Where the child's-eye view reigns supreme

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
Nordic Children's Film Festival

Dundee to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Stirling, Kirkcaldy, Falkirk and Dumfries touring until December 7.

The Nordic Children's Film Festival now touring Scotland opened at Dundee Contemporary Arts to an enthusiastic family crowd.

First shown was a short model animation from Norway entitled Snails. When the littlest Snail wants a dog the others persuade her this is impossible, until granny plants the idea of a Madagascar microdog. It turns out that such a creature exists and narrowly escapes becoming lunch when granny announces its true identity.

The main feature, My Sister's Kids, is a mild Danish comedy about a childless child psychologist who finds theory being thrown back at him when he babysits his nieces and nephews.

From the response of the DCA audience, both films reveal a sense of humour that crosses cultural boundaries.

The festival is the inspiration of Network North, an initiative set up by the Nordic Council of Ministers to promote Nordic arts across the UK and Ireland. The films come from Sweden, Finland and Iceland as well as Norway and Denmark.

The DCA's cinema development officer, Mairi Thomas, is passionate about children's films. "I feel it's important to show children something that might be that little bit different," she says.

Another Danish film which features in the schools' programme certainly meets her criteria. Miracle draws comparison with Ken Loach's latest youth crime drama, Sweet Sixteen, over classification. The latter has controversially been given an 18 certificate by the British Board of Film Classification based on the prolific use of bad language , whereas Miracle was granted a U certificate in Denmark although it contains the F word 16 times. For the festival, educational professionals agreed it should have an advisory 12A certificate because the lead character is urged to stop swearing.

This throws up a distinct disparity, says Ms Thomas. "In Denmark, it's the Media Office for Children and Young People which handles classification. They look at elements that might frighten children. Not bad language. Not sex."

Miracle has the gritty plotline of a Loach film. Young streetwise rapper Dennis P watches while his mother's grief for his dead father spirals out of control. There the comparison ends. Director Natasha Arthy displays a light touch that diffuses Dennis's problems. The film exudes a sense of hope and possibility. When Dennis prays in church, a biker angel appears to issue him with an "ordinary licence for medium miracles" and the boy sets about putting his life to rights.

It is a musical comedy but don't let that put off S1 and S2 pupils. The musical sequences are camp and take place among supermarket shelves and in the broom cupboard at Dennis's flat. The mainly Latin American-style numbers are shot to look as though Dennis has slipped temporarily into his own fantasy land rather than just spontaneously bursting into song. Even the lyrics translate well.

The Swedish film Star Sisters tells the stories of three girls born under the same star. They meet up at the age of eight and have a dangerous ice adventure before their lives are transformed. There is a sense that the child's world-view reigns supreme and the adults who dare to approach it are sucked into that world.

This theme is what seems to link the festival's films. Despite all grown-up imprecation, these are truly children's films.

For more on schools' screenings and teacher's packs for developing cine-literacy and creative writing contact Mairi Thomas, DCA, tel 01382 909236. For more on Danish films and film censorship see www.dfi.dk and www.medieraadet.dk

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