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Films & Documentaries for the Art Classroom

By The Arty Teacher - May 21, 2022

It’s useful to have a range of films & documentaries for the art classroom that you can turn to, to link to your curriculum or even when you want to pull a rabbit out of a hat for an easy cover/sub lesson or end of term treat. This blog post started with just 4 suggestions and has grown to the list below thanks to the suggestions from art teachers everywhere.

‘What do Artists Do All Day?’ (Free)

(Youtube) (Each Episode Approx 15Mins)

I love this series as it simply follows artists to show what they do. Students can learn about fine artists, performance artists, sculptors, comic book artists, photographers and more. Find it here.

‘Art 21’ (Free)

(A massive Collection of Films about Artists)

If you haven’t visited the website ‘Art 21′ you are in for a treat. It is art teacher heaven. You can search by artists’ name or ‘Themes’, ‘Mediums or ‘Narratives’. The only problem is that there is so much to choose from. I think I’m going to be setting a homework for my A-Level students to explore this website.

‘Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret Lahore Museum’ (Free)

If you are looking to inject some cultural diversity into your curriculum, Anwar Akhtar’s film ‘Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret Lahore Museum’ is a great starting point. This could be followed up with drawing tasks from the museums website using their ‘Collection Highlights’.  Find the film here.

‘Fake of Fortune’ (Free)

(BBC) (Each Episode 59m)

This series explores the mysteries behind intriguing works of art. Are they potentially priceless or crafty copies? Find it here.

‘The Art of the Heist’ (Free)

(YouTube) (Each Episode Approx 55mins)

Vivid reenactments show how cunning break-ins, scams, and forgeries netted millions of dollars and became front-page news. This is ideal to have up your sleeve if you have a class who you believe may struggle to concentrate whilst watching a more serious art documentary or film. Find it here.

‘Never Sorry’ by Ai Weiwei (Free)

(YouTube) (1hr 31mins)

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is a 2012 documentary film about Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, directed by American filmmaker Alison Klayman. Wikipedia. Find it here.

‘Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly Preview Series – Art at Alcatraz’ (Free)

(YouTube) (1hr)

In this preview clip from upcoming documentary Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly, director and curator Cheryl Haines recounts the moment she was inspired to organise a stunning exhibition of Ai Weiwei’s art on Alcatraz. Find it here.

The Films & Documentaries for the Art Classroom Below Need to be Bought or Rented

‘Abstract’

(Each Episode Approx 45Mins)

This series gets 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and is described as “An in-depth look into computer design and modern contemporary design with some of the world’s most highly regarded designers.” There are episodes on interior design, architecture, photography, costume design and more, which you may be able to link to your curriculum. There is a useful list here on Wikipedia where you can see what each episode covers. If you subscribe to Netflix you can find it here.

‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’

(1hr 23m)

Youtube describes this film as follows: “Exit Through the Gift Shop follows an eccentric shop-keeper turned amateur film-maker as he attempts to capture many of the world’s most infamous vandals on camera, only to have a British stencil artist named Banksy turn the camcorder back on its owner with wildly unexpected results.” Find it on Youtube

‘Loving Vincent’

(1hr 34m)

If you are an art teacher you can’t have escaped the hype about this film. Every frame is a pastiche of a Van Gogh canvas and they swirl from one frame to the next describing the artist’s last days. You may not agree with the story as it follows the theory that he was actually shot as a bizarre prank by a local bully, one René Secrétan, a 16-year-old who was tormenting poor Vincent and loved to swagger around the fields in a cowboy costume carrying a pistol. Still, if you want to immerse your students in Van Gogh this film will certainly do that. Find it Amazon Prime.

‘A Woman in Gold’

(1hr 49m)

‘A Woman in Gold’ follows the story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an elderly Jewish woman who, with the help of a young lawyer, attempts to reclaim a painting that was seized from her family by the Nazis. The painting is Gustave Klimt’s ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.’  Find it on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Google Play.

‘Waste Land’

(1hr 39m)

On the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro is Jardim Gramacho the world’s largest landfill where men and women sift through garbage for a living. Artist Vik Muniz creates portraits of the workers out of the trash and learns about their lives. Please note, this film uses the ‘s’ word. Find it Amazon Prime.

‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’

(115mins)

This action-adventure movie will give your students an insight into what an archaeologist is and what a relic and artefact are. You might perhaps need to explain that usually, an archaeologist’s life isn’t quite so dramatic and adventurous! Find it on Amazon, GooglePlay and Apply TV.

‘Monuments Men’

(1hr 58m)

True story. A World War II platoon is sent to Germany in order to rescue creative masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their legal owners. Find it on Youtube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime.

‘Tim’s Vermeer’

(1hr 20m)

‘Tim’s Vermeer’ follows Texas based inventor Tim Jenison on his journey to discover how Vermeer painted so realistically 150 years before the camera was invented. Using 17th Century technology and using lenses and mirrors, he presents theories on how Vermeer might have done it. It’s a wonderful program with a guest appearance by David Hockney. Find it on YouTube (includes a trailer), Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

Want to see this list of art films and documentaries grow?

Me too. Please get in touch with your suggestions. This list has already grown thanks to the great suggestions from art teachers.

If you have found this blog post on films & documentaries for the art classroom useful, click the image below to register so you’ll be kept informed about future posts. If you are an art teacher, registering will also mean you can download 3 of my resources that are categorised as free each month. My website has many free art teaching resources.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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6 responses to “Films & Documentaries for the Art Classroom”

  1. Kelly Milian says:

    Love this list. Thank you

  2. Tracey Hainsworth says:

    Thank you!

  3. marie J Hosker says:

    Brilliant!

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