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Where kids decide

Children make up the jury and the audience at a festival this fortnight, reports Richa Jha.timesout

Apparently, a film festival is child’s play. Or, at least the Chinh India Kids Film Festival is, where the oldest jury member is 15 years old and the youngest is four. The third edition of this festival is set to open this fortnight. Filmmakers and founders of Chinh India, Meenakshi and Vinay Rai, set up the festival with the aim of helping media professionals – filmmakers, broadcasters, advertising professionals or educationists – understand children’s preferences, and also the reasons why they have them in the first place.

While the jury may be a little unusual, Chinh – like standard film festivals – is a mix of screenings and discussion sessions (the latter led by children, naturally). The screening and corresponding jury categories are threefold: pre-school (four to six years), early education (seven to 12 years) and animation (13 to 15 years).

The festival exclusively showcases cinema for children, whether it be documentary, fiction or animation. It accepts entries of films made for children or by them. International cinema is generously represented. This year, there are films from the USA, the Philippines, Canada, Japan, the UK and Spain, among others.

The festival gets many hundred entries from Indian and international filmmakers and the final decision on which movies will be screened rest with a board comprising children from various Delhi schools. There is a webcast of the jury sessions that is accessible to everyone. “The endeavour is to make this a basis for transparent and authentic research for media professionals,” explained Meenakshi Rai. The festival jury is selected after film screenings at schools, which allows the organisers to judge the intensity with which various kids engage with what they’ve seen. The ability of those children to articulate their responses is an important criterion for selection to the jury, Rai said.

Sowmya Nittala, a 27-year-old filmmaker whose Telugu short Home Sweet Home was very well received last year, said, “Even internationally, there aren’t many forums where kids decide what works for them and explain their choices.” For the Rais, though, the festival is only one part of their multi-pronged strategy to promote children’s films. Chinh India has set up a library of digital kids’ films, for instance, which the duo hopes will be the biggest in the world.

Another crucial aspect of Chinh’s work is that it gives children the opportunity to make and showcase their films. “[Filmmaking by kids] works in two ways,” said Meenakshi Rai. “One, children love to see films done by other kids. And two, it demystifies the media to them. At Chinh India, we strive to create media analysts out of children and cultivate the taste for quality programming among them.”

Perhaps the dearth of good children’s programming in India is the result of the gap that exists between what adults feel will stimulate the minds of children and what actually tickles them. Lakshit Bhutani (13) from Bhatnagar International School, who is part of Chinh India, certainly thinks so. His film In Service To My Nation was screened at the festival last year. “Grown-ups and kids have different ways of looking at the same theme,” Bhutani said. “My peers will better understand what I create because I’ll be speaking our language.”

INDIAN EXPRESS
Maroosha Muzaffar, November 8 New Delhi 

A film fest for children judged by children
1
160 children from 25 city schools took part in the Chinh film festival

Khushi Uniyal, 6 loved the “Doll Wali” film the best. It was a French children’s film, La Quela. Shruti Rai, 15, raved about Abdullah’s Story, a film about a specially abled child. And Amarjeet Singh, 7 would give the “biggest chocolate” to the maker of “Leyley”, a film from Greece about a random act of kindness by a young girl. Films made for children can be best judged by children themselves, and so 89 children’s films from 16 countries were judged by a jury of children like Khushi, Shruti & Amarjeet – All in the age group of 3 to 16 at the CHINH Kids Film Festival. At the third edition of the film festival, the young jury selected films that tugged at their heartstrings.
“Usually at film festivals, children’s films are judged by adults. But here the jury is between three & sixteen”, said Vinay Rai, a film maker who along with his wife Meenakshi Rai, won a national award for a film on nomadic communities. Hundred and sixty children from 25 schools across Delhi participated in the festival & judged the films.“Children have their own way of interpreting films made for them. At times children bluntly tell us that they did not like the film,” said Meenakshi. “Small children tell us that they want to give a big chocolate to the film they liked and a small toffee to the one they did not like much.”
Film makers from 16 countries sent in their entries for the festival which has been divided into three categories; Pre School – for children between 3 & 6 years, Early Education – between 6 & 12 and Animation category – for children between 12 & 15.Children had fun watching the short duration films of three & six minutes each & then discussing which one should get the CHINH Gold award for the best movie.
“Films like Brave Munni, a film by Indian filmmaker, Lea, Little Steps, My Brother from Moon, La Quela, Schaffmat & LeyLey have been the Jury’s Favourites so far,” said Anuradha Sangal, a teacher from SVISG New Delhi accompanying a group of children from her school.
All Jury members will be felicitated by international children media experts at the Sri Fort Auditorium on November 12. “The films that they have feted will be screened,” said Vinay.So how does Chinh select the jury? It is the Chinh Filmy Basta. “We screen films in different schools from our Basta (bag) that comprises international films made for children.  Then a discussion in initiated among children. We select children who we feel are able to take a call and reject films they do not like,” said Meenakshi.
“The aim is to establish a genre – Children’s documentary. Right now, we’re not even thinking of that. Our broadcasters don’t have any five minutes slots,” said Meenakshi.
“In this fest, children are giving us indicators, broadcasters & filmmakers should create stories according to these indicators.”

Anak TV
Young Pinoy filmmakers make their mark in India|
By MAG CRUZ HATOL|
November 21, 2009

The Philippines may not have struck gold at the annual Japan Prize, but it fared differently in India.
Two entries won awards: a Chinh Silver award in the Early Education category, and a Special
Jury Prize in the Films Made by Children category.
The annual Chinh India Festival and Forum is a unique venue for children’s media because it catapults the child to its proper place: as media subject, audience and as user.
What makes the event unique is the pre-school jury, a rowdy herd of precocious kids under six years old who watch films made for them and decide which ones they found most interesting and engaging. The said judges are among the most difficult to please, with attention spans fluctuating because of a variety of distractions. Hence, when their collective attention is riveted, the film must be really good and one that speaks to them squarely in their own language.
The other categories higher than pre-school are also assessed by young people, no older than 15, and they come from different nations. This year, there were child judges from Nepal, Denmark, Pakistan and India.

A CHILD’S SIMPLE JOYS
Independent filmmaker Milo Tolentino entered three films but only “Apak’’ (Barefoot) got the judges’ nod. Tolentino entered the festival without coursing his entry thru Anak TV and was alerted by the organizers that he had won.
The young filmmaker was engaged with a series of undertakings back in Manila and was unable to pick up the silver trophy personally. It turns out that his first feature film, “Si Baning, Si Maymay at ang Asong si Bobo” was due for screenings at the Gateway Cinema. The film was one of the finalists in the CinemaOne Originals Festival. Unlike the mildly violent Apak, that feature film, among other things, celebrates the simple joys, wants and humor of the Filipino child.
The heartiest triumph was that of Joseph Danes, an unassuming, a teener from Occidental Mindoro who, in 30 seconds, captured the angst, sweet vengeance and jubilation of a Mangyan high schooler who is ostracized and shunned for her skin and looks. At the end of the clip, aptly titled “Mangyan,’’ the protagonist emerges unscathed from the discrimination she suffers because she is able to avenge herself academically.
For Danes, 16, it was a long circuitous road to victory. He was nearly sidelined for advance training because of certain odd circumstances but because God meant for him to be further honed, one child from Mindoro dropped out leaving a slot empty. Danes was the immediate replacement.
Had that twist of events not happened, he would have remained in the island and not proceeded to Manila for additional tutelage.

That was the start of Danes’ eventful odyssey which brought him to the Young Hearts Fest in Manila and later in Bangkok. Even his Bangkok trip nearly did not materialize because of kinks in his birth records. He eventually was given a passport but under another name under which his birth was registered.
Earlier, he had helmed a short film which competed even with works of his fellow students under Anak TV and Plan Philippines. It was his “Mangyan’’ entry that earned the respect and nod of the international children’s jury in New Delhi. It tied for a Special Jury Prize in the category Films made by Children.
The Chinh Festival and Forum will be staged in Kathmandu in May and again in Delhi and Mumbai in November next year. Entries to the said events may continuously be submitted thru Anak TV.

Anak TV
A disturbing study on male sexual child abuse
By MAG CRUZ HATOL
November 28, 2009

When the agenda for this year’s Chinh India Forum was announced, there was a mild stir because of one of its topics – Indian power couple Meenakshi and Vinay Rai discussion on “Media and Sexuality.’’

In their estimate, Asia, in general and the subcontinent in particular (including SAAR countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan as well as India), were ready to face the topic squarely and head on.

The Rais were convinced it was necessary to present and disseminate critical and sensitive information rather than keep them under the rug. Hence, they enlisted the help of three articulate ladies from India and Pakistan who were formidable in their fields of expertise.

SILENCE AND SECRECY IN AN UNWHOLESOME WORLD
Panelist Jasjit Purewal last year reminded us: “Asia hardly had any language of sexuality and we do not usually know how to prepare our kids to become sexual beings.’’
This time, she focused on demystifying the roots of a sexually unwholesome world and spoke about her one-stop crisis center in New Delhi where she does a lot of “healing”.

Purewal has been dealing with sexuality issues for two decades but continues to wonder why there is so much silence and secrecy when it comes to the topic.
Anusheh Hussain was originally from Pakistan where she started Sahil (Shore, depicting the true meaning of the organization which provides safety and comfort). It is now an iconic NGO, the only organization in Pakistan that exclusively works on the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation through awareness raising, training, counseling, free legal aid for victims, research, etc. It is based in Islamabad with five other units across Pakistan.
It took Hussain years as Sahil director before mustering the guts to make her study findings about male child sexual abuse in Pakistan public. She thought that animation was the most riveting format without sacrificing the victims’ identities. Hussain was correct. Her animated documentary not only jolted the viewers; it also jostled for action.

ANIMATION AND ACTION
“Child sexual abuse’’ is defined in Hussain’s study with candor and emphasis.
Adults have power and authority over children. When an adult abuses a child’s trust and misuses his or her authority to engage the child in any sexual activity, it is termed child sexual abuse. These could be any manner or form of exhibitionism, voyeurism, pornography, touching, kissing, fondling, masturbation, frottage, oral sex, intercourse, exploitation and even mere sexual suggestion through comments.
Manizeh Bano is the energetic lady executive director who ties things together at Sahil and runs it with an astute eye on the problem. She is however careful she does not run afoul with authorities. Her upbringing as a diplomat’s daughter and her vast travels came handy in running Sahil where she performs a delicate balancing act, Pakistan being a conservative and Muslim society.
Sahil has found and confirmed a centuries’ old cycle of malevolence and abuse perpetrated sometimes by people in authority: police, male teachers, even government officers.

IN-YOUR-FACE PRESENTATION
The Sahil study and 10-minute animation zeroed in on a bus depot somewhere between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, where many young Pakistani boys are initiated into the cycle, first as hired hands of the burly truck drivers, eventually as sex partners. When these boys are old enough to drive, they continue the habit and the cycle IS perpetuated.
The in-your-face presentation did not have the sleaze or sensationalism usually attributed to discussions about sexuality. Instead, the air was clinically objective, enlightening the audience about the cycle of abuse. It helped that three distinguished professional ladies dedicated to their work presented the data, making for an academic research presentation equal to none.
It was interesting to learn that for the researchers to be able to milk critical data from their informants, they had to actually corral the subject to in-depth interviews, sometimes hoodwinking pimps who managed them, paying them for the chance to talk to the victims even for just an hour.
In those interviews, they discovered that the language used by the boys in the trade had descended to lower levels, oftentimes derogatory.
The boys, still in tender ages that range from 7 to 14, call their sex patrons as “pieces of meat”. Because in Islam, homosexuality is taboo, they refer to it candidly as “sinful”, short of brushing off the very nature of their act.
In many instances, the boys are introduced to hashish and alcohol. Sometimes, the boys are given sleeping pills and when they wake up, they are bleeding from having been sodomized.
Bano says that “the line between scientific inquiry and voyeurism was very easy to cross and researches sometimes crossed the lines.” She admitted that they once assigned a volunteer to handle research of the boys in question, only to be dismissed after being discovered he was himself patronizing child porn in the internet. Pedophilia is common because children are so vulnerable, explains Purewal. But because sexual child debasement (commonly called CSA or child sexual abuse) is so common across many cultures, the ladies unanimously agree that it is important to let the victims acknowledge rage and guilt. However, they insist that “we must address issue s of shame, religious mortification and humiliation first. Only then can healing start.”
To this day, because it is a tradition-ensconced phenomenon, they can’t even start proper intervention and healing. That is an even more serious dilemma.

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A film fest for children, by children
Swaha Sahoo, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 01, 2008

Ht photo
Movies made for children can be best judged by children. And so, more than 100 children's films from 28 countries will be judged by children themselves at the Chinh India Kids Film Festival 2008.
With a jury comprising entirely of children from 3 to 15 years of age, the film festival is the first of its kind in the country. "Usually, when children's films are screened at festivals, the jury consists of adults," said Meenakshi Vinay Rai, who along with her husband, Vinay Rai, is the brain behind this unique initiative.
"But often adults fail to see what holds a child's attention and what excites him or her. When children judge the films, the indicators come from them," Meenakshi said.
The festival, which goes into its second year, has been divided into three categories —pre-school (for kids between 3 and 6 years), early education (6 and 12 years) and a separate animation series for kids between 7 and 15 years.
For children the opportunity is priceless. "I have fun because I have a chance to express my views," said nine-year-old Vaishnavi Shekhar, a student of Convent of Rani Jhansi, RK Puram. "I saw a film called Garlic Boy last year but I didn't like the animation. So I gave it 6 out of 10," said this 'veteran' jury member.
Vaishnavi is particular about the cartoon characters she likes. "Japanese cartoons are usually very pointed and I don't like that," she said.
The festival has generated such a positive response among filmmakers that last year's winner Lee Chi Tian -- the filmmaker from Singapore who won for his film Colours -- is flying here to collect his award this year.
"Children's film is not a genre that is popular or recognised in India. But when we went to the schools with our films, we found that children went into minute details while discussing the films shown and the idea of a children's jury was born," said filmmaker Vinay Rai.
For the preschool category, the jury is asked whether they liked the film, their favourite scene and what they did not like. Meenakshi smiled on being asked how she manages to get six-year-olds to form their own opinions. "It is challenging, to say the least, but we had various appreciation sessions where we told them how they could choose the film they liked the best."
But 11-year-old jury member Shaunaq Narindra would have you believe it's simple. "I don't like movies that I can't understand," he said.


Truly a children’s film festival
Staff Reporter
Kids to judge over 100 films from 28 countries
Children media experts from nine countries to participat

NEW DELHI: Dedicated to the children of the world is a rather unusual three-day film festival that opens at the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training in Dwarka here this Monday.
Titled “Second Chinh India Kids Film Festival-2008”, the event’s unique selling point is that children between three and 15 years would judge over a hundred films from 28 countries. The festival intends to create media space for quality children programming through an education web-channel.
The first-of-its-kind festival has been divided into three categories: pre-school (for children between three and six years), early education (nine to 12 years) and a separate animation series for children between seven and 15 years.
The inaugural day will see participation of children, jury members and international children media experts from nine countries.
The festival is the brainchild of Meenakshi Vinay Rai, a film-maker with 32 national and international awards.
Pointing out that at film festivals in which children’s movies are screened the jury always comprises adults, Ms. Raj said the upcoming festival would give children a chance to decide which film they enjoyed watching. “Children have the ability to observe minute little things that even adults fail to notice,” she said.
As part of the festival, there will be a three-day forum at India Habitat Centre from August 7. The forum will celebrate “Culture-Education-Development” in the context of children’s media.

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A film fest for children, judged by children
3 Aug 2008 Rumu Banerjee & Deeksha Chopra

NEW DELHI: At a time when children's films are trying to emerge as a legitimate genre in the Indian film industry , a film festival exclusively for the young doesn't really make any news. But if the festival is being judged by the peer group - within the age group of 4-15 year old - it's time to sit up and take some serious notice.

Stepping out with this unusual and interesting idea, the Chinh film festival , organised by film-maker duo, Meenakshi Vinay Rai, have lined up 65 kids from various schools to judge 62 movies from 28 countries. The movies are divided into three categories - animation , early education and pre-school . Said Vinay Rai, founder of Chinh, '' Traditionally , films made for children are conceived, executed and judged by adults. But the point-of-view of a four or fourteen year old is unique, and needs to be addressed in the movie which is specially made for them.''

And that's where the jury comes in. Over the past two days, these 65 kids have been putting in hard work, judging the 62 films that will be screened from August 3-6 , 2008. From three minute films that breeze by to lengthier 15 minute dramas, the kids have been discussing and breathing cinema.

But if you thought having children as critics made the going easier, you've got to be kidding. The verdicts are always candid, and often, brutal. Take for instance, Siddharth, a six year old critic , whose take on '' Sirit, episode 22 Ting Tang Tong' ' was: '' I don't like their language , they were speaking in Chinese.'' Seven year old Abhinav Nagpal is equally sure of what he liked about '' Me, Masi & Mr Clean'' : '' The starting was nice and some scenes were very interesting. (But) The scene where a girl is cleaning the bathroom was'nt good enough.'' What does catch their fancy is also clearly spelt out. Geetika, a 11 year old, while judging '' The Animal Book' ' wrote: '' a) The drawing is very good; b) The red frock girl is very naughty; c) The book is very beautiful from which the animal comes; d) The song is very nice. I will give 9 out of 10 for this picture.''

Rai says the comments are invaluable , as these films and what the kids think about them will form a database of information for the film-making community. The festival will also enable children to interact with some of the international film-makers and learn the craft of film-making.

That the festival has touched a nerve is evident from the responses of some of the jury members. Galaxy Bhatnagar, a government school student , has discovered the world of international movies, and dismisses notions of language being a bar. '' There were films on education, life and values. I am so inspired after watching one film called Anita, that I want my school to screen such films too,'' added the 12 year old.

Added Dhruv Khemlani of Integrity Truth and Learning (ITL) school, '' Children needn't just study and play. They also have opinions which count. That's what the festival has done for me.'' Khemlani, who has already decided to make a film of his own, characterises what the festival aims to do: get the children and adults thinking.

www.expressindia.com
Sun, 3 Aug 2008
Cut to kids: This film festival has young guns deciding the fate of shorts
Paromita Chakrabarti
New Delhi, August 02 You would probably imagine four-year-olds are too young to even watch television. But at the second edition of Chinh India Kids’ Film Festival, set to take off here from Monday, they would hold the key to a new world of film appreciation.
Organised by film activist-couple Vinay Rai and Meenakshi, the three-day festival will have children between four and 15 from across 12 city schools as jury members. They would judge entries from 28 countries, including USA, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Egypt and Germany.
The two best films will get awards at the end of the festival.
“Children’s film as a genre is quite marginalised in India,” Vinay says. “We wanted to promote it and also ensure that children get an exposure to good cinema.”
The couple has won numerous national and international awards for their work in this direction.
The festival, to be screened at CCRT Auditorium in Dwarka, has been divided to two categories: pre-school and animation. Students from Amity International, Convent of Rani Jhansi-RK Puram, Tagore International-Vasant Vihar among other schools would come together as jury members.
“In India children watch television quite a bit though the content might not be suitable for them,” says Meenakshi. “This festival is an initiative to introduce children to the medium; to make them understand and be responsible for it.”
The couple has also ensured that the task is not too heavy for the children. “The maximum attention span that a pre-schooler (children between four and six years) has is about five minutes,” says Vinay. “And all entries respect that — they’re mostly limited to about three minutes.”
The slightly older children on the jury of animation films were given pointers on which to base their judgment. “It was a brilliant experience. We were watching close to 20 wonderful movies, and taking down notes about what we liked or disliked,” says Surag Nair, 13, a Class VIII student of Tagore International.
“I based my judgment on how good the concept, execution and the music were.”
At the end of the festival — it is open to all — a three-day forum will be held at India Habitat Centre where filmmakers participating in the festival will discuss their craft and ways to improve quality of children’s films. “Since this genre has limited funds, we are looking at developing an international cooperative where for a steady exchange programme of good films as well as latest techniques,” Vinay says. A travelling repertoire of films, called Chinh Basta, is also in place to take these films to smaller centres. 

CHINH India kids film festival in Delhi to screen 14 animated films from around the world
02 August 2008 06:35 PM
BY ANIMATIONXPRESS.COM TEAM

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The second Chinh India Kids Film Festival and Forum will be held at Centre for Cultural Resources and Training Auditorium, Delhi from August 3 to 9, 2008.
The festival has received a total of 62 films from 28 countries for the competition section. Screenings for short-listing films for the awards were held in the Tagore International School in South Delhi. Two children juries, selected from 12 schools, saw more than 100 entries in the pre-school, early education, and animation film categories to shortlist films for the festival and decide on the awards.
The films are part of the Chinh Filmy Basta initiated by young filmmaker duo Meenakshi and Vinay Rai who have won 32 national and international awards and have founded the Chinh India Trust and the Chinh Web channel.
"Children’s programs are not considered a genre yet. There are no particular indications that are followed for making a program especially for a child audience. We aim at first cultivating the taste for child programming and to establish children’s films as a genre," said Meenakshi Rai.
“I was particularly proud of the animation jury where the kids had a really interesting debate on one of the films called Ideation. The most fascinating fact was that although the film was a line drawing animation and in black and white, they understood everything and had a very interesting debate. We want to bring out this point through the festival and forum that kids understand things and that the decision power of a child should be taken seriously,” Meenakshi added.

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Ideation
by Jeremiah Dickey

The observations made during the screenings will be presented to media experts at the forum where they will be exchanging case studies and then present documented suggestions to the I&B industry for applying to children programming.
The Forum would celebrate the ‘Culture-Education-Development‘ in context of children media. The winners of the Chinh Gold and Chinh Silver awards in all the three categories would be announced by the children on August 4, 2008.
Chinh, which means a symbol for phoenix like strength, peace, and amazing culture, began its work barely a year ago. It has, in so short a time, become a buzzword in the international media community.

The annual event stands out because it brings nomadic and disadvantaged children into the mainstream of media production, harnesses pre-school children into the media process and is run from the perspective of children.
Some of the films shortlisted in the animation category include Don‘t Smash by Tom Eaton, Donkey Olli Shipwrecked by Doug Aberle, The Long Journey Home by Billie Mintz, String and Girl by David Bazelon, Dear Fatty by Hsin-I Tsing, Manny by Kyoung Park, Tinkerbell by Berin Tuzlic, Boom Box by Adnan Halvadzija, Neighbours by Adnan Mahinic, You can‘t kill love by Berin Tuzlic, Night and Day by Berin Tuzlic, Sarajevo - I don‘t know when...by Berin Tuzlic, Stories of Stubborn Hill by Agnes Quirin, Tickle Me Silly by Miguel Martinez-Joffre, Ideation by Jeremiah Dickey, Trip to the Planetarium by Stephanie Batailler, Save the Planet! by Filip Vandewiele, Beatless Nick by Kelly Morrison, The Animal Book by Dan Lawson, The Parcel by Samantha Leriche-Gionet, The Serpent of the sky by Stephanie Rueckoldt and Nellie‘s Adventures by Shelley Blanchette.
.com's All About Cinema...

News Headlines
Kids film festival to screen 62 movies from 28 countries
By Indiantelevision.com Team
(30 July 2008 5:30 pm)

NEW DELHI: A total of 62 films from 28 countries are taking part in the competitive Second CHINH India Kids Film Festival and Forum to be held here from 3 to 9 August.

In a first of its kind attempt, two children juries – one of 23 members aged between four to six years, and the second of children between seven to 15 years of age – saw almost 100 entries in pre-school, early education, and animation films respectively to shortlist the films for the festival and decide on the awards. The children have been selected from 12 schools.

The Forum would celebrate the ‘Culture-Education-Development’ in context of children media. The winners of the CHINH Gold and CHINH Silver awards in all the three categories would be announced by the children on 4 August.

The screenings for shortlisting and deciding the awards were held in the Tagore International School in South Delhi over the past two days and the festival will be held in the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training Auditorium in West Delhi early next week.

The films are part of the CHINH Filmy Basta initiated by young filmmaker duo Meenakshi and Vinay Rai who have won 32 national and international awards and have founded the CHINH India Trust and the CHINH Web channel.

Meenakshi told Indiantelevision.com that the endeavour is meant to cultivate taste for good quality programming among children. Vinay said it was interesting that during the screenings and the discussions amongst themselves, the children were unperturbed by the presence of their teachers and spoke their minds freely and without fear.


Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Thursday, Nov 20, 2008

Sowmya Ramnath’s debut short film ‘Home Sweet Home’ shines bright Photo: NEERAJA MURTHY
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Sowmya Ramnath
When an English lecturer kicks everything to become a filmmaker, you can be sure she is confident of what she is doing. Sowmya Ramnath’s debut film Home Sweet Home, a five-minute Telugu short film shone bright at the CHINH Children’s film festival held in New Delhi. The short film has the distinction of being the only Indian film to make it to the festival and even win a gold.
“Having your film noticed by children, who are also acting as jury members is every filmmaker’s dream,” says Sowmya. However, this young filmmaker’s hopes of showing the film to the Telugu audiences were dashed when Home Sweet Home was not even selected for screening at a film festival held in the city. “I was a bit disappointed but not shattered as it was an amateurish work,” she justifies.
Write move
The 26-year-old began her life as a lecturer teaching English in Vignana Bharati College. “I was more of a words person — scribbling, taking notes and writing for the college magazine,”she recalls. With a mood to experiment, Sowmya decided to shift gears and joined Concept, a production house. “I was struck by the nuances of filmmaking and decided to give a visual garb to my words,” she says.
From ad films, she moved to on to her first short film. “When I was anxious about the film’s finances, my sister came to my rescue,” she says.
With Rs. 8000 as the budget, Sowmya set out with her DV Cam and her mother’s music student, and her dhobhi and dhobhin who star in Home Sweet Home, which tells the story of a poor kid and his dream.
Sowmya’s next big break came when she worked as an assistant director for Ashta Chamma. “I think I was blessed to have worked with a director like Indraganti Mohan Krishna. He is an amazing director but what is admirable is that is he is willing to impart his knowledge to others too,” she says. When she is not calling the shots, she is humming her other passion – Carnatic music at various concerts along with her sister.
Her future plans: “I want to be an assistant director for a few films before I move on to a commercial film,” she signs off.

NEERAJA MURTHY
CHINH INDIA KIDS FESTIVAL – A report

“At a time when children's films are trying to emerge as a legitimate genre in the Indian film industry, a film festival exclusively for the young doesn't really make any news. But if the festival is being judged by the peer group - within the age group of 4-15 year old - it's time to sit up and take some serious notice”- this was how the Indian press reacted to CHINH INDIA KIDS FILM FESTIVAL& FORUM’2009 held in New Delhi from August 3rd to 9th August 2009

Brainchild of Meenakshi Vinay Rai, a film-maker couple with 36 national and international awards, the CHINH INDIA KIDS FILM FESTIVAL and FORUM stands out because it brings nomadic and disadvantaged children into the mainstream of media production, harnesses pre-school children into the media process and is run from the perspective of children.
This year the festival received a total of 123 films from 28 countries for the competition section. From three minute films that breeze by to lengthier 15 minute dramas, the kids had been discussing and breathing cinema. The first-of-its-kind festival has been divided into three categories: pre-school (for children between four to six years), early education (nine to 12 years) and a separate animation category for children between seven and 15 years. Three children juries, selected from 12 schools, saw more than 100 entries in the pre-school, early education, and animation film categories to shortlist films for the festival and decide on the awards.
The inaugural day saw the participation of children, jury members and international children media experts from nine countries. The festival also enabled rural and city children to interact with some of the international film-makers and learn the craft of animation film making under the guidance of Maikki Kantola from Finland.
"Children’s programs are not considered a genre in India yet. There are no particular indicators that are followed for making a program especially for a child audience in India. We aim at first cultivating the taste for child programming among children and thereby creating a demand for the same and to establish children’s films as a genre among media professionals, young media students to produce children programmes," said Meenakshi Vinay Rai when asked what transpired the thought of this festival and forum. A travelling repertoire of films, called Chinh Filmy Basta, is also in place to take these films to smaller and remote areas of the country to reach maximum number of children with the active participation of Panchayats (the rural governing bodies)
 At the end of the festival  which is open to all — a three-day forum was  held at India Habitat Centre where filmmakers participating in the festival discussed  their craft and ways to improve quality of children’s films.
The forum began with the video report on 2nd CHINH INDIA KIDS FILM FESTIVAL and the highlight of the report remained the jury sessions of children jury members discussing films after screenings and sharing their agreements and disagreements over certain films. The animation jury sessions brought about an interesting debate on a one minute film “Ideation” which was chosen for CHINH GOLD by the children jury. Another interesting session that captivated the participants of the forum was how preschoolers were shown the films and were initiated into the judgement process.
The participants also saw a brave attempt to link Guided Imagery and Mindpower while creating media with and by children. Though Media workshops run along the grains of talent and creativity, most of the times participants fail to confront the more basic items in their psyche. Anne Agerbo, a Danish psychologist whose revolutionary work with children and adults is causing a stir not only in Europe but in Asia as well. She introduced her work at the Chinh India forum where she captivated a room full of gradeschoolers who went through the process of reaching inside, an activity typically done for and with adults.
While “Trapped in Technology or Liberated with Technology” session raised concerns over growing violence and unsafe net spaces for children, the session on “Discovering appropriate media language for sexuality issues” dealt in details the approach towards sexuality issues for children in eastern and western Media created for children and young audience. While a film from Bangladesh “The Red Flower” explored sexuality in an eastern media language, the “Sexteens” from Prix Jeunesse Suitcase depicted the sexuality education approach in West.
A presentation from Egypt on “Animated characters – carriers of cultural identity” strongly emphasised on the impact of local culture on global animated characters. Interesting examples and analysis was enriching. The session served as trigger point for discussion on ‘Culture- a change agent’
One full session was dedicated to Children Media and research with an introduction to Prix Jeunesse and CHINH partnership to provide research inputs for exploring multifaceted indicators useful for children program producers, researchers and media experts. A gender Genius game was played by all the participants which they seemed to enjoy thoroughly. The Gender Genius game gave interesting facts about gender, media and perceptions of young children. The team led by Dr. Asha Singh, reader in Department of Human Development and Childhood Studies from lady Irwin College bagged the first prize for the highest score.
The forum concluded with the idea of establishing CHINH International Cooperative of children programming for a steady exchange programme of good films as well as latest techniques with the support and network of likeminded festivals and forums world over to solve the problem of limited funds for child-friendly media initiatives. 

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