“Cinema is one of the cheapest ways to travel, it’s one of the biggest vehicles of empathy,” says Smriti Kiran, one of the directors of the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI), that organises one of the most exciting international film festivals in India every year.
“These days, children’s films don’t get made in India because they are not financially viable. So, kids are growing up on a staple diet of Disney and Pixar, which are great, but at the kind of the day they are animation and they’re made in a certain way. Young viewers have no idea of films such as Fandry and Kaaka Muttai — what the lives of children in different parts of India or the world are like,” she says. To address that gap, MAMI, along with Film Heritage Foundation, is launching their first children’s film workshop, “Do You Speak Cinema?” on July 22.
The workshop, conducted by filmmaker and film restorer Shivendra Singh Dungarpur and actor Irawati Harshe Mayadev, is a day-long exercise for children between the ages of seven and 10 years. “It is a workshop that offers an introduction to the wonder of cinema. They will be shown snippets from films, including some Charlie Chaplin ones, and touch and feel actual strips of celluloid film. Children are easily distracted, so we aren’t going to show a full film. The idea is to talk to them about cinema and have them respond. This is the first year of the workshop and we hope to take it to different localities in Mumbai,” says Kiran.
In the run-up to the festival that will take place in October, MAMI has been showcasing several award-winning and critically acclaimed films every month. The third edition of the Young Critics Lab (YCL) will be in session soon. Open to participants between the ages of 18-25, the YCL is a six-day lab, with two workshop days each in August, September and October. The mentors this year are Baradwaj Rangan, National Award-winning film critic and Stephanie Zacharek, film critic at Time magazine.
The children’s workshop is important to MAMI for another reason, says Kiran. “One of the things we feel strongly about is audience development and discoverability of content. The problem is not that people don’t like X or Y kind of content; it’s that they don’t have access to it in the first place. The age group between six and 17, is crucial for us.We hope that, when they turn 18, that’s when they’ll come to the MAMI film festival,” she says.
The workshop will be held at Essar House, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai. For more information, write to mamiyearround @mumbaifilmfest.com