There is a lack of children-specific programmes in our media, least of all on cinema. So, when initiatives like the Lahore International Children’s Film Festival (LICFF) are taken, they deserve kudos.

Now in its 6th year, the recently held LICFF was a roaring success with children as well as young adults. Festival Director and founder of The Little Art, a nonprofit organisation, Shoaib Iqbal puts it in the following words: “We are working with the children so that they can make films that express the stories they want to narrate. Secondly, we are looking to inspire young filmmakers graduating from the universities and colleges in Pakistan to produce local films so that we can have more indigenous content.”

Iqbal also talks of having held an Inter-School National Filmmaking Competition early this year. “We received 24 films made by children and the young people.

“The films we present at the LICFF every year bring the ‘world’ to Pakistani children and youth. It is a very engaging and stimulating cultural window that provides exposure to the world’s culture, languages, arts and ideas.”

Eventually, the ideas presented in the films varied from morals, imagination, history, importance of books, reading and respecting other human beings.

This year, as many as 1,160 films were submitted from a pool of 66 countries. The movies were screened at Cinepax, Fortress Stadium, and at Faiz Ghar in Model Town. An estimated 3,900 children attended the festival. Films such as Bobby and A Fish called Keith turned out to be the most favourite.

Talking about the selection criteria, Iqbal says, “A ‘good’ film is the most important criterion. However, the value of art cannot be denied when talking about the content. So, if a film is good in terms of its production, direction and design, and if it is culturally relevant to the Pakistani children and youth, and if it is age-appropriate, we select it.”

Picking films from the international circuit is “very complex… We go to various children’s film festivals in other countries and see what they are presenting. We meet with filmmakers and ask them to send films in to our festival.”
The movies were screened at Cinepax, Fortress Stadium, and Faiz Ghar in Model Town.

The movies were screened at Cinepax, Fortress Stadium, and Faiz Ghar in Model Town.

Festivals such as this one help to develop a child’s intellect. In Iqbal’s own words, “children are always more intelligent, creative and free than adults. Maybe this is true for every generation. Our roles as adults or society is to respond to their intellectual needs, help them ask questions and answer them in the best possible way.

Right now Shoaib Iqbal is busy collecting “feedback from the children, teachers and educationists who attended the festival. We are working on an impact assessment study this year for LICFF and how the festival is contributing exactly in children’s learning.”

The festival has been held in Karachi also, by the name of Karachi International Children’s Film Festival. After Lahore, the Little Art wallas plan to take the festival to the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Originally Published by Rubia Moghees, The News on Sunday

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