Dreaming of a world where children’s talents are adopted and developed just like their language and scientific skills, film director Maggie Anwar established Children Film Festival, an event that celebrated its second edition with huge success on Saturday night.
A few days after Universal Children’s Day, at Egyptian contemporary art and culture centre Darb 1718, hundreds of children accompanied by their families filled the wide, open-air space, passionately watching screened films. While some of them stood proud as their films lit through the projector, while others followed in anticipation to vote for the best film.
Children Film Festival is a private initiative launched by Anwar. It aims to raise children’s artistic and critical knowledge. Through a number of screened films, all either created by children, discuss a topic about them, or star children, the festival targets spotlighting children around the world and developing their filmmaking skills.
For two hours, children of all social classes followed ten short films, before they voted for one to win the audience award, as it has the best story elements, sound track, and plot.
“I wanted children who are passionate about filmmaking to know that film festivals are not only for grownups,” Anwar said. “We aim to develop their talent of coming up with a film idea, start planning for it before starting the shoot, and actually have their film acknowledged and participating in a film festival where hundreds of peers watch and criticise it.”
Unlike the first edition, held at Cairo Opera House, Anwar cooperated with Darb 1718 for the second edition, located in the Fustat area in Old Cairo, aiming to reach a larger number of children coming from different social classes, in order to make participation at the festival as inclusive as possible.
“I was shocked to find the space completely filled with children that come from different backgrounds, yet all standing on one common platform, communicating and discussing films with each other peacefully,” Anwar said.
The discussions children held during films, indicated that they are developed far ahead of the current media content supposedly targetting them. “To find a child explaining his vote because a certain film’s soundtrack is much better that the others, stressing that it added an excitement factor to the film, is quite interesting. People rarely believe that at a young age they are able to notice this,” Anwar explained.
The event lasted for two hours, during which ten short films were screened, as well as Egypt’s first ever animation film, “Meshmesh”, produced in 1937.
The fact that these children did not know each other, yet listened to one another’s points of view and defended their own explanations for why they chose one film over the other, could not help but fill the attendees with positive energy, she added.
More than 300 films applied for the festival, Anwar asserted. Unfortunately, spots were limited within a timeframe so only the top ten could be chosen.
The first place award went to “Al-Kotob Tatakalm” (The Books Are Talking), a short film that features several books asking their friend to return to reading. Each of them state their story and what their contents are about, simply revealing their feelings of missing their friend who has forgotten them.
Second place went to “Roz Be Laban” (Rice Pudding), a film that discusses child obesity in a new way. By featuring a young, obese girl whose parents always hide her favourite food (rice pudding), the film follows her as she tries to find a way to eat her most beloved food behind her parents’ backs. In a light, comedic way, the film targets both children and parents, showing that neither hiding nor stealing food is the right way to deal with child obesity.
“Mom, Are You Here?!” won third place. In a tragic motion picture, it tells the story of a mother who totally neglects her child, while he tries hard to grab her attention through every possible way he could think of.
Ahmed Yehia, the festival’s organiser from Darb 1718, explained that the festival was originally meant to occur during Universal Children’s Day, yet it fell on a Monday and the organisation wanted to organise the event on a weekend, which is why they ultimately postponed it.
He also added that the centre will screen the films again for the children of Old Cairo, as part of a year-long development programme facilitated by Darb 1718.