Published: 09th November 2017
Best of 2017: Monica Wahi has been curating movies for children at prestigious international film festivals and now, she tells us which movies are a must-watch for them
Monica Wahi schools us about children's movies and tells us why movies like Village Rockstar are gems that need to be watched
When you hear ‘children’s movie’, isn’t animation the first genre that pops into your head? And how easily we assume that the themes can only be limited to adventure and comedy. "Not only this, in India particularly, children are looked at as 'half-done adults', where the only difference between an adult and a child is the experience," says Monica Wahi, a curator, distributor and creative producer who has given 12 years to the genre of children's films. And for someone who has curated and organised the children's section at festivals like International Children's Film Festival of India, Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival and Dharamshala International Film Festival, which concluded recently, she knows what exactly appeals in a movie and that, she says, is emotion.
Tune in: Wahi also exclusively curates India's only dedicated world cinema channel for children launched by Tata Sky last year, called Tata Sky Kid's Cinema
"Emotion drives every story," she emphasises, but despairs the fact that the entire distribution of a film is currently driven by the 'star factor', as it makes for an easier sell. "But if it's a children's film, you can't have a star as the main character, neither can a child be a star," says Wahi. Where does that leave the genre? "In this aspect, we are in the same boat as independent films," she analyses, "If only parents can be more conscious of the choices they make for their children when it comes to movies.”
The vision is to offer children an expanded film, which is inclusive and open
But in this time, when there is an influx of content from everywhere — smartphones, TVs and tablets — all of which are easily accessible to children, is there a need for curation? For unearthing gems that could be hidden below, yes, curation is important, she says. Obviously, films with the biggest budgets are the ones that grab people’s fancy, reasons Wahi, whose job is to find these particular gems. These films need to match two very important criteria, as per the curator. Firstly, a movie should stray away from cliches or simplistic solutions and instead, leave children with challenging constructs and enlighten them. "It should offer them various perspectives which are beyond what they know," explains Wahi. And secondly, every child should see themselves represented in the movie — whether they are from a city or a village.
Recent work: At the recent Dharamshala International Film Festival, Wahi curated a section called Children’s Film Programme, which saw a large turnout of kids
And for those who think that curation is a field where one just watches film after film — you are right! Wahi watches 700-850 films a year, about 350 of which are features and the rest, short films. But she warns us that it's not all fun and games. "It is a creative exercise and requires you to know your audience thoroughly," she mentions. But what's Wahi’s gravest concern? "That the education system, right from the beginning, doesn't introduce the child to theatre, art and performance art. We obviously cannot expect them to like independent or world cinema, if this remains the case. The love for art needs to be encouraged to allow these children to engage with the world around them," she concludes.
We ask the curator to give us her list of must-watch movies for children and these are her top picks
Village Rockstar: This movie by Rima Das is "absolutely phenomenal," says Wahi
Ottal: When you watch this Malayalam film, you will know exactly what Wahi means by ‘not reducing complexities with myopic solutions’
The Day my Father became a Bush: This Dutch film is about a fictional war in an unnamed country. The movie, as per Wahi, will "endure forever"
Mum's Wrong: The French film is phenomenal in its scope, says Wahi