By Hira Nafees Shah
Nestled in comfortable chairs at the auditorium with bags of popcorn and sodas in their hands, school- children giggled as a cute girl in a cartoon film took a fish out of its bowl and placed it on the bed beside her.
The kids remained glued to the screen as two more amateur films with educational messages rolled out.
The screenings were part of the Lahore International Children’s Film Festival, organized by an NGO “The Little Art” with funding from the Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network.
Shoaib Iqbal, a Fellow of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was the main organizer for the project.
“I initiated this project and The Little Art . . . because I felt that there should be a bigger platform where children’s achievement and art can be celebrated,” he said. “I also believed that children and teachers should be shown better cinema.”
About 1,160 submissions were received from 45 countries, out of which 169 films were selected for the six day screening at the festival, which expected to draw some 15,000 children. For the first time, movies made by Pakistanis were part of the lineup.
In addition, the organizers also held four workshops with private schools and one with a public school to teach the participants about what constituted a good movie and how they could improve their respective entries.
Asra Sultan is a student of 9th grade at a local school. She says she enjoyed developing new skills while working on the movie that her school submitted.
“It was a new experience for me and I learned a lot,” Sultan said. “I especially enjoyed learning about camera work, editing and how to choose actors.”
The opening ceremony of the festival was a grand event and was attended by more than a hundred people. Punjab Education and Youth Affairs Minister Rana Mashood was the chief guest and praised The Little Art for organizing the function.
“This event is a great way of giving platform to kids and enabling them to give vent to their imagination,” he said.
Famous TV actors and writers—who had judged the films—were also present on the occasion.
“I am proud of young filmmakers and this festival is one of the first steps through which creative talent of kids can be addressed,” said Asghar Nadeem Syed, one of the judges.
Another evaluator also commented on the power of movies to create a difference.
“Pakistani culture is very rich and we can use film as a tool to promote our culture, thinking and feelings,” said Adeel Hashmi.
But it was not only the panelists but audience members as well who saw the benefit of teaching children the art of film-making.
“I feel that very sensitive issues can be addressed through this medium,” said Mrs. Shaista Arafat, a teacher and a parent. “I tell my students and children not to hate others and give them a message of tolerance.”
Tenth grade students from LACAS won in the best film category for a movie called “Youth of Pakistan” and were ecstatic over their performance. See images from the movie here: http://www.lahorechildrenfilm.com/index.php?option=com_zoo&task=item&item_id=398&Itemid=293
“This project was a great experience for me as I never knew that I would win,” said Amer Haseeb Hashmi. “I have been motivated to continue making movies after this experience and feel very proud of myself.”
But despite all the effort at the end of the day, the most important verdict about the festival was delivered by school children for whom the viewing was arranged.
“I had a good experience watching the films with my friends and I enjoyed the Bobby movie the most because of its message,” said Esha Mueed, a Lahore Grammar School student. “After watching the show, I am also interested in making movies in the future.”
As for Shoaib Iqbal, he is satisfied by the positive feedback he received for his project –especially because Pakistani movies were included for the first time this year.
“Pakistani children have been engaged in making content for the festival for the first time ever and this has only been made possible by funding from the Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network,” he said.
Shoaib Iqbal hopes to conduct more events for underprivileged children to challenge biases and stereotypes and promote peace in Pakistan.
To find out more about the Lahore International Children’s Film Festival, check out:
To take a look at the other Pakistani entries from the event, visit: