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Film festival with a difference: children to call the shots, give verdict
Film festival with a difference: children to call the shots, give verdict
Mandakini Gahlot

New Delhi, August 24: With a jury comprising entirely of children from 4 to12 years of age, the Chinh India kids film festival is set to be the first of its kind in the country. “Usually, when children's films are screened at film festivals, the jury consists of adults,” said Meenakshi Vinay Rai, who along with her husband Vinay Rai, is the brain behind this unique initiative.

Meenakshi and Vinay describe themselves as "film activists", and after having won over 27 national and international awards, they decided to turn their attention on the special genre of children's films
“The initiative arose from the fact that kids these days watch a lot of television which is entirely unsuitable for them, hence, we figured it was time to do something to improve the quality of the content they view,” says Meenakshi

The film festival has been divided into three categories — pre-school, for kids between 4 and 6 years, early education, for kids between 6 and 12 years and a separate animation series. While the festival will start in all its glory at the CCRT from August 30, the preliminary rounds are underway.

Students of Convent of Rani Jhansi at RK Puram have been acting as judges for the past two days. Ten students in the early education category assembled to view films from within their category and faithfully made notes for the discussion that followed. After watching film Colors, about a child who suffers from colour-blindness, 12-year-old Aaruni Pati said, “This movie should not be nominated as the child in the movie consumes a mixture of toxic paints and children may tend to imitate her action.”

On the other hand, 10-year-old Deepika Kumar is more liberal in her approach, “I'd like kids to nominate this film as it will help children to realise the consequences of playing too much of video game,” she said after watching Let's be scary, a film about a boy addicted to video games.

Meenakshi smiles on being asked how she managed to get six-year-old kids to form their own opinions, “It was an uphill task to say the least, but we had various appreciation sessions where we told them how they should choose which film they like the best.”
The selected films will now be screened at the Chinh India film festival at CCRT on August 30.


Hindustan Times
Tiny tots to judge films

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

 Before adults watch a movie along with children, many questions enter their minds — would it be suitable for the young lot? How to save toddlers from getting exposed to objectionable material? hat if you get to watch films that are a just a few minutes long, yet focus on themes related to children? What if only children are to sit on the jury to decide what they want to watch?

Far from being just an idea, this trend is already a reality. Chinh India, headed by Meenakshi and Vinay Rai, encourages films for children as a separate genre of movies.

Chinh India Forum 2007, a film festival-cum-exchange forum, aims to celebrate knowledge, ideas and perspectives on culture, development and education for kids. “We wish to prioritise the young audience and create media space for them,” says Meenakshi.

“The idea of a jury of kids exists in other parts of the globe too, it is for the first time that we have introduced ‘Pre-School Jury.’ Kids in the 4-6 age group will be trained through exchange sessions with experts from all around the globe.

Other categories include ‘Early Education Films’ (6-12 years) and ‘Animation Films’ (6-15 years). The films should be not more than three minutes long, without any narration but with sounds to help children relate to the world around them.

The films are woven around simple themes based on daily experiences — thoughts, emotions and the fertile imagination of tiny tots. The toddlers enjoyed the movies and were impressed by the event.
Going by the intelligent questions that they put to the experts, one thing is certain: films for children are not just gaining popularity, but are also well on the way to being a genre in itself.

Friday , August 31, 2007
Thinking big:Children convert their real life to reel life
Tenzing Lamsang

New Delhi, August 30: Twenty-five students from 10 schools in the Capital have come together to make films. But the story does not end here. These young filmmakers will also apply for an international award for these films.

The 25 films are all of one-minute length each and will be judged by an international bench of judges in September in Amsterdam. The bench will include children from different countries. The winners will get a free trip to the city, along with special certificates.

These films will also be used to start a new web-based early education children's channel by CHINH India, an organisation that specialises in children's films. And the credit for all this goes to Vinay Rai and Meenakshi Rai of CHINH. The husband-wife duo have organised a three-day Kids Film Festival, showcasing the 25 films and other children-directed movies at India Habitat Center. The festival, which will start from August 29, will have presentations by experts from BBC, RAI TRE (Italy) and other countries like China, Australia, the Netherlands, England, Philippines
Meenakshi said, “The special aspect is that for the first time digital technology allows children from all over the world to make films from their own perspective that also help adults and parents to see a very different world.”

Vahid Vahed, international film expert from Australia said, “Apart from the technical support, the overall idea and effort are entirely the kids'. The films portray their innocence and perspectives unblemished by the cynicism or correctness of adults.”

Dhruv Satija's (15) film shows how his mother was forced to give up her artistic ambitions to become a teacher. In skilful poetical narration, he questions his parents whether they will do the same with him. "Dad wasn't too impressed but mom was very pleased with my work, Satija said.

Column for 17 September 2007
By Mag Cruz Hatol

It was in Johannesburg at the height of the Fifth World Summit on Children’s Media in late March when we broached the idea of an Asia-Pacific version to be staged in our region. We noted that many of these festivals and international gatherings were being held in the First World. Prolific globetrotting Indian couple Vinay and Meenakshi Rai took up the challenge, sharing the sentiment that very little is happening in this part of the globe by way of gatherings in the name of children’s TV.

Manila was the first suggested venue. We adamantly refused. We half predicted that it would be difficult to convince government to host even a delegates’ dinner, considering its penchant not to throw support to undertakings meant to help children. New Delhi was the alternative choice and the Rais soon buckled down to work.

In less than five months, the forum was staged, a prelude to a bigger event next year. Not only were they able to wangle funds to bring in international experts, the Rais were also able to enlist the help of a few government ministries and a handful of generous patrons.

The Chin-India forum gathered scores of like-minded individuals from Australia, Britain, Germany, HongKong, Italy, Netherlands, India and the Philippines. The three-in-one event was highlighted by a unique children’s film festival which boasted of the first ever pre-school jury. Imagine kids under 5 judging international films for children! It was a sight to behold and enjoy as the precocious, wide-eyed children took in entry after entry, discussing the merits and defects from their own innocent point of view. Their comments were raw and unadulterated, charming yet sincere.

There were papers read, presentations and discourses made, panel discussions conducted and a slew of videos and films screened that the original three day forum seemed to have flown in just an hour. Commitments were firmed up for more partnerships and an international advisory group was constituted to ensure that the seed planted in Delhi would also be sown in Manila, Sydney, Tehran, HongKong and elsewhere around Asia.

Another interesting sidebar was the conduct by UNICEF of the one-minute video workshop participated in by highly urbanized private school students as well as their counterparts from an impoverished Rajasthan nomadic community.

The effort was enviable because one could see how video and film have evolved into a universal language for the youth. The results were compelling videos that spoke of issues that affected the 25 youths who spent five days with German teacher Chris Schuppe and his two Dutch partners. The team travels around the world organizing workshops on videos for children and youth, convincing everyone that all it takes is a simple camera and a vision to produce the most eloquent materials that speak for children and can even be entered in the most prestigious festivals. And all it takes is one quick minute to express sentiments and issues with huge impact.

By conference’s end, nine-year old Shrutti Rai who travels the world with her parents, had proven her prowess and knack for gathering and leading children. She was hurled a unique challenge worth documenting and looking at. She was assigned, and she has agreed, to almost single-handedly mount an international children’s forum on television. Last we heard, she spent almost two sleepless nights designing and planning what she wants to do to make the first ever event for , by and about children a success.

That children’s forum stage managed by Shrutti Rai will change the landscape of international events. We can’t wait till August 2008.


Kids programming perspectives discussed at Chinh India Forum
  05 September 2007
Animation Express by Divya Jain

Chinh India Forum

It took a very refreshing approach to the fascinating subject of content for kids. The First Chinh India Forum and Kids Film Festival - held in New Delhi from 25 August to 1 September – stood out because it tried to move away from the crass commercialization that has come to signify kids’ content. It did this through a range of activities right from a workshop with kids, to the screening of films and a forum focusing on kids programming. The highlight was the awards for the films which were judged by children.
“We have started the Chinh India Kids Film Festival and Forum with the purpose of creating a platform where ideas and opinions about content for kids can be exchanged amongst national and international delegates,” said Meenakshi and Vinay Rai who were advisors to the forum and the festival.
The forum ran over three days and covered a wide range of topics. The key messages that came through were that kids are the same everywhere and that kids’ content should be created from a child’s perspective, rather than taking an adult view of the same.
Vahid Vahed, Founder of Auburn Children Film Festival (Australia) ran a series of short films and quipped that he got a similar response wherever he has showcased the films. “As adults we may all have complexities, but kids across the world, I think speak a universal language,” he pointed out.
“Kids today are digitally attuned, they grow quickly and in our aggressive consumerist culture we have somewhere lost touch with the culturally rich and intuitive forms of traditional entertainment,” added South East Asian Foundation of Children and Television (Philippines) secretary general Mag Hatol.
The session on the challenges of commissioning and producing children’s programmes was moderated by filmmaker Vinod Ganatra who said that it is very difficult to make programmes for kids, especially for the pre school age group. Panelist BBC’s Sue Nott made a presentation about the content being shown on CBeeBies a channel for kids from one year old to six year olds and CBBC, a channel for seven to twelve year olds.
Following her, Laura Di Nitto screened a few clippings from Italian pubcaster RAI TRE’s two hour daily kids programming slot. “Innovativeness and production quality is what we look for before we select a programme,” she said.
Unicef (Germany)’s Chris Schuepp shared his experience of working and doing workshops with children on video production. He also screened 26 one minute films made by 24 children including five nomadic kids, who participated in the workshop organised by Meenakshi Vinay Rai under the project ‘Evolving Software for Children by Children’. This workshop was headed by Nienke Eijsink and Floor Van Slochteren from One Minutes Foundation in Holland.

Chinh India Forum

The session on the topic- What should children watch? Who decides? What do children want to watch?” was moderated by educationist Rajiv Trivedi and the panelists included Vahid Vahed, and Dr. Sreedhar, Director of Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia. Dr. Sreedhar cautioned that adults should guide children as to what they should watch.
The session on evolving an audio-visual vocabulary for children was moderated by Vahid Vahed with Mag Hatol, IFSHA’s Jasjit Purewal and eTVonline Head, China, Natalie Chan being the panelists.
“These days there are so many advertisements on TV that influence the children. They highlight the positives in such a way that the kids want every product shown on TV,” said Mag while talking on ‘Images plus children equals little consumers’. He stressed on the fact that the advertisers keep the children in mind and design the TVC’s in such a way that they easily accept whatever is being said.
How healthy such practices are in the long term perspective is debatable.
On the other hand, Natalie raised the issue of sex education and that it is a taboo in China and India to talk about it openly. “People are apprehensive of sex education being a subject in schools as they think that kids will get the information which they shouldn’t and will use it in the wrong way. Seeing this situation we started the website,, which educates people of all age groups about sex and that it is not a bad thing.”
She showcased the site and interestingly the site has 2D animated content as well.
The session “How to conduct a workshop with children when you don’t know their language?” was illustrated by Meenakshi who screened a movie Tea and Magic Camera – When Culture is Their Language. The film is about a Japanese photographer - Masato Nisigai who comes to India with his wife and the workshop he does with the nomadic children on making a camera simply with cardboard, magic paper and magnifying glass. It conveys a message that how he couldn’t even speak English and yet he taught the kids the technique to make magic camera.
This was followed by a speech by UK Theater activist and writer Alan Hescott on working with young victims of war and violence. Alan shared his experiences about how it is difficult to understand the situation of the people who have faced a war.
The session on ‘Innovations in the area of kids programming’ saw the panelists screening many films, especially in the area of sports programming for kids. Meenakshi screened films from the ongoing series of workshops, Spandan, in which spastic and mentally challenged kids make animated films with different techniques like cell animation, cut out animation, leaves animated amongst others.
Concluding the session Ratan Katyayani, Lawyer and grassroot activist from Muktidhara, an NGO in Rajasthan spoke about the life of nomadic kids and how Muktidhara is working towards the betterment of this community.
Sharing her experiences of working with African children, RAI TRE’s Laura along with her colleague Andrea Camerini, who is an Italian Singer showed footage explaining how they are using music as a tool for inter-cultural understanding and peace building.
Some of the panelists suggested that Meenakshi and Vinay Rai should start working on a plan to launch a Chinh channel solely dedicated to kids’ content which should be decided by kids only.
“To begin with we are launching a Chinh web channel by January 2008 with approximately 150 three minute films made by web journalists we have hired” retorted the duo adding, “We also invite content from everybody who is interested to send their films. They have to be maximum three minutes long and will be uploaded only after they have been approved by a panel of kids.”
The forum came to a close with the distribution of awards to the winners of the Chinh India Kids Film Festival 07.
The Chinh awards were given away to the best films in three categories including pre school films, early education films and animation films. The festival received 56 entries from 18 countries out of which Curious Cat from Japan won Chinh Gold in the pre school category, Colours from USA won the Chinh Gold and Chinh Silver was given to Kid Guides from Hong Kong in the early education category.

Special jury award in the early education category was given to Anita The Bee Keeper from Bihar (India). In the animation films category Arjuna, made by an Indian student studying in the USA bagged the Chinh Gold. Winning again, Curious Cat was awarded the Chinh Silver in the animation category, whereas Yet Another Gulliver’s Travel by Devansh, an Indian student from Panchagani, was given the Special Jury Award.
According to Meenakshi, the jury members were chosen after long rigorous selection and the shortlisted ones were given classes by experts on film appreciation and choosing the right film. The Kids festival concluded perfectly with the screenings of all the films.

  - Divya jain


Anak TV
Children "invade" Indian President’s home
M.C. Hatol


In India, it was easy to convince cultural agents Vinay and Meenakshi Rai to convene a forum by, for and about children around the hot topics of video, film and television.
In their years of work in tri-media, the Rai couple engaged the free services of one of the most ideal and critically astute partners that one can employ: Their daughter.
Shruti is all of nine years old, with genes of intelligence obviously acquired from her parents. The Indian girl has shown early signs of leadership qualities, gathering new acquaintances in Johannesburg to sell trinkets and conference stuff, even helping man an international festival secretariat in Tokyo.
In school, she is atypical because of her extensive travels and experiences. Even her school teachers are awed by Shruti’s profundity and prodigious talent. She not only draws but can handle videocams like a pro. She can edit with a keen eye. She has stage managed events and hosted programs, the most recent being a series of fora for children. Shruti oftentimes does all these with minimal adult coaching and coaxing. Yet she is not your run-of-the-mill type of young celebrity. Vinay and Meenakshi have seen to that.
Recently, little Shruti surprised her parents when she e-mailed the president of India. Shruti wrote Madame Pratibha Patil, India’s first elected woman president, about the forum she wanted to stage, an effort to mount a corollary counterpart to the adult event her parents were preparing called Chinh India. The New Delhi gradeschooler thought that if her parents were anxious about the way television was affecting children her age, she and her peers should in turn tell the adults the way it is.

She then surprised the entire Indian nation when the president replied! She and her small gang of like-minded gradeschoolers were invited for an audience recently at the Indian President’s Residence called Rashtrapati Bhawan.

It was expectedly a rough and tumble day for security as the highly-charged group broke protocol, asking questions only kids can conjure: Were you scolded as a child, to which the amiable lady chief executive replied with "yes, for not coming to school on time!"

Shruti was curious how the president’s day looked like. The leader gamely described a typical day full of meetings, functions and speeches. Irrepressible Shruti gushed that it must be boring. The smart gradeschooler then half-mandated the President to attend their Chinh Children’s Forum on Dec. 9 to 11. Tall order indeed from a nine-year-old to a head of government!
Kids indeed say it like it is. Many of them nonchalantly questioned why the snacks served them in the stately Ashoka Hall were mediocre compared to what they got in a simple forum elsewhere that day. To which a parent exclaimed that it could be that kids are not important in government affairs, an observation shared by hundreds of millions of parents across continents.
We were told by our informant who was with the visiting children that the extremely paranoid security detachment confiscated autograph books and the greeting cards prepared by the kids for presentation to the leader. No one was allowed to take pictures either.
Sensing the distress among her kid guests, Madame Patil asked for an official group photo with the juveniles, an order greeted with glee and shrieks. As they huddled for the momentous shot, the kids managed to nag her about showing up at their all-important forum.
If the Indian President, who finds time for dignitaries and wealthy businessmen, shows up in solidarity at the Chinh India Children’s Forum on the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting, she would not only have paid the kids of India a moral debt but would have also shown the rest of the world the stuff that a genuine leader is made of.

Soup and samba!****
Friday June 1, 02:07 AM
Folk watch
A new VCD archiving India's nomadic tribes by Meenakshi Vinay Rai is just out: Maru Banjara (50 min, Rs 1,000). Before you howl at the price, think of the rare stuff you get to see and keep for just a few dollars, for less than a decent glass of wine abroad. This is part of an awarded series by Rai and linked to the NGO Muktidhara and Chinh, reportedly working with the Bhopas of Rajasthan (who worship 13th century hero Pabuji, who caught cow-rustlers back then, sort of a Sackett of the sands, except deified). The Bhopas teamed up last fortnight for a free public concert at Dilli Haat with an Italian singer Andrea Camerini who works for European gypsies. Call 011-65073927or mail or if you'd like to check out India's nomad music.




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