CFI Education Program


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CFI Education Blog

The blog is the best way to keep up to date with our many programs. Check there for photos and videos of recent events, advance program announcements, and more. Go to our blog page

Turning the Theater into a Classroom

Film has the power to inspire, to educate, to entertain, and to create community. CFI Education is building the next generation of filmmakers and audiences through our groundbreaking visual literacy programs. These programs use film as a personalized educational tool, promoting openness and a sophisticated worldview, and expanding classroom topics across borders and disciplines.

Working closely with 200 Bay Area schools and community groups, CFI Education presents the following educational programs to over 4,000 students per year:


Public Enemy CFI Education: Our flagship year-round program (approximately 50 programs annually), offers free screenings with visiting filmmakers and subject-matter experts to area school groups. Programs are created with public and private school curricula in mind, often in coordination with participating teachers and community leaders. Some of the topics addressed include racism, poverty, religion, the law, activism, war, and the environment.
(in photo: Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale with Dutch director Jens Meurer speaking after the film about the history of the Panthers, Public Enemy)

We also have a new partnership with one of the premiere documentary production companies ITVS and their Community Cinema series, a monthly preview of films to be broadcast on PBS’s Emmy Award winning series Independent Lens. These films will be open to school screenings monthly at the Smith Rafael Film Center and will be accompanied by teacher classroom guides.

A Place in the World: a yearlong curriculum that guides two groups of 100 high-school students from diverse backgrounds around the Bay Area through a series of carefully selected international films that address universal coming-of-age issues.

(in photo: Director Kerri Lee Green talking to students about her film on teen pregnancy, Bellyfruit)

The Young Critics Jury: a crash course in critical thinking, filmmaking, film festivals and film curating for 20 high-school students, a smaller group who then go on to curate a selection of youth-produced films from all over the world to be screened during the Mill Valley Film Festival.

My Place: is an intensive five day workshop taught during school vacations which targets at-risk youth recruited by local social service agencies. Each participant learns basic filmmaking and writing skills in order to produce their own individual 3-5 minute film about themselves, their friends, their family and their place in the community. The process emphasizes empowering the participants through storytelling. Finished films are shown to the community at a “world premiere” movie theater screening for family, friends and peers.

Teacher Workshops: CFI Education and a committee of Bay Area educators create two workshops each year. One workshop is designed to showcase Mill Valley Film Festival films that will be shown free in both schools and at the Smith Rafael Film Center. The other is a professional development workshop. Past workshops have included “How to Read a Film”, “Animation in the Classroom” and “Teaching Digital Storytelling”.

Filmmakers Go To Schools During the school year, CFI Education brings local and international filmmakers into school classrooms with screenings of short films or film clips by the filmmakers. Teachers and students have the opportunity to participate in discussions with the filmmakers about the subject matter or about the filmmaking process. Classrooms include schools from grade school to college levels.

(in photo: Canadian Director Mitra Sen speaking to students about her film, Peace Tree)

School Screenings at Mill Valley Film Festival Every year in October, CFI Education hosts free screenings of films from the internationally lauded Mill Valley Film Festival. Eight to ten films are chosen from the hundreds of films in the festival for these school-time screenings. In most cases guests are available for Q&As and teacher guides are provided. In cases where schools have no money for buses, CFI provides a limited number on a first-come, first-served basis.

(in photo: Tibetan activist Ame Adhe and director Rosemary Rawcliffe of the documentary, Women of Tibet)

Build Your Own Film Program a pilot program designed by CFI Education’s Teacher Workshop Committee. It empowers teachers to design a program with the help of CFI Education’s resources that would extend a part of their curriculum. This cooperative opportunity for teachers and administrators is designed to create lasting partnerships and encourage programs that are more than simply field trips. In Winter 2010 the first program was designed as collaboration between CFI and teachers from the Galileo Program at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, California and focused on international poverty. Events are held at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, CA.

(in photo: Sir Francis Drake High students during the Poverty Forum event at the Rafael Film Center)

The Annual Environmental Youth Forum Incorporating an all day film festival with tabling by environmental groups and with small-group workshops, the EYF focuses on the difficult questions facing this generation around the environment, pollution, global change and possible solutions. Films and discussions are geared toward the more challenging issues and helping people to educate others about these issues. All three of the Rafael Film Center’s screens show continuous films throughout the day and teachers are provided with electronic study guides with hundreds of live links for resources, video streaming and previews of the films to be seen.

Open Online Resource Center The Online Resource Center is slated to go “live” in the Summer of 2010. It will create an open source for teachers, wherever they are, to recreate the A Place In the World experience with study guides, student Q&As and a more in-depth Q&A that will be companions for the chosen films of both that year’s A Place In the World and past program’s films. In addition, CFI Education will publish a “how-to” for the A Place In the World program, providing guidelines for a successful program. Ten years of CFI Education study guides and teacher guides will also be available online as the year progresses.

Community Cinema CFI Education screens at least one specially chosen film each month for schools as an addition to their curriculum. Just added this year, a new intergenerational monthly screening, where CFI Education combines schools with senior citizen groups. The intergenerational screenings are in partnership with documentary producers ITVS and PBS’s Independent Lens series. Each of these screenings combine films with guests who may be in the film, have directed the film or experts who can comment on the subject of the film. Many of the schools-only screenings have a prepared teacher’s guide for use in the classroom before or after the screening.

(in photo: Bob Cilman and Steve Martin from the Young at Heart Chorus, subjects of the British documentary Young at Heart, speak after a screening of the film)

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What You May Have Already Missed!

  • The thought-provoking Weather Underground with speakers Bill Ayers (co-founder of the Weathermen) and director Sam Green
  • The dynamic The Education of Shelby Knox with women’s rights activist Shelby Knox
  • The rousing German film The Wave with the teacher who inspired the film, Ron Jones
  • The touching Autism: The Musical with film subject Wyatt Davidson and director Trisha Regan
  • The inspirational Women of Tibet with director Rosemary Rawcliffe and former political prisoner Ahme Ade

And it was free.


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CFI Education
1001 Lootens Place, Suite 220, San Rafael CA 94901
T 415 526 5813 E