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Show and Tell: No Arks (1969)
Introduction Art English History    
image from No Arks (1969)

GCSE and A-level exam papers make frequent use of political cartoons to test students' capacity to evaluate and analyse sources and so No Arks - drawn and directed by a renowned left-wing political cartoonist Abu - is an ideal film to use to develop these skills. Better still, it offers a chance to compare the ways in which different media, in this case images and moving images, can be exploited for political purpose.

Why not start by asking students to think about what they know about political cartoons in general. Where are they published? What do they associate with political cartoons - ie. satire/comedy/exaggeration? How might they define a 'political cartoon'? It might be best to structure this discussion around a contemporary political cartoon or an older example by Abu himself (full name Abu Abraham) who drew for the Observer in the 1960s. This should lead into a more focused discussion about the utility of political cartoons for historians. What might future historians be able to learn from contemporary political cartoons? What are the limitations of political cartoons as historical sources?

Having teased out some of the issues, watch the film through. If you are not using the film as part of a larger study of the Cold War era, you may also wish to set the scene for students - giving them some information about the political climate in the late 1960s, in particular the tension and mistrust between East and West as well as the campaigns against the Vietnam war and nuclear proliferation (both of which the narrator, Vanessa Redgrave supported).

What are students' initial responses to the film in terms of its style and tone? Do they think the film has clear message or political point? Why do they think that Abu chose to use the biblical tale of Noah's Ark? Why does Abu introduce another Noah and what is the significance of the fact that he is Oriental? Are there any other points of particular significance - such as the birds transforming into planes?

This sort of exercise can lead up to a traditional writing exercise in which students analyse the interpretation driving the animation or evaluate the film's utility and/or reliability in response to a particular question. However, it might also be good to explore some of the similarities and differences between the static image and animated film as historical sources. Why not challenge students to 'un-animate' the film - can they reduce it into one static image along with a caption of their choice to convey the same message? What tools does a filmmaker have that an artist does not - (for example, the ability to add sound) - and how does that impact on the nature of their products?