Cinema for young minds

For kids: Stills from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982); and (left) The Zig Zag Kid (2012)  

During an hour-long chat about films and the ways in which they can be used in classrooms, Shibangi Das — one of the co-founders of Breakfast@Cinema, a consulting agency that uses film as a medium of learning and training for both children and adults — recalls an incident that had occurred a few years ago. Das and fellow facilitator and co-founder Abhinav Kandarp had just concluded a workshop at a school in Kathmandu and were getting ready to leave when they had noticed a child standing around peering at them sheepishly. He had come to say ‘thank you’, Das smiles.

A new perspective

The little boy’s classmates had finally stopped making fun of him. A screening of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) had done the trick. This nine-year-old, who had often been teased about his weight by other students and possibly even admonished at home for being lazy, she remembers, had found E.T. ugly. A few pointed questions during the workshop had led the children to wonder whether that was because E.T. was in a place where no one else looked like him and how in fact any of them might have been regarded had they landed in E.T.’s planet. Identification with the story had awakened a sense of empathy and compassion in them which had in turn led to a questioning of their own actions. An apology had swiftly followed.

Breakfast@Cinema is collaborating with C.M International School in Pune to organise the ‘Children’s Film Bonanza’, a three-day event that includes screenings, workshops and panel discussions. Breakfast@Cinema who have had a long-standing association with the Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI) will get the latter to provide films.

Power of cinema

The aim of the festival is to introduce children to important, educative and entertaining stories from different parts of the world; guide them to be more discerning about the available visual content today; and help them to arrive at a greater understanding of themselves and the world around them through their engagement with cinema. “Cinema is a great learning medium with a lot of potential which has not been used to its fullest,” remarks Rupali Dhamdhere, Principal of C.M International School. It is a situation that the organising bodies hope to rectify with events such as these.

Santosh Sivan’s Halo (1996) about a young girl looking for her lost puppy on the streets of Mumbai was the first film to be selected for the festival. The organisers remember being so impressed by the story that it led them to explore other films produced by the CFSI. The aim was to include films as varied as possible with the result that the final list includes a healthy mix of rural, urban, historical and animated titles. The Zig Zag Kid (2012) and Kauwboy (2012) are the two foreign films in the selection for which the CFSI has distribution rights and which will be accompanied by dialogue tracks dubbed in Hindi. This is because, as Das explains, the teachers at the school agreed that subtitles might be difficult for the children to follow.

Educating and enlightening

The workshops will cater separately to both children and their parents and will be conducted by Breakfast@Cinema. While one (‘Story Time for Tots’) designed for very young students will aid in the development of storytelling skills, others will be geared towards helping participants identify with what they see on screen through exercises such as identity mapping, recognising similarities and differences and delving into experiences from their own lives. The panel discussions will see experts from the fields of education and filmmaking come together to exchange views on the learning of universal human values through film, the navigating of online and offline platforms for appropriate content and the creating of meaningful stories of and for children.

Cinema’s potential to educate has long been ignored because of its popular associations with mass entertainment and therefore the non-serious. While children by virtue of its inherent amusement value have shown little resistance, it is often for the very same reason that parents and decision-makers have deemed it unnecessary or even damaging. It is these perceptions that need to change and events like the Children’s Film Bonanza are important steps towards giving cinema its due place in the classroom.

Children’s Film Bonanza will be held at the C.M. International School in Pune from July 6 to 8. Visit for more details.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 4:05:25 AM |

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