What good is “a film” when the World is collapsing? What good is “quality cinema” when everything seems so chaotic and uncertain? What can you find in a theatre that you cannot find on Netflix? Does “a filmmaker” know better about your life and concerns than your favourite Youtuber, Twitcher or TikToker?
If I were a child or a teenager today, these would be the first questions that would come to my mind if I heard about some film festival for children and youth. Therefore, while setting up this year’s programme, I tried to find the answers.
Several months later, looking at the programme of screenings and workshops, which we prepared together with my colleagues, Anna Kouma and Christiana Varda, I remembered something I had totally forgotten about after years of working in the film industry:
Good films are never didactic. They don’t give Answers, they ask Questions.
Cinema is an invitation to dialogue, a bridge of communication enabling the filmmaker and the viewer to listen to, and understand each other; their worries and concerns, to become relieved and comforted, to be reassured that they are not alone. To gain strength and continue their search. To question, to express all those things that might have once seemed inexpressible. At a time when everyone is so full of their own truth and eager to impose it on others, Cinema is the rejection of absolutes. It’s the celebration of “searching”.
Hence, our programme this year is dedicated to “The Search”: for understanding, for empathy, for the alternative point of view, of ourselves.
In this context, we reach out to all teenagers aged 15-18, and present two films that are strictly addressed to viewers aged 15+. Both films, I Never Cry (Piotr Domalewski, Poland) and Vacarme (Frederick Neegan Trudel, Canada), are directorial debuts revolving around the quest of identity through two engaging stories that portray a difficult coming of age. Honestly and outspokenly, without beautifying filters, the films feature outstanding performances from their lead actresses.
For the rest of our viewers, children and adults alike, we are screening two newly released gems: Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma, France) and Mezquite’s Heart (Ana Laura Calderón, Mexico), two beautiful stories supported by the strong performances of two young girls who, after losing a relative, search for a way out of their sorrow amidst the magic of imagination and music respectively.
Moreover, the Festival also organises a series of workshops for young cinephiles, led by film professionals. In collaboration with actress Daphne Alexander and film director and instructor Athena Xenidou, we have prepared two workshops on self-expression, self-determination, and the understanding of the opposite opinion, outside the barriers of social media.
In parallel, for children under 13, we are co-organising two hands-on workshops, the first one on traditional animation (continuing our collaboration with Animafest), and the second one on immersive reality, for the first time in collaboration with the CYENS centre of Innovation, and Silversky3D. Through these workshops, children who are searching for alternative ways of communicating their creativity, will understand that they already possess the skills to express their ideas, stories and feelings, as well as the courage to share them with others.
And this is what happens when we encourage children to Search: we lay the foundations for more searching, more courage, and more tolerance. The more we search out each other’s point of view, the more we understand and respect each other. Perhaps this is what quality cinema has to offer. And perhaps this is enough.