Report – The Prix Jeunesse Suitcase: Making it Happen All Over the World
A digital suitcase and a passionate change-maker unpack their emotional baggage to reveal a brave new world of kids’ media we must all embrace or ignore at our peril, as a spell-bound Rick Adams discovered…
- Daring content that’s sensitively handled can smash apart taboos and enable our kids at the same time
- Honesty and truth-telling is the native language of children everywhere
- Greater bravery is required to push past old boundaries and deliver what today’s kids really need
I cried. I was shocked. I laughed uncontrollably. Not something I usually do in a room full of people but when you’re faced with such unbelievable honesty, the kind of honesty you equate with children, then you just can’t help it.
A huge amount was stuffed into the Prix Jeunesse Suitcase, beginning with #ToyLikeMe change-maker Rebecca Atkinson. Appalled by the lack of positive disability representation by toy makers, Rebecca, herself partially sighted and partially deaf, picked up the torch, modified her own kids toys, posted the results and started a movement. And it’s working! Her dream is impacting on toy companies world-wide, Lego are bringing out their first wheelchair figure. She’s shaking it up. Just like kids do. They’re honest and real, they have so much they want to tell us and so much they need to know. All we have to do is watch and listen…
Which is precisely what David Kleeman does, and his selection for the Prix Jeunesse Suitcase this year contained some of the most shocking, life-affirming and honest children’s media I’ve ever seen. Well, he did warn us! Fifteen clips from some of the best creators from sixty countries submitted to the bi-annual Munich festival of world TV. What we saw rocked us to the core, ripped away the shiny veneer and normality of kids media. The topics encountered would make a commissioning editor’s head spin, and apologies for covering only a few here:
‘An Afternoon’ (Aps/Denmark): a teenage boy meets boy love story that crackled with tension and explosive tenderness.
But nothing prepared us for ‘Puberty’ from NRK Super in Norway (some may find this shocking). A female doctor talked with great openness and honesty whilst showing, intimately, graphically, the sexual organs of an actual real-live young female standing next to her. The explanation, the matter-of-fact way in which it was dealt made what we saw somehow absolutely OK. It wasn’t sexualized, just explained delicately and directly including how menstruation works and what it actually looks like.
This all sounds rather outlandish. Unthinkable on CBBC, CITV, Disney or Nickelodeon? One wonders if more boys saw this instead of struggling out of curiosity to navigate the depressing chasm of pornographic imagery to find answers the whole aspect of sexuality wouldn’t be such a struggle to explain or experience for everyone.
The same goes for ‘Beestieboys’ (CCCP/Netherlands), showing the real life trauma that the death of a pet rips through the lives of a young family. It’s dealt with beautifully, respectfully and shows all sides. We see the vet putting their trusted companion to sleep in real-time, held with such deep revere and love by his tween-aged boy owner. Tears streamed down my face but he was stoic even in his pain because he understood what was happening, he had a new perspective on the meaning of life and death.
There was more, a lot more than I can say here, but all of it was extremely beautiful and dealt with a massive array of hard-hitting topics. It was terribly familiar – these are the things we all go through, the shared experiences we all have. It’s honest and, if we don’t cover these subjects, we are leaving our teens and tweens underprepared for the modern world. I’m not saying we have to unleash a torrent of truth upon our children – I just think that more honesty, in the right way, about how the world REALLY works, about how our bodies and minds and feelings REALLY WORK, will mean the adults of the future will spend more of their lives actually living happily, knowing their elders have equipped them with the tools to navigate all that life will inevitably throw at them.
Bravo Prix Jeunesse! That was a mighty-powerful suitcase indeed!