ALLOW CHILDREN TO WATCH FILMS AT FILM FESTIVALSby Kaurwakee Vasistha January 6 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 32 secs
12-year-old Kaurwakee Vasistha questions the business in which children are employed to perform and be a part of practically every other department (legally as well as illegally) but are denied participation and attendance at festivals of films.
Why isn’t there a special section for children to watch films at the major film festivals in India? Why are children effectively being discouraged from watching good films? In the past I accompanied my mother to two festivals when she was on the jury: the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) and the Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFES). On both occasions I wasn’t allowed inside the screening hall because I was still a child.
Hopefully, this question would be taken very seriously by all film festival organizers as well as, of course, the Government of India. I am a 12-year child actor who has been in the industry since I was 3 years old. And in the future, I plan to be a film director. How will I learn the intricacies of the art and grow artistically if I am disallowed in my most curious years from participating and interacting at film festivals?
This issue is not a new one, I am told. But I raise it because change is in the air, and I would like all the people who run film festivals to take note of it. I had the rare privilege recently to be part of one of the panel members at the inaugural edition of the Mumbai International Student Film Festival (MISFF). And, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that I may sit along with the rest of the audience during the film screenings. I profusely thank Christopher Dalton, the festival director, for initiating as well as inviting me to be a part of this much needed open-for-all festival.
The festival was organised by the Film Critics Circle of India and the Cinema Society of India in association with the KES Shroff College of Arts and Commerce, and it had an enthusiastic student audience. They announced that the next edition would be a year-long event held in various schools and colleges across Mumbai. I tell you, this is definitely something.
What sets this festival apart is its inclusive nature. As the youngest panellist, I felt a sense of empowerment being treated as an equal among professionals. I shared the stage with German film producer Katharina Suckale, film critic Johnson Thomas, film director Sharad Raj, Oorvazi Irani, the HOD of acting at the Whistling Woods film institute and Joy Bimal Roy, author, filmmaker and the son of legendary filmmaker Bimal Roy.
The chosen topic was the “personal vision of filmmakers.” So, I felt a little out of place. And initially, I must admit, I was a bit perturbed, my fellow panellists made me feel at ease. I learnt a lot from them. The diverse perspectives that they shared broadened my understanding of the art. Actually, I was supposed to be on the acting panel, which took place the previous day and had actors Bijaya Jena, Zachary Coffin, Arfi Lamba and Akriti Singh, and film editor Prashant Naik, as panellists. But I missed that one because I had to go to school.
Such an environment as this allowed me to have an unforgettable experience that might be deemed unconventional for my age group. It made me realize that storytelling knows no age limits, and young minds can appreciate and understand the nuances of cinema in ways that may surprise many.
I believe that every film festival should follow the example set by MISFF and create a space for young audiences to experience films differently. Just as I had the chance to sit and discuss films with filmmakers and absorb their creativity, other kids should have the opportunity to explore the world of cinema in a setting that encourages curiosity and learning. By doing so, festivals can foster a new generation of film enthusiasts, student filmmakers, and maybe even budding film critics.
- Day 1 people (from left to right) – Arfi Lamba, Prashant Naik, Bijaya Jena, Zachary Coffin (USA), and Akriti Singh.
- Day 2 people (from left to right) – Joy Bimal Roy, Johnson Thomas, Sharad Raj, Oorvazi Irani, Jyotsana Garg, Kaurwakee Vasistha, and Christopher Dalton