INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: A NEW PLATFORM TO ADVOCATE FOR CHILD RIGHTS
By Emil Sahakyan/UNICEF
YEREVAN – Accused by his family for all their problems and locked up in a small room because of his disability, Babak dreams of going to school like his younger brother. His dream finally comes true, as his younger brother’s classmate starts to teach him letters and numbers and one day takes him to the school. This is the synopsis for a feature film “Time to Love” by Iranian film director Ebrahim Forouzesh that won the first prize of the children’s jury in the category “I have rights” introduced by UNICEF as part of the 6th International Festival of Films for Children and Youth.
It’s been two years that organizer of the Festival, the Armenian Branch of the Moscow-based Rolan Bykov Foundation for the Promotion of Films for Children and Youth, is acknowledging best films that highlight child rights. If last year the theme of child rights was only represented as an individual award given by UNICEF, this year UNICEF and the Rolan Bykov Foundation have decided to make it into a separate category and encouraged film-makers to submit films on the theme of child rights.
“The introduction of the “I have rights” category within the programme of the Festival is a turning point in the Festival’s 6-year history. It helps to bring the world closer, to understand struggles through which children in different parts of the world have to go through,” Chair of the Festival’s adult jury, a film-maker from South Africa Ben Francis announced at the closure of the Festival that took place on 16 October at the “Moscow” Cinema in Yerevan.
A total of 18 feature films and documentaries about child rights have been submitted for the “I have rights” category. For five days children’s and adult juries have had heated debates as to which film deserves top place. The two juries decide on the best film independently. So, this year children’s jury favoured the Iranian feature film telling the story of Babak and a documentary “Voices from the Dark” by Italian film director Giuseppe Crispi, while adult jury gave preference to “Times and Winds” film made in Turkey and “Children of the Stars” Chinese documentary that tells about children with autism and their families in China.
“This Festival is a powerful platform from where we all can raise our voices for the excluded children, highlight the problems and challenges they are facing through the art of film-making. Stories of those children may not be that entertaining and funny to make a film on. On the contrary, they are full of sadness, despair and hopelessness. But if we fail to address the problems of those children in all possible ways and using all available tools, we will fail as humans,” UNICEF Representative in Armenia Laylee Moshiri stressed in her address to the Festival participants.
Within the framework of the Festival, UNICEF and the Rolan Bykov Foundation developed and distributed a special leaflet on equity. The latter is being distributed during film screenings both in Yerevan and regions of Armenia.
The Grand Prix of the Festival went to the Russian-made “Ugly Duckling” animation. Though not submitted specifically for the “I have rights” category, the animation based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, is all about acceptance and inclusion, about trust and belief that everyone is able, if he or she is given a chance and encouraged.