Keynote Report: The importance of film for children in Europe

Thursday 24 September 2015 10:33am by Dr Becky Parry


Julie WardAfter a passionate welcome from UK MEP Julie Ward, who has strong links to young people’s film and was until recently an arts practitioner herself, we heard from Boudewijn Koole, director of ‘Kauwboy’.

We hope he’ll forgive this “92%” summary of his presentation!

_DSC4402Boudewijn asked us to reflect for a moment on our lives, and told us the story of the anthill where 92% of the colony create the the anthill while 8% appear to do nothing. Actually they wander off, look at the sky, while the 92% keep busy building.

So who are the 8%? Well perhaps they are the artists…
….who wander off or even “wonder off” and can be completely useless through their lives. But they break with the conventions or business of the 92%. And so they come in handy. We need them. They make us think differently.

Breaking with convention Boudewijn took to the floor and reversed roles asking a delegate how it made them feel.

He prompted us to think about what happens when things change.

We may feel fear or excitement but the 8% wake us up.

Boudewijn acknowledged that we have to be one of the ant colony at times. We are parents, workers, lovers and brothers but this is subject to change. Our identity changes as our children leave home, as our parents age and who is going to help us with that?

Who is good at change?

Boudewijn suggested that children are good at change. They are learning new things all the time. Artists are also good at change. We need the 8%.

From an 8% perspective – what is a children’s film?

This is a question that Boudewijn is often asked.  What is a children’s film? How do you make films for children? From his point of view these are silly questions. After all, what is a film for grown-ups like? Children are not homogenous. The only difference is that they have less experience – they are seeing things for the first time.

Their lack of experience has some advantages as well as some disadvantages.

Boudewijn showed two inspiring clips – including the documentary ‘Nieuw‘ about an aspect of the refugee experience through the eyes of a child. And for him that was the key – to make films which look through children’s eyes. He cited Harper Lee’s perspective  in ‘To kill a mockingbird’  – told through the eyes of a ten year old.

He thought it important to remember an extraordinary girl of 13, Anne Frank, whose diary continues to lead international best seller lists – the perspective is clear and simple.

Boudewijn asked us to take care not to teach children to fear. Not to always be one of the 92%. They must have time to be the 8% – perhaps then one of them will bring back the answers to our most pressing questions.

The thought brought us back to Julie Ward’s introduction.  The session simply and clearly demonstrated that we need the 92% to care about the work of the 8%. To argue for it, make policy for it and create spaces for it to happen amongst the artists and amongst the potential artists in our kids.

Dr Becky Parry

Lecturer, Education and Childhood Studies, University of Leeds
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