Little Cinema was invited to hold film screenings and conversations with children and young adults at summer camps organised by the Education Resource Centre (ERC) of Sahay, a city-based non-profit. The camps were held at very different localities in and around Kolkata and Diamond Harbour. Here are notes from some of the screenings.
Notes from Boral
The show was held in a hall on the premises of Jhilmil School in Majherpara, Boral. We had an audience of around 35 children from the neighbourhood, mostly girls from classes 7-10. In the beginning the children told us that they had been preparing for a small skit and several performances they were to put up on 5th June, world environment day.
When asked which film they had seen in the cinemas most recently, a boy said, Tiger Zinda Hai. Taking the cue, we decided to begin the show with a film starring a real tiger and not fake tigers, Bert Haanstra’s Zoo! When asked which scene they loved the most, many mentioned the scene with the adorable and human-shy baby chimp, who in the end draws the curtain on unwanted human visitors of the zoo. Some others liked the ‘bubblegum imitation scene’ by the grown-up chimpanzee.
After The Boy, the Slum and the Pan’s Lids where they watched a Brazilian children’s band that used improvised instruments made of slippers, oil tins, pan’s lids etc., we got down to discuss if children could put together their own musical band with household stuff as percussion instruments. This generated some excitement. The other thread of the post-movie talk too to discussing football, the game they most associated with Brazil, and how cool was the child protagonist as he scored a beautiful goal while within a chase!
As we were all warmed up and about to play the third film, there was a power cut. Faces immediately turned sad with disappointment and gloom at the sudden interruption!
“Current jodi aj ar na ashey! Cinema dekha hobe na, na aunty?”
To lift the mood, we decided to get a sketching break. The children split up in groups of three or four and were asked to draw two sketches by each group – one from each film.
Payel Purkait, Rakhi Naskar and Tania Yasmin (ages 14-15) drew a funny and beautiful sketch of their favourite scene of the shy and annoyed baby chimp along with the adult chimp imitating the human bubblegum blowing action. Several groups – Erfan, Susmita, Rakhip, Sadia (ages 13-15), Apsana, Ruksa, Arifa, Karima (ages 11-14), Krishna, Sanju, Bulti, Subhajit (ages 11-13), Julekha, Nilufa, Riya, Dipsikha (14-15) took to sketching football and ‘jugaad band’ with their child protagonists donning a yellow and green no. 10 jersey!
The Chairy Tale and Two and Two as usual, met with highly enthusiastic response.
‘We should not mistreat anyone, take them for granted – either chair or friends!’
‘Even if you tell us something wrong, aunty, we will stick to what we understand as right!’
The Waterfall and Gaon Chodab Nahi prompted us to talk about our environment and ecology. Children were quick to point out the bloated-with-greed caricatures of the contractors, ministers and company people in Gaon Chodab Nahi. We talked about why the waterfall was important to the people, just like Bhabadighi was important to villagers in our state. The screening ended with all of us singing the first stanza in chorus!
Notes from Hazra
The children, ages ranging between 10 and 15, watched the show with rapt attention. After the screening, they expressed themselves enthusiastically and without any hesitation. All of them came from the neighbourhood paras and bastis.
Watching Neighbours got them started on examples of adults fighting mindlessly over petty issues. Fight over the ‘time kol’ (corporation water tap) was a common motif. ‘CPM TMC’r jhogra’ exclaimed a little boy. ‘club e club e jhogra’ screamed another! ‘India Pakistan jhogra’ remarked a third child. He went on to explain when asked why that was bad.
‘Dujoner kachhei paromanobik boma achhe’
‘Oi boma maarle ki hoy, jano?’
‘Sob pure jay. Sobai more jabe’
‘Erokom hoechhe kokhono?’
‘Japan e, Hiroshima te’
‘Nagasaki teo’ quips a friend.
‘Jara juddho koreni tarao pure gelo, ghoomer modhye’
and they all agree that war is bad on all counts!
As we were screening The Boy, the Slum and the Pan’s Lids, a child whispered to his friend about the film’s ending. He did the same with Neighbours. When asked if he had watched these two films, he proudly said Yes!
‘kothaye dekhechho chhobigulo?’
‘amader paray’, came the beaming reply.
‘kothay tomar para?’
It then struck us, that Little Cinema had held three shows in Peyarabagan over the past two years. So here was a group of three children from that para, who remembered some of the films we showed, and were all too eager and excited to tell their new friends about it!
A Chairy Tale brought them to discuss relationships. Friendships. Bullying. Equality. Love. In the drawing session, a group of children – Keya, Surojit, Sujata and Nikita (ages 14-15) – made a drawing of a man and a chair having a conversation through speech bubbles, where the chair demands reciprocity in their relationship!
The Waterfall brought a little girl in the audience incredible sadness, as she remembered hutments around her house being brought down and her favourite mango trees cut down to make way for a flat-bari. She has since gathered several plants and tends to them in her little balcony, she said.
The screening of Two and Two brought anger and rage among the little audience. ‘We should bring out a rally against the authoritarian teacher’ said a boy, who said he had seen a few rallies in the neighbourhood. Sadness over the boy being ‘killed’ were somewhat assuaged when we discussed that the ‘killing’ wasn’t real after all, but more of acting n a movie to make a point of silencing of truth. All of us gave the courageous child in the film a big hand.
Here too, we ended by singing Gaon Chodab Nahi in unison!
Notes from Narkeldanga
While we were setting up, we chatting with the 20 odd youngsters who had gathered for the screening about the kinds of films they watch. Most of them, from classes 4-7 said that they enjoyed action films as well as super hero films. Before starting the screening we explained to them that sometimes films can be made on ‘unrealistic’ ideas and sometimes they can be made based on situations or incidents that have actually occurred with people like us- where it is more real.
We began with a group exercise, which the children thoroughly enjoyed—the action imitation game—followed by Zoo, moving onto The Boy, The Slum and the Pan’s Lids. The children loved Zoo, calling out the names of each of the animals that they could identify loudly. Interestingly, this audience suggested that the boy who takes the pan’s lids in The Boy, The Slum and the Pan’s Lids was in fact, naughty because he took something without asking.
After watching Neighbours, we discussed how fights can start out over the simplest of things and then escalate into large-scale conflict, particularly when it comes to space and land. One of the members of the audience immediately linked it with partition—how so many people lost their lives and homes.
While the children got down to the art activity, we found that some of the students were hesitant to even put pencil to paper. After asking why they opened up. ‘ I can’t draw, aunty.’ ‘ What if it turns out badly?’ It took a lot of discussion to break down the fear that they seemed to have about being judged for their artwork. Art is fun we said, and it is entirely upto you and how you want to represent what you saw on screen on the paper in front of you. It’s possibly the constant need for competition that sows this seed of fear in children. This is also something that we at Little Cinema want to work on—that expressing oneself should be without any fear.
After the screening was over and we were packing up our equipment, we noticed that some of the children stayed back, clearly wanting to discus something. We sat down, taking the discussion on Two and Two further. We explained the symbolism associated with the film in greater detail, talking about the bravery of the boy who stood up for what he believed in.
Notes from Jorasanko
Here too, we began with the game—that involved the children imitating our actions. Here, the audience was slightly older, from classes 7 to 10, primarily. It was very encouraging to see them all take part in the activity. Following the warm up exercise, we settled down for a brief discussion. All the children walk from their homes to the centre and to their school. They shared the various things that they see, on their way to and fro, that they don’t like. Child labour, said one of the girls. On her way to school she sees young children working in tea stalls, often getting hit and treated badly. Another mentioned how people throw garbage out of their houses, the classic ‘not in my backyard’ behaviour that so many people exhibit.
We began the screening with Zoo, discussing the actions of the animals and how similar they were to the actions of the humans, or vice-versa, linking it to the first game that we played. The film Neighbours elicited strong reactions, which the audience likening to India and Pakistan and how the flower could be Kashmir. The children linked what happened to what they see around them in their daily lives—fights over common and shared spaces—like common toilets, washing lines and water taps.
Watching The Boy, The Slum and the Pan’s Lids, it was heartening to see the glow on of the boys’ face. A drummer himself, he really appreciated the creative ways by which the children adapted household and waste items into musical instruments.
After watching Two and Two— a film that shows a boy standing up for what he believes to be right—we went back to the discussion that we had started the screening with: what the children observe on the roads that they don’t like. We discussed ways by which we can start protesting; in whatever ways possible what we know is wrong. The girl who said that she saw child labourers suggested that she could go to the tea stall with her friends in a large group and try to talk to the owner of the stall. Another suggested campaigns and rallies, perhaps with posters that they could make.
In the discussion that followed A Chairy Tale, the audience spoke of how it was the chairs turn to feel wanted and that it was important for us to treat things or people that we sometimes end up taking for granted with respect.
They enjoyed Gaon Chodab Nahi, immediately relating to what the adivasis were doing—not giving up the fight for their own space and land. We also spoke about the ways of protest that were shown. They spoke about water and air pollution and how not only does it affect the wildlife, but also the people who subsist on the very natural resources that are taken away because of so-called development.
And the end of the screening as we were leaving, one the boys came upto us and said that the teacher in Two and Two should have been ‘eliminated’ and not the student, because after all, it was he who was forcing the students to learn something that was wrong.
The level of engagement at the five screenings was stimulating and we have a feeling that had we more time then the discussions could have gone on for longer! The audience had their own opinions, sometimes even agreeing to disagree. At Diamond Harbour, where we had another screening, some of the audience was a little shy, although they opened up, once encouraged to express themselves.
-by Little Cinema team