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What makes a great children's film?

We have already considered what makes a ‘children’s film’. But what makes a really successful children’s film? And who gets to decide?

In this newspaper article from The Telegraph, the journalist SF Said asks the artistic directors of the first London Children’s Film Festival in 2005 how they chose films for its programme, considers the compilation of a list of ‘must see’ children’s films by prominent arts organisations, and reflects on their own childhood experience.

  • “I think of it in terms of all great cinema, really,” says Catharine Des Forges of the Independent Cinema Office. “The great children’s films are the ones that adults love too, that everybody loves. It’s something that really engages you - makes you laugh, makes you cry, takes you into its world and you come out thinking differently.”

  • “Most of the films which are available for children in the UK are Hollywood productions,” says Robert Rider, another of the festival’s artistic directors. “Our dream is very much an international children’s festival, to give audiences an opportunity to see films from around the world that they would never have the chance to see before.”

  • “If you think about the lives children lead,” says Des Forges, “they’re influenced by a lot of the same things adults are, like bereavement and loss, loneliness and violence. I think the best children’s films deal with that in a way that’s comprehensible even to quite young audiences.”

  • Said says “all great children’s films have dynamic narratives, unforgettable characters, and an emotional power that puts most mainstream cinema to shame. Often, they deal with dark subject-matter - especially separation, and the anxieties it entails. In many of these films, a young character is dramatically parted from an older, stronger protector - a wrenching scene that leaves audiences in tears”.

Following the link provided below, read the article in full and see whether or not you agree with Said and his interviewees. Is there anything you would add or take away from their criteria for a great children’s film?

‘What makes a children’s film great?’

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This article is from the free online course:

Pictures of Youth: An Introduction to Children’s Visual Culture

University of York