Generation Next – Calgary International Film Festival

The Cause

Calgary International Film Festival's GENERATION NEXT is a groundbreaking program - the first of its kind in Canada - to engage high school students directly in all aspects of the film festival experience. Local high school students preview and select the films for the GENERATION NEXT program, with some guidance from the CIFF Programming team. The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) identified a need for increased visual literacy and critical thinking in an ever-evolving world of new media and digital-based communication. Specifically, CBE research shows that students in provincial Grade 12 diploma exams do not exhibit sophisticated visual literacy skills - the ability to critically understand and interpret images and messaging conveyed visually. GENERATION NEXT directly emphasizes and impacts the development of these skills by providing the opportunity for critical analysis. CBE assisted in creating subject-specific reference documents used to guide discussions about the films the students viewed. The program provides the unique ability to remove barriers for students who struggle with written forms of literature, creating an alternate path to success with an educational experience based on a visual medium, and offers innovative ways of learning that appeal to technology-driven and screen-driven youth.
The 6 films chosen by the student previewers play during the Festival, with daytime screening field trips in 2018 and 2019 for school groups, and additional screenings open to the public. This year, to encourage safe practices and minimize risk for students, we will be offering the GENERATION NEXT films to teachers and students as online screenings they can watch at home, and will be offered as a pay-what-you-can model, to ensure that all students are able to participate. Providing the films in an online forum allows us to reach out to rural schools who wouldn't normally be able to attend at the cinema in Calgary.
GENERATION NEXT encourages innovation by actively including the voices of Calgary’s youth demographic. Despite many films being made about teenagers, very few programs include films chosen by teenagers. These screenings expose students to films they would otherwise be unlikely to view. By including youth-specific films in CIFF, and by ensuring their accessibility to students via subsidized pricing, CIFF communicates that film and visual arts are for everyone.

Who Will it Benefit?

The program benefits Alberta high school students, offering them an opportunity to increase their visual literacy skills. Students are able to view films and on-screen experiences that are completely new to them. In the previewing sessions, students often remarked how many “firsts” they experienced:
- First time watching a subtitled film
- First time watching a film from Quebec, Asia, or South America
- First time watching an independent film in a movie theatre.

We offer a unique experience for students to witness alternative perspectives & cultures, consequently fostering empathy towards others. We hope that these students will eventually grow into well-rounded adults who continue to enjoy, invest, and participate in the arts of our city – and will one day take over the leadership role in continuing to involve other generations into expanding their horizons culturally, creatively, and communally.