Kids, Films and Pingu

I spent my weekend (and half of Thursday and Friday) doing one of my favorite annual jobs--I was a "subtitle reader" for the BAMkids International Film Festival.  What exactly does a "subtitle reader" do, you ask?  Well, I sit in the back of the theatre and read the subtitles to the features and short films into a microphone, so that children who don't read yet (or well enough yet) can still enjoy films from all around the world.

This year I "read" more than 15 short films and features.  I love this job for a number of reasons.  First, I get to see hundreds of films geared toward children from all over the world in a few days.  I get to see what messages, themes and ideas people in other countries find important to convey to young people today--and how they do it, whether it be with clay, traditional animation, live action or other inventive ways.

Second, it inspires me.  I get some great ideas for my own work.  I get ideas that I bring back to my job at the Paley Center.  I get ideas that find their way into my writing, directing, and choreography.  And I get to marvel at how people in a completely different medium than the one I work in, tell stories.  So, I always learn a lot.

Third, I am moved.  Yes, I would likely be moved even if I was just sitting in the theatre watching the films, but the fact that I need to express the thoughts and the feelings of the characters by speaking along with them, gives me a very internal experience of the dramas and comedies that are unfolding before my eyes.

Finally, I always leave the BAM complex strongly believing that art for children--whether it be musicals, books, films, animated features or television programs that are thoughtfully crafted and executed--is  essential.  And it isn't essential for just the children, it's also essential for the parents, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles who accompany children to these festivals, and our society on the whole.

And to be honest, I would gladly sit through four days of children's films with moving, inventive and well-articulated stories, rather than spend two and a half more hours of my time watching a 65 million dollar "family" musical that tries to wow me with special effects.  And since I did both in the same week, I recommend you save your money and just watch a few hours of Pingu (one of my BAM favorites) on YouTube instead. 

Here's one from this year's festival to get you started: