With mainstream commercial movies dominating the market there is little space for children’s films

The 10th edition of the Madurai International Children’s Film Festival is on. It opened with a workshop on ‘Understanding cinema’ for the students at TVS Matriculation Higher Secondary School on Friday. Classics such as The Cinema Ticket and The Red Balloon were screened and students were briefed about the importance of friendship. The focus of the festival this year is on the camaraderie of children playing games together, their unbridled enthusiasm and innocence.

The Cinema Ticket is a German movie of 1970s about how a young boy who understands the significance of hard work to earn a movie ticket. The Red Balloon is an award winning French film that speaks about friendship and it’s usefulness in difficult times.

Though the language spoken in the movies is foreign to these children, they have understood the essence of the film. “Cinema as a visual medium has got its own language and does not need any dialogue,” says R.S. Rajan, festival director.

These two films are not only for children but also for the elders. The different layers of meaning have made these movies all time classics. They are also valid documents on the social life of that period. The school and teachers disciplining students shown in The Red Balloon exist even today but only the environment has changed.

There are not many modern day films that focus on these topics and parents revel in showcasing their child as a superhuman being. “Modern day children are more into chatting and playing games on computers and mobile phones leading to health complications at a young age,” he rues.

Dearth of films

There is a dearth of children’s films and not many come forward to make one due to commercial non-viability, regrets N. Rajkumar, drama teacher. “Children in modern day movies reflect only the views of adults and they are not on their own. Their visual experience and creativity are entirely different from what is shown,” he says.

In the name of education, children are more directed towards academics. Crushed between peer pressure and parent’s aspirations, many children break down. “Children are fast losing their childhood. With juvenile crimes on the rise, it is high time that we stop this rot,” says R. Chinnaswamy, police officer.

Film clubs can be started in schools and students should be encouraged to become members. Regular screening of good children’s films will make them more responsible, suggests Rajkumar.

Children’s films are not only for entertainment but also to streamline their thoughts and creativity, says Rajan, who is also the vice-president of Federation of Film Societies of India. He will be screening movies in more than 100 schools in the city.

Under special package, the festival will showcase ‘Our Gang’ a series of 74 films, each of 25 minutes duration taken between 1922 and 1939 in United States. They call this group of films as ‘Little Rascals’ as they are short films focussing on creativity of children.

Under the Retrospective section, films of Marcell Jankovics (Hungary), Bryan Forbes (United Kingdom), Kaneto Shindo and Hirokazu Koreeda (Japan) will be screened.

The festival also pays tribute to film makers Antonio Bird (United Kingdom) and Michael D. Moore (United States) by screening their movies. Contact Rajan for free screening of children movies in schools at 9443062444 or 9965990708.

Films to watch:

November 16: Feherlofia (Son of the White Mare, 1982), Hungarian fairy tale directed by Jankovics Marcell.

November 17: I Was Born, But… (1932), Japanese film directed by Yasujiro Ozu.

November 18: Treeless Mountain (2008), South Korean film directed by So Yong Kim

November 19: Whistle Down the Wind (1961), British film directed by Bryan Forbes.

At Open air theatre, Victoria Edward Hall, 6 p.m. daily.