Festival In the end, the children had a blast

Little Maria is sick, homebound and has to be at the mercy of her new baby sitter after her parents leave to work. The baby sitter, dressed in a flowing gown and dark shawl, is queer enough to eat a wasp! Maria's friend suspects her to be a witch who came to take away Maria's little brother. The audience that comprised children, young mothers and film enthusiasts at Screen One, Prasad's multiplex, watched intently as the girls test to ascertain if the baby sitter is a witch in the Swedish film, A Witch in the Family. “Chaala cheekatiga undhira,” screams a boy, breaking the silence. A group of primary school children totter in, school bags on their backs, trying to find their way to empty seats. One whispers loudly to the rest of the bunch, “Stay left; hold on to the wall and walk down.” Another continues, “Yes, left; left, right, left” and rest of them giggle. Normalcy returns in a few minutes.

The recently-concluded International Children's Film Festival made news for both right and wrong reasons. Regulars knew not to expect professionalism associated with film festivals abroad. Foreign dignitaries wore a diplomatic smile at the glaring irregularities. An Indian jury member lamented, “You cannot control children from making noise or running around the hall. But, as a jury member, it was tough to stay focussed and take down notes.”

If you turned a blind eye to the madness at the media centre, the festival was a fun zone for children. The spot light was on them. Some queued up to get temporary tattoos of Gajju, some had their fill of ice creams and others smiled, waved and screamed heartily when the electronic media focussed on them. A few young moms used the opportunity to expose their children to international films, often whispering the dialogues in an informal story session.