High school student Aineesh Dutt had a rare experience of being the jury of an international film festival for children and youth. Here is a short account of his experience.
“I’ve often noticed that we are not able to look at what we have in front of us, unless it’s inside a frame.” – Abbas Kiarostami
In the midst of a global pandemic and panic, cinema has been a saviour to billions stuck at home, all across the globe. Heaven knows how many movies I alone have binged through these last many months, but none as special as the ones I had the privilege of viewing at the 33rd edition of the Esfahan International Film Festival for Children and Youth.
Being allowed to view the films was an honour, and being given the responsibility to choose which one of these seemingly equally deserving films was fit enough to be deemed the winner, was nerve wracking. It filled my heart with joy that among the nine shortlisted films, three were of Indian origin, and one ultimately made it to the top three.
Cinema brings us all together, and in this band of adolescent jurors, I saw children overcoming the barriers of nationality and religion, and coming together for something we were all passionate about. It was beautiful.
Coming to the films themselves, they were splendid. Each one of them carried a strong message and each hit close to my heart.
The CIFEJ Special Award was presented to Ralf Kukula and Matthias Bruhn from Germany for Fritzi. The Golden Butterfly for the best screenplay was presented to Arvind Sivakumaran and Vijay K. Patel from India for The Other Side of the River. Fritzi was a heart-warming tale about a twelve year old titular girl who would stop at nothing to reunite her best friend with her beloved pooch. The animated feature was set in East Germany, at the height of the campaign for reunification. The film championed the values of liberty and bravery. It is really a comforting film and provides us with an excellent role model for children. Whilst being interviewed for the Festival, my message for the youth, “Always question unjust authority” was echoed in this film.
The Other Side of the River showed us the importance of adventure, friendship and compassion. Five children who had been forbidden from playing near the village river fantasized about life on the other side, much to the same vein of Dorothy from Kansas. A charming boatman befriended the children and promised to take them across. In return he wanted to be allowed at the village temple which he had been forbidden from entering because of his caste. Children, being innocent of social evils, did their very best to help their new friend. As an Indian I felt proud of the fact that our directors unabashedly showed the dark side of our otherwise vibrant society, to help educate and reform.
The other films were also, quite memorable.
All in all, the experience was lovely and probably one of my highlights in this strange year unlike any other.
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