Are children nothing but cute, sweet, cuddly little people? Or are they equally capable of transforming into immoral animals if left to their own devices? How will audiences react to films that smash our romantic fantasies of children’s inherent innocence? These are among the questions to be answered by the 19th annual Art Film Fest’s new section: Dangerous Kids. From June 17 to 25 in Trenčianske Teplice and Trenčín, our festival cinemas will be screening films about children who no one would want in their own home. This truly unique section offers something no other film festival ever has – a revealing look into real children’s lives.
“Our goal is to introduce a cinematic genre that portrays childhood as a difficult stage, unlike the overwhelming majority of ‘children’s’ films, which simplify reality with cute, cheerful child protagonists á la ‘Home Alone’,” explains section coordinator Martin Ciel.
This new addition to our programme includes films that, despite their young stars, are definitely not suitable for children. “Unlike mainstream children’s films, they realistically portray their young protagonists’ cruel, foolish and naïve sides, refusing to shy away from issues of drug addiction, hatred, child gangs and other phenomena that are unfortunately often a part of real children’s lives,” adds Ciel.
“Lord of the Flies” by Nobel laureate William Golding was the first and likely the best-known work of art to shatter children’s image as unconditionally good and innocent. The novel has inspired various interpretations, including dramatizations, radio plays, comics and films. But the novel’s most definitive rendition remains British director Peter Brook’s 1963 cinematic adaptation, which will be included in the section.
After an unspecified global catastrophe, an airplane full of children has crash landed on a remote island. The pilots are dead. Provisions are nowhere to be found. The question is, how will the hungry children behave with no supervision? Another little apocalypse is set in motion as the children, left on their own, succumb to animal instincts.
A very different variation on the same divisive novel is brought by “Thalassa, Thalassa. Return to the Sea” (Thalassa, Thalassa Ruckkehr zum Meer) from Romanian director Bogdan Dumitrescu. This original film tells the unusual tale of five Romanian boys and one girl who find a white Jaguar full of alcohol and cigarettes in an abandoned barn, and decide to set off for the sea. But this trip of their dreams ends up taking a completely unexpected turn. How will they act without parental guidance? Will they shed their veneer of obedience and turn into immoral animals? Though the film dates from 1994, Art Film Fest’s screening marks its Slovak premiere. Upon its release, “Thalassa, Thalassa” was screened at big-name film festivals such as Rotterdam and Karlovy Vary, considered one of the best of its kind.
Swedish director Axel Danielson captures the ups and downs of childhood and adolescence, from the first babysteps to initial flirtations with delinquency, in his film “Twin Brothers, 53 Scenes From a Childhood” (PangPang Broder, 53 scener fran en barndom). Spanning an entire decade, the documentary records the development of Danielson’s two nephews from ages nine to eighteen. Despite being twins, Oskar and Gustav grow up to be very different people. This authentic film looks at questions such as: How and why did Oskar grow up to be a rebellious hard rocker, while Gustav likes to play piano? And what exactly is childhood? A nauseating period full of uncertainty, or a wondrous time of discovery and parental adoration? The film had its world premiere at this year’s Rotterdam IFF.
In the Georgian documentary "The Leader is Always Right" (Lideri Khoveltvis Martalia), director Salome Jashi sheds light on the horrifying manipulation of an entire generation. The documentary focuses on children in Georgia’s so-called "summer camps" financed by their president. Attended by roughly 100 000 boys and girls since 2005, the camps attempt to brainwash children with a mix of nationalism, fascism and communism, instilling them with total obedience and deep-rooted hatred. The resulting film is a chilling portrayal of propaganda targeting children, showing how the camps’ suggestive lectures and plays transform their campers into young soldiers, hungry for revenge.
Perhaps the section’s most “dangerous kids” of all are those in director Tom Shankland’s terrifying “The Children”, where “those who you’ve brought into the world are the ones who will take you out of it!” On a lighter note, the section will also feature the French motion picture “Babies” (Bébés), an entertaining account of the first steps of four children from around the world, as well as another Georgian film: “Susa”, the harrowing story of a young black-market vodka dealer.