I am pleased to be part of the jury at the Youth Film Festival these days. Not only because of the strong movies that I may watch, but also because of the unique atmosphere at the festival, created by the organization and its many enthusiastic volunteers. The meetings with the children are the absolute highlights of the festival. It is so nice to exchange views with young movie fans, who often amaze me with their sharp observations. Moreover, I had never attended a film festival where the juries loudly shout ‘supercool’ before every film screening!
Back row: members of the organisation and the professional jury. Front row: the amazing children’s jury
For more information on the Youth Film Festival, which takes place in Antwerp, Bruges, Kortrijk and Ghent, see www.jeugdfilmfestival.be
Two years ago, I wrote this blogpost about the festival.
Today I visited the Children’s Film First conference in Brussels, where two returning issues seemed to dominate the discussions between professionals from the film and education sector. First, there was the question on how to deal with the new digital environment in a children’s film context. The ways for a children’s film to reach a young audience have indeed developed enormously in recent years. Apart from VOD and all kinds of online channels, also other innovations, such as smart boards in a school context, offer new kinds of opportunities to find audiences for quality films and to stimulate a dynamic (and hopefully critical) interactivity with films.
Mark Reid (from the British Film Institute) presenting the outcomes of the ‘Film education framework for Europe’
This is connected to the second major issue of the day: the importance of film literacy. As the ‘Film education framework for Europe’ emphasizes, film literacy stimulates curiosity, empathy, aspiration, tolerance and enjoyment (the idea of film as a ‘social tool’ has come up several times). Again, in this context of film education projects (projects, indeed, as film education and literacy is still very rarely a structural aspect in young people’s lives), the digital story takes an increasingly important place. That also film history can (and should) take an important role in this context is demonstrated by the great Eyewalk project of the EYE film museum in Amsterdam (presented by Florine Wiebenga):
Inevitably, the role of governmental policy also enters the picture. Becky Parry from the University of Leeds wrote this piece on children’s feature film production policy for the conference (it is quite UK-specific, but nevertheless also very relevant for many other European countries). One of the discussion points when talking about the broader policy towards the relation between children and film, is which government domain is relevant here: culture, education or youth. There’s often a search for the ‘most legitimate’ place for children’s film culture and literacy. This may have many consequences, both on a practical, financial and more conceptual level. In an ideal world, however, there would be a smooth collaboration between the three domains, as they are all as relevant…
This week, the European Youth Film Festival (Het Jeugdfilmfestival, JEFF), an annual several-day screening event of European audiovisual creations in Antwerp and Bruges, takes place. On last year’s edition, a brainstorm on children’s film in Flanders took place, an initiative that received a warm welcome by the Flemish audiovisual sector. Here you can read the report (in Dutch) of the brainstorm. I presented the keynote talk on this brainstorm, which can be watched here (in Dutch):
Following the keynote talk, I wrote an opinion piece for the Belgian newspaper De Standaard, which you can read here (in Dutch). In this piece, I point at the fact that Flanders has a very poor tradition of producing and supporting children’s films, particularly when comparing to regions such as The Netherlands and Denmark. I argue that the momentum has come to change this situation and finally take serious the youngest segments of the audience. This, however, demands effective efforts from both the policy and the industry actors. A few months later, the sector was happy to hear that the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds, VAF) announced a support grant specifically aimed at children’s films screenplays. The results of this policy initiative should become clear during 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile, the European Youth Film Festival engaged itself to work further on the results of the brainstorm. To be continued…
At the brainstorm; panel discussion with three young and talented directors Wouter Bongaerts, Janet van den Brand and Kevin Meul