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This is Not a Children's Film
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

This year Marian Redpath asked a complicated and yet profound question, a question which is often asked at this film festival. It is especially asked at the Generation 14plus category which contains very provocative and intense themes. Redpath confessed that when she arrived on the scene that she didn’t know how to answer the question. She now has learned that, given a chance, children can handle a lot more than we think. We are underestimating their comprehension. She then turned to her panel members and asked them what they thought.

This panel discussion included Scottish film maker, author and festival programer Mark Cousins and Rasmus Horskjaer from Denmark who is the film commissioner for children and youth at the Danish Film Institute. Along with German filmmaker, producer and distributor Freider Schlaich, Peruvian filmmaker Marite Ugas and last but not least Australian Maxine Williamson who is the artistic director of the Asian Pacific Screen Academy.

Rasmus Horskjaer explained what he saw was a common theme in a typical children’s film. Usually one parent is missing or will be missing by the end of the film or the teenagers are trying to understand all the issues around sexuality, therefore basically a coming-of-age story. The last category concerns law-breaking juveniles and the paths they take which will determine their future. Surprisingly, he said, “Clockwork Orange is a teenage film and teenagers are able to view this film better then we as adults.” I thought about that and I think that he might have a point there because when I see these daredevil snowboarders going off the cliffs in the back country looking for an exhilarating moment, I realize that their adrenalin needs are much different than that of a mature adult.

Marite Ugas said that in South America most films that are privately made never make it to the cinema. The censorship plays a big role and what needs to happen is that films need to make it into the classrooms in order for the children to see them since it is unlikely that they will see them with their parents. Many members on the panel agreed that it would be better not to have such a strict censorship and to allow the parents to decide if it is appropriate for their children, instead of the rating system; that way the films might have a better chance to make it to distribution. The one exception of not being affected by this is, of course, Hollywood films. They seem to have their own system with marketing and sales where they usually break even.

I have to say that I also didn’t have a full understanding of how censorship is used and how it can either make or break a film in this category. First of all, if a film is placed in this category, the director is worried that the film will be considered second rate and this reflects the fact that many of these films don’t make it to distribution. If one of these films receives a censorship rating that is for 16 and above, then this so-called children’s film has a problem especially if this film doesn’t deserve that rating.

Freider Schlaich added that he is saddend even to see his own son, who is schooled in seeing artistic and intellectual films, now watching mainstream American films.    I think that it is because his son wants to be a part of the group and it is about being seen and being able to say you saw that cool film rather then about the true contents of the film. These independent films need to become a cool scene as well; they need good marketing ideas like the Apple products in order to be successful. Mark Cousin together with Tilda Swinton have created the 8˝ Foundation. They received funding in Edinburgh and have created an on-line idea for their area where children, who are going to have their magical 8˝ birthday and would like to see a special film, can do so by writing a letter how they plan to spend that day celebrating. The idea actually came from Swinton’s son who wanted to know what people dreamed about before films were made and that inspired her to write an answer to his question which was published. Cousins said that he didn’t have children but remembers being 8˝ in Belfast during the war and wanting to escape into the theater to find enchantment. They now have it set up that after the children write a letter they receive three films in a beautiful package and when they have watched the films they are supposed to share with others.

Maxine Williamson said that she has a passion for this category and is fighting for the voice that will keep culture and diversity on the screen. It is important since children are the cinema goers of the future and it is important that all these individual voices be heard. So if any of you have some energy and would like to create an 8˝-foundation in your neighborhood, you are encouraged to give it a shot for those future movie goers!