The London Children's Film Festival, October 30-November 7
By Mark Kebble on October 22nd 2010
What first inspired the launch of the festival?
“Children’s film programming has always been at the core of the Barbican’s audience offer. Our Family Film Club has been running every Saturday morning since 1994; in fact it’s the longest continuously running children’s cinema club in London. We were looking for ways to expand our programme and so were excited when Film London presented the opportunity with a tender for operators to run the first ever London Children’s Film Festival in 2005. We were even more thrilled when we won!
Film London’s funding support was for the first three years of the festival and since then (we’re now in our sixth year) we’ve been working directly with our partner venues to deliver the project. “
How important is film to children?
“Very! Most children are very visually aware. They are bombarded by the moving image whether its film, TV or computer games and making sure these experiences are as positive, stimulating and, where appropriate, educational is key. Film particularly is the most accessible of all the art forms. It can inspire, inform and obviously entertain.”
I see Back to the Future is on the list, which is one of my all-time favourites – a sign of how a film can really impact on a childhood?
“It’s one of mine too. My early memories of film have most definitely influenced my life and more obviously my career path. Film provides a window into the lives of others, offering reassurance, boosting confidence, making us feel that we’re not alone. Fantasy and escapism are incredibly important elements too. Children’s imaginations are boundless and we tend to lose sight of this as adults. Film can nurture this side of all of us.”
What can we expect to see this time around?
“Where do I begin?! We're screening some of the best new children's films from all over the world; there are stories from India, Scandinavia, Germany, Japan and Africa to name just a few. Some of the films are subtitled, but we have actors to read them aloud for younger children and headphones for those who'd like to hear the original language too.
“We've got lots of special events this year. The festival opens with the brand new Moomins film (another of my childhood favourites!) in 3D and we're closing with an exclusive preview of Megamind staring the vocal talents of Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt. We're hosting our first ever Family Film Quiz, we'll be singing along to Beauty and the Beast, going Inside the World of Ben10 with BAFTA and there will even be an opportunity to meet some of our wonderful patrons including Freddie Highmore, who'll be going Spiderwicked! for Halloween.”
How do you choose what films to show?
“I watch a lot of films! I spend roughly four months researching, which involves contacting filmmakers, sales agents and distributors around the world. I watch all of the submissions, which can be as many as 60 films each year, and select only the ones that I connect with, in the hope and expectation that our family audiences will too.”
Over the past few years, have kids’ films really raised the bar in terms of adults loving them too?
“Certainly the Barbican's and the festival's intention has been to raise the bar by showing quality films from around the world that will appeal to both children and adults. There is very little opportunity for children to have access to international titles in this country. On a broader note, Hollywood and filmmakers in general are having to work much harder to attract family audiences to the cinema. If the parents aren't interested in the films themselves, they're not going to be as likely to take the children to watch them. The Toy Story franchise is a wonderful example of this. The films are full of sophisticated jokes for the adults and plenty of slapstick for the children.”
There’s a host of films from around the world – is there a notable difference to those and the standard films we see in UK cinemas?
“Absolutely. International films reflect the culture in which they are made and these riches are inaccessible to many children in the UK. Very little international product is even shown on TV these days. We seem to be afraid of subtitles. There is wealth of new product for children coming out of Europe and particularly the Scandinavian countries where funding for children's film is a priority. The UK definitely lags behind in this respect.
“Another marked difference is the content. Outside of the UK and the States filmmakers aren't afraid to tackle the contemporary issues affecting children today that we would tend to shy away from such as bullying, divorce, death etc. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to present these films to children in London.”
There are also workshops being run alongside the films. What’s the thinking behind those?
“The workshops give families the opportunity to engage further with film, via filmmaking and film stunts for example, and with the issues and themes in the films in the festival, such as with animation workshops around the Be Animated day.
“The festival is not just about sitting back and watching the best new films we can bring to London audiences, but about families participating in the festival, creating their own films, trailers film music and artworks and taking part in the festival. There are opportunities to meet stars and directors too and ask them questions.”
What can you tell us about the Young Jurors?
Young Londoners aged seven to 11 can apply to be Young Jurors on the festival. They watch the Official Selection, write reviews, and select their favourite festival film. They then announce this on stage at the Closing Gala of the festival and give out the award. Previous years’ Young Jurors can apply to be the festival’s Young Ambassadors. They meet the press, introduce the films on stage and are the face of the festival, leading Q&As and discussions and opening the festival.”
Finally, is this a real family festival?
“The family is at the heart of our strategy. We've programmed films and activities for children aged three to 93! We believe that there really is something for everyone. We have a 'no unaccompanied children' policy across the festival so it's important to us that parents, grandparents, carers and siblings are able to all have fun together and to leave with happy memories.”
Find out more about The London Children’s Film Festival by visiting www.lcff.org.uk
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