Silence. Smile. Enjoy. As the video message was played at giant screen of Karachi’s Cinepax Cinema at Ocean Mall, visiting students of various schools were well aware that there was a reason to smile. It was the start of the annual ‘International Children’s Film Festival’.
Levels of enthusiasm ran very high indeed among the students as they entered the fun-filled week. They were quite aware that the annual festival had brought as many as 57 films from 25 counties in 12 languages. The house was full at all four cinemas.
The 7th edition of the festival was presented by The Little Art (TLA) in collaboration with Teachers’ Resource Centre (TRC) and Cinepax Cinemas of Karachi’s Ocean Mall.
he festival continued from the 30th of October to the 4th of November.
The festival was carefully designed keeping in mind the very young audience – which largely comprised of school children from different backgrounds. As per the organisers, TLA was helping the little youth of Pakistan to bring out the hidden qualities and talent that they posses.
Apart from Pakistan, films were included from Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, UAE, UK and USA.
Audiences loved movies from abroad – ‘Alvin the Ant’, ‘Just Go’ and ‘Mr. Night has a day off’ to name a few. However when the Pakistani films were played, the level of enthusiasm was unparalleled.
For example, ‘Elders Meet Technology’ got a significant degree of applause. The mum-dad-son story is centred around the generation gap and differing attitudes towards technology. For example Ismail, the son, on a mobile phone seeks his mother’s help to export a file from his laptop while he is away from home. When the mother asks her son ‘Kitni bar enter karoon?’ (how many times do I have to press the ‘enter’ button?), the young audience quite enjoyed the moment – one that they could, no doubt, easily relate to.
The number of Pakistani under-18 young film makers saw a significant rise as compared to the previous year
However the mood became sadder when the movie ‘The School Bag’ was played –depicting the horrific terrorist attack on the 2014 Army Public School Peshawar, one of Pakistan’s deadliest ever instances of violence, which specifically targeted children. The story revolved around a child Farooq who embraced martyrdom during the attack on his seventh birthday.
Muhammad Ismail, a student of class four from Ali Model English School, Awami Colony, told me that in his view, some people become soldiers and some become terrorists. “When I grow up, I want to be a soldier who fights terrorists,” he says quite confidently.
Zara Rasool, Areeba and Farhana, all students of class four from same school said they were quite profoundly affected from watching the movie.
The festival offered a diverse slate of programming from Pakistan and around the globe, using the power of film not just to entertain children, youth and parents but also to foster new ideas about the complex issues facing young people today.
Films were selected from 2,300 entries worldwide by a five-member jury that included Asghar Nadeem Syed, Abrar Ahmed, Tazeen Bari and Dr. Wajiha Raza Rizvi.
Dr Wajiha Raza Rizvi, renowned educationist and filmmaker, praised the productions from TLA over time.
Every year, we are told, there are around 1,000 movies produced through this event. There is a strong participation from schools voluntarily. The movies are based on fiction, animation and reality.
The number of Pakistani under-18 young film makers saw a significant rise as compared to the previous year. This year, a total of 75 Pakistani movies were selected, out of which 12 were short-listed to be screened at the festival.
Prize money worth Rs 5,000 each will be distributed among the first three position holders during the next round at Lahore, to be held from the 20th to the 25th of November. The final session will be held in Islamabad between the 4th and the 6th of December.
Khan informs me that last year’s winners were taken to Italy’s Giffoni International Film Festival, one of the most well-known children’s film festivals in the world, to give them more global exposure.
Each year, TLA also organises a national-level competition call for submission of movies for the festival from its registered 18,000 public and private sector schools in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Faisalabad. The submission is done by July.
According to Khan, besides participation by young filmmakers, the number of viewers was also increasing. “Last year a total of 8,000 school children attended the festival in Karachi. We have already received an overwhelming response as 6,000 students have been reserved in advance. We are expecting more viewers than previous years!” he says.
Given the interest generated, TLA has decided to broaden its spectrum. “Next year, we are planning to accept entries from Azad Kashmir, Quetta, Gilgit and FATA schools,” Khan informed.
TLA along with its local partner, screens films at its outreach centers in Tando Jam and Jamshoro in Sindh and Bhakkar, Faisalabad and Gujranwala in Punjab.
This year the theme was ‘My people, my city’. The maximum duration of these movies is kept at 5 minutes. “We prefer strong content rather than an emphasis on equipment. For the selected films, children have used DSLRs and mobile cameras too,” Khan informs me. يوصي جدا موقع الجنس العربي
Masim Abbas, a student of class five, expressed his desire to make a movie. “I will make a movie on poor children who suffer in hospitals,” he says.
Urooj Naz, a teacher from PECHS Girls School who was attending the festival a second time, believes that these movies are thought-provoking and helpful in teaching various civic and personal virtues to schoolchildren.
Zulfiqar Kunbhar is a Karachi-based journalist. He tweets at @ZulfiqarKunbhar