Published: 13th June 2018
The Bakul Foundation's Film Festival in Odisha was all about bringing excellent international children's films to kids
Bakul Foundation organised the Festival of International Children's Films in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, which was indeed a treat for all the kids involved
Movies, movies, everywhere, but which ones should children watch? Though the ‘idiot box’, AKA the television, has got nothing but Hollywood flicks to show, there is a whole universe of cinema that remains unexplored. The children of Bhubaneswar had the chance to watch some of these gems at the Festival of International Children's Films recently organised by Bakul Foundation, a movement for more libraries that also works in the realms of education, art and volunteering services. "Basically, children these days have the chance to watch several Hollywood movies made for them, but movies from other parts of the world, not so much. The latter is made with different aesthetics and sensibilities, which children need to be exposed to," says Sujit Mahapatra, one of the founders of Bakul Foundation.
The must-watch list
The festival started on June 2 and ended on June 10. Over these nine days, ten movies from across the globe were shown at the Bakul libraries at Satyanagar, Bhubaneswar and Biju Patnaik Chhak, Cuttack. Mahapatra and a team of six took great care while curating the movies for the festival. In their quest to filter better, the team made two lists — one, a list of the movies they must showcase and the other, a shorter list of must-watch movies, continent-wise. "We knew that we just had to screen Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi's Children of Heaven and in the same way, we were keen on screening movies from South America, Africa and Australia as well. A Japanese animation movie was also definitely on the cards," says Mahapatra.
While some movies were strongly recommended by others, the team had to extensively research them to ensure that they can be showcased at a children's film festival
And thus, the list was drawn up which included films like Kirikou and the Sorceress, an animation inspired by West African folk tales (screened on June 5); Satyajit Ray's hilarious fantasy adventure Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (screened on June 8); the French film The Red Balloon, a tale of a boy who befriends a balloon (screened on June 10) and several others. The films were screened from 6 pm and most of them to a packed house, "despite torrential rains on one of the evenings," smiles the co-founder from Bhubaneswar.
We decided to screen only one movie per evening because we want the movie to stay with the children
Sujit Mahapatra, co-founder, Bakul Foundation
"We had to be mindful of certain things like using expletives, which might be acceptable in other cultures, but not in ours," shares Mahapatra, when we ask him if he had to keep certain criteria in mind while selecting the movies. They were also considering Odia films, but realised that there was a certain difference in the quality; although Jalpari, directed by Odisha's own Nila Madhab Panda, made the cut. The auteur, in fact, even interacted with the children before the screening of his movie on June 6.
Bakul Foundation has always emphasised on multi-cultural exposure and through this festival, they had the chance to exercise this wish. "When one grows up watching Hollywood and Bollywood films, one feels that movie-making is an expensive business," says Mahapatra, from personal experience, "It is only when we watch movies from other parts of the world that we realise that one can make an excellent movie with meagre resources as well," he says.
"Honestly, we are a selfish generation that barely conducts festivals like this for children in particular," says Nila Madhab Panda, who interacted with children on June 6, before the screening of his movie Jalpari: The Desert Mermaid. He agreed wholeheartedly with us when we said that it is at these festivals that children get access to world cinema.
Through his lens: Nila Madhab Panda was born in Subarnapur, Odisha
Jalpari, which was submitted as India's direct entry to the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category, is a moving tale about female foeticide which Panda made after he saw a pond full of female foetuses in Haryana about seven to eight years ago. "Though it is disturbing, I wanted children to watch the film and ask adults one pertinent question - What are you doing?," he says.
Panda's personal favourite movies for children are Mr India, Children of Heaven, Makdee and his own movie, I am Kalam — all of which fall under the category of good cinema, though they are very different from each other. Speaking about good cinema for children, Panda, whose last directorial project was Kadvi Hawa, says that, "There is no straight answer to this question, but good cinema is something that children get something out of, even if it's just pure entertainment," he says.
For more on Bakul Foundation, check out bakul.org