Big Eyes Big Minds Film Festival

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Big Eyes Big Minds Film Festival
Jo Tan talks to the founder of the Big Eyes Big Minds film festival about the local highlights and why film is important for kids

‘Think how you would tell a story to a young child as opposed to an adult – not only would you present the story differently, you’d use other words and a different tone of voice,’ says an earnest Mabel Gan, founder and director of the Big Eyes Big Minds Singapore International Children’s Film Festival (BEBM). ‘So the films [we show] have a unique charm. The tone is often tender and the humour is always pure. In fact, parents and teachers tell me that they’re surprised by how much they themselves enjoyed the films!’

Now in its third edition featuring a line-up of over 50 short films from around the world, BEBM was launched in 2011 to introduce the joys of movies to children. ‘Moving images have the amazing ability to fully capture a child’s attention,’ says Gan. ‘It’s important to provide kids with films that are value-affirming and enriching, to get children to think about the world they live in and stretch their imagination.’

The festival has grouped the films into six categories for different ages, ranging from toddlers to teenagers. Each grouping runs for 45 to 70 minutes in total; this year’s line-up notably features two collections for the youngest categories (for tiny tots aged two to six, there’s ‘Pickles & Dinosaurs’ and ‘My Furry Friends’; while five- to ten-year-olds can enjoy ‘Curious Critters’ and ‘Hungry Creatures’, which includes the Oscar-nominated short The Gruffalo, based on UK author Julia Donaldson’s beloved book).

‘Our youngest audiences always have such a good time that we brought in an extra collection for them this year,’ laughs Gan. Meanwhile, slightly older kids are introduced to supposedly grown-up concepts in collections like ‘Love Bites’ and ‘Magic Tricks and Politics’. ‘

Kids have a pretty good grasp of politics even if they don’t know the word. Like playground politics, or how toddlers know the power they have over their parents and when to use it!’ explains Gan.

With offerings originating everywhere from Japan to Portugal, there are also several Singaporean works on the line-up, including one directed by Gan herself. ‘It would be nice to have more local films which are made for kids. [The ones here] are wonderful. It’s just a bonus that they’re locally-made!’ says Gan.

Here, she gives us the local highlights.

Barbershop
Dir: Daryl Tan. 2010. 3 min. Part of the ‘Pickles & Dinosaurs’ collection for toddlers, this wonderfully whimsical, award-winning stopmotion film from Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Interactive & Digital Media demonstrates how one haircut opens up a myriad of possibilities. ‘This film tells its story visually with no dialogue, and that’s great for the target age. At the same time, it’s well-crafted, clear and entertaining,’ says Gan.

Bearie’s Wonderland
Dir: Jolene Liow. 2013. 2 min. Part of the ‘My Furry Friends’ collection, also for toddlers, this stop-motion film about a teddy bear getting ready for his day – from bed to bath and beyond – will wring involuntary smiles from even the most jaded adults. ‘A cute film that was made very simply, but full of little details that give it charm,’ explains Gan. ‘I like screening simple stop-motion animation like this because it shows kids that they can also make their own films. One of our objectives is to get kids interested in filmmaking!’

Switch
Dir: Hong Ling Yang. 2012. 5 min. This digitally animated short film is an award-winner from Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Interactive & Digital Media, featuring two bizarre but loveable robot ninjas engaging in a no-holds-barred battle for the final piece of sushi. Adds Gan: ‘This well-made film also tells its story with no dialogue, and kids will enjoy the goofy characters and humour.’ Part of the ‘Magic Tricks & Politics’ collection (70 min total) for seven- to 12- year-olds.

Rempah Sayang
Dir: Mabel Gan. 2013. 18 min. A classic coming-of-age film about food, family and love, done Singapore-style young – a Peranakan girl who loves her traditional treats finds her priorities changing after meeting her charming new neighbour. ‘I set out to make a heartwarming story that young people can connect with and enjoy watching together with their families,’ explains Gan. ‘There’s romance, but the main themes are family and traditions, and how these shape who we are.’ Part of the ‘Love Bites’ collection (75 min total), for ten- to 18-year-olds. BEBM is at The Arts House from 22-30 Jun.

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Event phone: 6332 6900
Event website: http://www.bigeyesbigminds.com
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