, series, and social looking for scenes to use in the classroom.





Cortese, C., (2014), "Cinema." In Quaglino, G. P., (ed.), Training, The methods. Raffello Cortina, Milan.

Ghislieri, C., (2006), "Cinema for learning: a brief review." In Quaglino, G. P., Piccardo, C., (eds.), Scenes of Leadership. Raffaello Cortina, Milan.

Piccardo, C., Quaglino, G. P., (2006), "Introduction." In Quaglino, G. P., Piccardo, C., (eds.), Scenes of Leadership. Raffaello Cortina, Milan.

Varchetta, G. (2011), "Training re-enters cinema: chronicle of a five-year period." In Di Giorgi, S., Forti, D. (eds.), Training with cinema. Franco Angeli, Milan.