Screening – Thinking Differently Worldwide

Posted on: Thursday 07 July 2011 2:10pm


Jayne Kirkham attends an international screening…..

Host and producer:David Kleeman, President, American Center for Children and Media

I love the Prix Jeunesse screenings.  The first time I went it was in order to sit in a darkened room after a particularly late and celebratory night.  But the hangover was blown away with incredible examples of children’s TV from around the world.   In case you don’t know, Prix Jeunesse is a biennial international festival for children’s TV. 


As this year is the ‘bye’ of biennial, David Kleeman had assembled a ‘greatest hits’ selection of programmes.  We were treated to a bit of Italian Neo-Realism from Spain (or perhaps the bicycle and buttocks just made me think Visconti), the opening episode of Sesame Street, a sweet Brazilian comedy, jaw-dropping documentary on racism and the knicker-gripping tension of a little boy desperately keeping his goldfish alive.  Despite the disparate subjects and styles, the shows all had brilliantly human stories at the heart, simple stories about characters we truly care for. 


The thing that I noticed most was the way stories were allowed to breathe and children given time to express themselves.  This meant dialogue was sparse, rarely any background music, and certainly no shouty editing.  In fact the films were all incredibly cinematic – telling their story visually rather than relying on dialogue.  I think that may have been one of the reasons they remain universally resonant despite the cultural and historical differences.  David Kleeman mooted that all of the examples were the result of someone trying to find a new way to invite the viewer in to a new world. The result being an immersive style that welcomes the viewer to engage with challenging material – boys that want to be girls, learning a new language, getting a pair of glasses, family violence, moving to a new street…


Given that the challenge was to use these programmes to find ways of thinking differently about storytelling, and if I could only take away one thing,  I’d say that the examples encouraged me to think more cinematically in terms of storytelling – does this mean looking to the past for the future?   Much to ponder.  But one thing is certain: the monks in Bhutan have the best musical instruments – and things that go ‘ong’ and ‘nurrrrr’ and ‘domp’ should form the basis of all soundtracks.