Future of children’s films depends on effective government intervention, says Egyptian TV channel head Layaly Badr

Frequent traffic jams and high ticket prices are the two factors that affect the commercial viability of children’s films in the Republic of China! Costing 10 USD per ticket, the films are inaccessible to children, while traffic jams mar even the remaining chance.

Nevertheless, children’s films are commercially and otherwise a successful enterprise in China thanks to the opening up of the economy way back in 2002 and the proliferation of children’s TV channels, said Hou Keming, president of China International Children’s Film Festival and a jury member at the 18 International Children’s Film Festival.

Speaking at the Open Forum on the topic, ‘Role of State: Arab, Asian Children’s Films’, as part of the festival here on Sunday, Mr. Keming said private enterprise in Chinese cinema had brought in tremendous change, with production of children’s films rising ten-fold. State and central governments, however, subsidise over 50 per cent of the production cost.

The discussion oscillated between two totally divergent viewpoints about the role of the State in the making and distribution of children’s films.

Egyptian TV channel head Layaly Badr, for one, was vocal about the importance of the State’s role in promoting children’s films. After the Arab Spring, countries such as Egypt are enduring the result of neglecting children’s media altogether, as government channels have stopped broadcasting children’s programmes. Hosni Mubarak’s wife Suzanne Mubarak had patronised children’s films earlier, and with her, the films also are gone now.

“It is as if the revolution has killed the children. Children’s films are not for pure entertainment, as they are important for building an open mind,” Ms. Badr said.

Sannette Naeye, an entertainment professional from the Netherlands, differed, saying that direct contact with the State resulted in control, either overt or felt. In Europe, culture is not in the hands of the State. Rather, the State releases funds to independent bodies, which in turn fund filmmakers. With almost all Dutch children having access to the Internet, their reach to information and entertainment has grown tremendously.

“We can’t prepare children for our future. We have to prepare them for their future,” Ms. Naeye felt.

CEO of Children’s Film Society India (CFSI) Shravan Kumar, too, favoured encouragement to private producers even as stressing the role of the State. On framing a policy on State intervention in the distribution of children’s films, Mr. Kumar expressed helplessness, as it was not a Central subject.

However, learning from its only experience of distributing a children’s film, ‘Gattu’, CFSI is now planning to link multiplexes and schools so as to make it a commercially viable venture. Films made by children, too, will be screened at municipal schools across the country, he announced. The interactive session was moderated by Curator Monica Wahi.

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