Language: Translation and Interpretation

Arrival
Arrival

Film as a visual medium communicates ideas that can be understood beyond words. In this selection of films we explore characters who find themselves in situations where they have to push the boundaries of what words convey to discover what is truly meant.  

Looking at interpretation, where characters attempt to understand and explain what each other are saying; to translation, where the written word is analysed for its various meanings to different people; this list explores how communication can transcend barriers.  

The Good Dinosaur

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration101 mins

The Good Dinosaur(2015)

Prehistoric adventure about a lost young dinosaur who must have the courage to face his fears and find his way home.

A young dinosaur who is out of his depth, along with a boy he’s supposed to consider a pest, discovers that despite not having a shared language they have a lot more in common than it might at first seem.

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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration115 mins

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial(1982)

This heart-warming family favourite about an alien stranded all alone on earth contains some of the most magical scenes in movie history.

A small alien whose left behind on a seemingly hostiel earth finds a friend in Elliott, a young boy who E.T. can understand as a friend. Serving as E.T.’s protector, and even attempting to teach him speech, the two share a special and unique connection.

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Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes (Kirikou and the Men and the Women)

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration88 mins

Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes (Kirikou and the Men and the Women)(2012)

Gorgeous, striking animated feature that follows the resourceful and heroic Kirikou; a small child living in a village in Africa.

In this collection of films that celebrates the power of storytelling, Kirikou and the villagers encounter a mysterious lost boy from another tribe. Looking different and speaking another language, at first the villagers are suspicious- but Kirikou finds a way to uncover the boy’s story.

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Doctor Dolittle

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration85 mins

Doctor Dolittle (1998)

Eddie Murphy is the eponymous doctor who suffers a bump to the head that gives him the ability to talk to the animals in this hilarious remake.

A doctor who, as a small boy had the ability to speak to animals has his special skills restored to him after a bump to the head – much to the bemusement of the humans around him! Although there’s plenty of comedy to be had in his new predicament as the privileged ear to animal concerns, Dr Dolittle also gains new sympathy for his four-legged friends.

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Une Vie De Chat (A Cat in Paris)

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration62 mins

Une Vie De Chat (A Cat in Paris)(2011)

Enchanting and thrilling animation about a Parisian cat with a double-life.

After a traumatic incident, Zoe loses the ability to speak. However, through her closeness with her cat Dino she slowly recovers the ability to communicate.

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The Iron Giant

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration86 mins

The Iron Giant(1999)

Superbly animated adaptation following young Hogarth's discovery of a colossal, friendly robot, and his plight to protect him from government agents.

When a huge, destructive robot finds its way to a small town, Hogarth Hughes is the only one who’s not afraid. Instead, he steps up as the Iron Giant’s protector, and struggles to make the huge robot understand that he must not be seen by those who think of him as a threat.

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Escape To Witch Mountain

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration91 mins

Escape To Witch Mountain(1975)

Fans of a certain boy wizard by the name of Harry might enjoy this classic Disney sci-fi drama about two telepathic children.

Twins Tony and Tia have the very special ability to communicate with one another through telepathy, but there are some who wish to exploit the orphans’ special powers. However, luckily for them they can see through the bad intentions of others, and can call on their wise pet cat Winky for advice.

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Arrival

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration116 mins

Arrival(2016)

An alien spacecraft lands on Earth, leading the military to recruit an expert linguist to try and gauge if they come in peace.

A tense situation unfolds when alien spacecraft arrive on earth with no clues as to their intentions. Approached by the military to engage the extra-terrestrials in communication, linguistics expert Dr Louise Banks finds herself in a race against time to gain understanding before the misapprehensions arising across the globe turn to action.

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English Vinglish

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration128 mins

English Vinglish(2012)

Miscommunication is the theme of this sweet and simple comedy in which a foreign trip sets an Indian housewife on a journey of self-discovery.

Snubbed for not being able to speak English, which is a sign of social status where she lives, Shashi decides to enroll in language classes to empower herself against the slights.

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Italian for Beginners

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration110 mins

Italian for Beginners(2002)

United by an Italian class, six lonely people in small-town Denmark learn not just a language, but a commonality of their hang-ups and desires.

In a remote town, language learning and discovering the ability to express themselves in a different way gives a group of lonely people a new sense of connection to one another.

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La Famille Bélier (The Bélier Family)

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration101 mins

La Famille Bélier (The Bélier Family) (2014)

French comedy about a girl with an amazing singing voice who, in order to pursue her talents, must move away from her deaf parents who rely on her.

Paula is a hearing girl who helps her deaf parents run their market business by acting as interpreter for the majority of customers. When she is offered an opportunity away from home, Paula feels anxiety about how her family will cope without her as their bridge to understanding with the rest of the community.

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Moving To Mars

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration90 mins

Moving To Mars(2009)

Documentary about immigration, focused on two Burmese families who relocate to Sheffield from a Thai refugee camp.

Refugees attemp a fresh start in England, and experience the culture shock of beginning a new life in a settled place after having lived for years in a refugee camp. While there are inevitable setbacks and misunderstandings, the younger generation find it easier to adapt than their elders.

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Walkabout

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration100 mins

Walkabout(1971)

A strange and haunting story set in the outback of Australia about a lost brother and sister who learn survival from an Aborigine boy.

Despite not speaking one another’s languages, two white children find themselves dependent on an aboriginal boy when they become lost in the outback. Sharing his survival skills with them, the aboriginal boy gives the white children a greater understanding of the land, and how it connects to the people who make a home there.

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Lilting

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration86 mins

Lilting(2014)

After a young man’s untimely death, his lover and mother attempt to grieve together despite having no common language between them.

The experience of grief bonds two people affected by the loss of a loved one thay had in common. Separated by a language barrier, they are forced to find other ways of expressing their connection to the departed to one another.

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Lagaan - Once Upon a Time in India

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration215 mins

Lagaan - Once Upon a Time in India(2001)

A Bollywood-style sports film in which Indian villagers are challenged to a cricket match by the British after refusing to pay their land taxes.

Indian villagers subject to exorbitant taxes by their British rulers attempt to take back control by proposing a game of cricket. Despite being considered a quintessentially English sport, the villagers identify parallels with a traditional Indian game, which they hope will give them a chance at victory. Sport and politics combine in this game of high stakes.

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L'Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child)

CertU

Age group11+

Duration82 mins

L'Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child)(1970)

Drama about the real case of a boy found in the wild in 18th century France, unable to walk upright or speak.

This film sensitively recreates the true story of a boy who developed without language in isolation. Painstakingly coached by a professor who wished to prove a theory about the natural abilities of humankind, this is a poignant film about the inaccessibility and complexity of society’s ways.

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Project Nim

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration94 mins

Project Nim(2011)

A humbling and eye-opening documentary that skillfully enlightens our perceptions of both primate behaviour and human nature.

In the 1970s, scientists conducted an experiment to see how one of our closest biological relatives – a chimpanzee – would respond to being raised as though he were part of a human family. Taught a basic sign language, Nim was able to communicate with his adopted family – but found other ways to express his ultimate unhappiness.

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The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration107 mins

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly(2007)

Moving true story of writer Dominique Bauby's stroke, which left him paralysed except for his left eye, with which he was able to dictate his memoir.

This extraordinary film reveals how a severely injured man was able to make himself understood with the help of nursing staff, who painstakingly explored ways to attempt communication with him.

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