When I was around ten years old I was a lot of things; I was a nuisance, I was naughty, I was erratic, I was hyper, I was imaginative, I was learning, and I was also good to my mom (sometimes). In a nutshell, I was a child who was going to be something or someone some mighty fine day. Today’s children, however, aren’t waiting for tomorrow, and nothing reminded me more of this fact than the recently held Lahore’s International Children’s Film Festival.

This was the second round for the Lahore International Children’s Film Festival. Just like last year, the event organized by the Ali Institute of Education was a tremendous success. Last year, the festival had no entry free and had an attendance of more than 11,000 families. This year around it attracted more than 9000 people, both young and old, and ran full house for the last four days. The children’s cinema was put up at the Ali Institute of Education for a course of six days and featured over 263 films made for the children — by the children from over 63 different countries. From Italy to Sri Lanka and from USA to India, there were movies coming in from every corner of the world. More than 50 schools from Lahore marked the days with their attendance and the kids that showed up went home happy.

Children, as young as 10 years of age, sent in their entries to take part in this festival. It was a celebration of everything ‘children’ where the themes revolved around how the younglings deal with things and associate with life. Some movies followed a motivational theme like the Italy based movie Puertas, while others talked about very serious issues like the Mumbai terror attacks. The November 11 attack movie was completely made by children and came from Ryan International School, India.

It wasn’t just good entertainment for the youngsters, the adults, too, enjoyed the various movies that went up on the screen. “It was a good show,” said Amna Faizan, a teacher with the American Lyceum School. “My favourite was The Passing by Saqib Siddik, which dealt with a child and how he deals with the terminal illness of his grandfather and then finds out that he has the power to keep his beloved grandpa alive. It was a very touching and sweet movie and I think all children could relate to it,” she said.

Short film series were also a part of the festival. Open the Door in… dealt with different countries i.e. Kenya, India, USA, Ecuador, China, Mexico and Iran; the stories varied as the children in the films ran around and discovered something new about the world while they had fun. Laurd Paez’s piece on Ecuador revolved around music while Surabhi Sharm and Sumil Shambag’s film on India looked towards the magic of the sea etc. Then there was also the What makes me happy series which came from Nepal, the UK and Sri Lanka.

The festival also showcased its fair share of animated movies because what would entertainment be for children if you didn’t throw in a good cartoon or two? Short cartoons that dealt with everything that had anything to do with kids were put up on the screen. My personal favourite was Cuento De La C by Franc Planas which told the tale of little Christina who couldn’t spell her name (I suppose the topic hit a nerve with me… considering my name is annoying to spell). She went on an adventure just to learn a simple spelling and that truly is how simple the world of a child is. The piece had a unique charm to it and captured the audience, merry children and fully grown adults alike. And as if the animations weren’t enough, the highly acclaimed musical Broken Hill by Chris Wyatt from Australia was also a part of the show. The production had been the subject of much hype in the past where many even entered contests to have their music included in the plot.

It was refreshing to find that so much work had been done for children by children. Of course, many of the entries did come from adult film makers. It was also disappointing to note that none of the work sent in by the Pakistani filmmakers came from children. Shoaib Iqbal, Festival Director addressed this issue by saying: “The thing is that you have to look at the bigger picture. At the moment there is no concept of entertainment for children in Pakistan. The very fact that we had entries from Pakistan of movies and features that were made for children is an accomplishment in itself. There is now a growing awareness and through our programmes we are actually trying to reach out to fresh graduates so they, too, can realise that there is a dire need for growth in this part of the industry and contribute their own work.”

The idea behind the festival was not just to showcase features for children but also to promote children as film makers, while training them in the art of film making and exhibiting their work in the festival.

It’s worth mentioning that the festival itself has grown as the funding has gone up by 30 per cent. More and more people are becoming interested in these kinds of ventures. At the moment the Ali Institute has several projects planned for the future. This includes a Children’s International Performing Arts Festival, which is a step forward from last year’s Shakespeare Festival held by them. “The idea is to promote arts and culture through the very base of our society and that is the children. We are also conducting three major filmmaking workshops, for children aged eight to 18, next year. Most people wonder what an eight year old will do with a camera. What they need to realise is that skill building does not just lie in the lighting of the shot or the angles of the camera. What we want is for these kids to find a platform to tell their stories, for themselves and for other children. Yes, adults are doing the work too, but wouldn’t it be so much better if the story came from the mouth of a child? Hopefully, next year Pakistan will also have entries that have been worked on by younglings,” said Shoaib.

There is also a Travelling Film Festival coming up by the end of October for six districts of Punjab. Movies will be carefully selected by the people at the Ali Institute of Education that cater to the areas. The project is being constructed in collaboration with UNICEF Child Friendly Schools. In the future the festival folks also hope that schools can take the movies and program the festival according to their own needs and then have screenings in their schools on their own. “The festival also links local people to other such festivals abroad; it’s an alliance where they send us their work and then we send them our work. So, this is also a good opportunity for our filmmakers to connect to a global audience via other festivals,” informed Shoaib.

It is the mind of a child that is the most beautiful; where simplicity rules, and the world isn’t in complete wreckage unlike the world of an adult. Countless things exist there, both imaginary and real. However, these days most of the time when you switch on the TV you will find the harsh, chaotic and miserable representation of life as we, the adults, know it, blasting your brain to bits. In a situation like this, where Batman goes dark and Spiderman is battling some psychotic disorder or the other, it’s nice to see that some things are being left for children as they should be. Kids can now fight back it seems. Our lives are becoming more limitless everyday. There was a time when children were just children, now they can be anything they want, even filmmakers. So the next time your little sister tells you she’s going to make a ‘tell all’ movie on all your crazy exploits, you might want to take her seriously and buy her a chocolate!

Our Pakistani filmmakers may not be little tots or even in their early teens, but their work sure did pack a punch. It was a mixture of some very diverse work and themes that came out of our movie maestros. Some went after animations while others stuck to documentaries; it was a mixed plate where quite possibly the only thing our lads and ladies were missing were a go at the musical (hint for next year?).

Outstanding out of all these was Positive Pakistan and Junction 1882. The cinematography and production of Gilgit Express was also something to marvel at, whereas Kalu, the story of the love for a pet and the race against time was by far the most exquisite. The movies made by Pakistani filmmakers were:

Gilgit Express by Ali Hameed

Positive Pakistan by Omar Haq

Junction 1882 by Mudassir A Khan

Illif Laila by Armughan Hassan (Animation)

Apni Hifazat ki Baat by Dr Anita Ajaz (Animation)

Anti G Organization by Rehan Nabi Butt (Documentary)

Sunshine by Shahzaman Baloch

Take 2 by Nisar Ahmad

Masherbrum Aur Hum by Armughan Hassan (Documentary)

Mera Iqbal by Syed Hassan Ashraf (Animation)

Kalu by Naveed Anjum

Efforts are underway for children to come forward as filmmakers. Let’s see if the festival will live up to its objectives and produce some child geniuses in our film industry!

Originally Published by Jang.com

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