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Show and Tell: Short Vision (1956)
Introduction Music History Film & Media Studies English  
image from Short Vision (1956)

This film will complement any study of the Cold War, whether in Year 9 or as part of GCSE and A-level studies. It does contain some graphic imagery, so teachers are advised to watch it before using it in class.

A Short Vision is a perfect example of the significance of context when analysing historical sources. Students may be used to interrogating images and photographs - even film - in terms of their provenance, but an animation such as this offers a rare and novel way in to thinking about what film, especially fiction, can tell us about the period in which it was made.

You might want to start by asking students to focus on the visual clues in this disconcerting allegorical tale - the strange missile shaped 'it' that appears in the opening sequence of the film, for example. Why might the animators have chosen this particular shape? There is also the narration to consider. Is it significant that the 'it' goes unnoticed by the majority while the "leaders and wise men" see its arrival? Who might these "leaders and wise men" be?

Alternatively, the film could be used as part of a broader exercise. Screenonline contains a number of films - fiction and non-fiction - that deal with nuclear issues. Why not ask students to explore the site for other films that reference atomic warfare (The March to Aldermaston (1959), The War Game (1966), The Jellyfish (1974), Protect and Survive (1976)).

This could form the basis of a compare and contrast exercise that evaluates two films' relative utility or reliability in terms of telling us about public attitudes towards nuclear technology and the proliferation of nuclear arms between the 1950s and 1970s. This might be extended into an investigation into the different advantages and disadvantages (even relative merits) of fiction and non-fiction as historical sources.

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