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Colours of the Alphabet

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Alastair Cole


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Publication metadata

Author(s): Cole A

Publication type: Digital or Visual Media

Publication status: Published

Year: 2016

Extent of Work: 80mins

Publisher: Lansdowne Productions and Tongue Tied Films

Type: Documentary Film

Credits: Director, Camera, and co-editor: Alastair Cole Producer: Professor Nick Higgins, Editor: Colin Monie, Music: Victoria Wijeratne, Sound: Rob Walker


Notes: Colours of the Alphabet is a documentary film-based research project filmed during 12 months in Zambia. It focuses on themes of linguistic diversity, multilingualism and the global issue of the lack of mother-tongue primary education. The wider research project also engages with documentary practice themes of multilingual subtitling, narrativisation in observational film, valuation processes in editing. The 80-minute feature documentary film at the centre of the project was directed, filmed and co-edited by the Dr Alastair Cole. It had a sold out premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival in 2016 was subsequently released across UK cinemas, and screened at film festivals internationally, receiving multiple awards. It was the centre of an international impact project and was released across Africa in 30 languages, and was screened in 40 languages at the UN in Geneva. Film synopsis: Colours of the Alphabet is an inspiring and bittersweet documentary film on language and childhood. It follows three Zambian children and their families during their first year of school. It asks, does the future have to be in English? Steward, Elizabeth and M’barak are three first-time pupils in rural Zambia. They struggle to make sense of an educational system where the language they speak at home is different from the language used in the classroom. They slowly discover that their tongue is no longer their own. Nearly 40% of the world’s population lack access to education in their own language. The film offers an intimate, moving and often humorous insight into a global phenomenon from the unique perspective of three innocent children. The film is being distributed internationally by DER, and you can see more about the film at