The Cinema of Childhood comes to the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield in July. Curated by eminent film scholar and filmmaker Mark Cousins, the season will be touring around the UK until the end of the year. It’s a unique opportunity to see wonderful films about childhood which have rarely or never been seen in the UK. This strong selection comprises 17 magical films from 12 different countries
Little Fugitive – July 1
After their mother leaves them home alone in New York for the weekend, 7 year old Joey is tricked into thinking he’s killed his older brother with an air rifle. So he runs away, to the funfair at Coney Island, to get lost in the rides, the spectacle. Filmmaker Morris Engel and his team see so much in him: a cowboy, the boy in Shane, the kid in Chaplin’s The Kid. A film this fresh could not have been made in America in the 50s, and yet somehow it was – the first true indie movie, real life captured wild in the streets. Truffaut credited this film with inspiring the French New Wave.
Hugo and Josephine & Palle Alone in the World – July 2
The lonely daughter of a rural pastor makes friends with a wild boy who lives in the woods. The mysterious giant who tends the garden seems sinister, but is really a big teddy bear. The darkness of the world beyond childhood lingers at the edge of the frame, but never intrudes. There’s a triumphant ride on a penny-farthing, and an egg-eating scene to beat “Cool Hand Luke” (made in the same year, curiously). Kjell Grede delivers a Swedish summer classic, blond and gorgeous and heart-breakingly innocent.
A boy wakes up to find that he’s alone in the world. A deserted, silent Copenhagen becomes his giant playground. He drives a fire engine very fast, and flies a plane to the moon. Adapting a famous novel, Astrid Henning-Jensen, one of the greatest directors of children, makes an all-time classic of charm and wonder.
Crows & 10 Minutes Older – July 3
9-year-old Wrona is neglected at home, laughed at in school, and furious with the world. So she steals a cute little 3-year-old girl to become her surrogate mother. They run away to the sea, but Wrona soon discovers just how hard being a parent really is. Dorota Kedzierzawska’s film about an angry girl who just wants to love and be loved is tough yet tender, and elevated by gorgeous cinematography. But the film rests on the performance of Karolina Ostrozna, who’s extraordinary as the scrawny, scrappy misfit.
Herz Frank’s seminal short film has to be seen on the big screen. Storms of emotion sweep across a child’s face as he watches a show that we never see. Ten minutes last a small lifetime, and tell us everything about why children are so mesmerized by cinema, and why cinema is so mesmerized by children.
The Little Girl who Sold the Sun & The Unseen – July 3
Sili, a crippled Senegalese girl, decides to do a boy’s job, selling newspapers on the streets of Dakar. She’s great at it, but the boys aren’t happy. Sili doesn’t care, and dances in a dress the colour of sunflowers. Djibril Diop Mambety’s little film is a big-hearted odyssey about daring to imagine what you can be, and to hell with what anyone else thinks.
At a blind school in the Czech Republic, the children exuberantly show off their remarkable talents – as musicians, as radio announcers, as daredevil bike riders and, most extraordinary of all, as photographers. Why take pictures of a world you can’t see? To capture memories, of course, that sighted people can describe back to them. Miroslav Janek’s documentary is a true eye-opener about the resilience, adaptability and creativity of children, faced with whatever challenge the world throws at them.
Bag of Rice – July 5
Four year old Jairan is ignored at home, and is itching for something to do. She convinces her neighbour, an old lady who is partially blind, that the two of them should travel across one of the world’s busiest cities, Tehran, to buy rice. What could possibly go wrong? A gentle take on Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Talebi’s disarming film starts as an odd-couple adventure, then opens out into something profound and unforgettable.
Children of the Wind – July 7
Sampei is a little rascal, the leader of his village gang, rallying his troops with the Tarzan cry of his hero Johnny Weissmuller. But when his father is falsely imprisoned for fraud, his idyllic life falls apart. Sent to stay with his uncle, Sampei runs away any chance he gets – up a tree, down the river, to the circus. If only he can help his father to clear his name, everything will be all right again. Hiroshi Shimizu’s luminous masterpiece is nearly 80 years old, but still shines brightly.
Forbidden Games – July 12
German fighter planes massacre a column of refugees fleeing Paris on a country road. A dazed little orphaned girl is left wandering the fields clutching her dead dog. She’s adopted by a peasant boy who brings her into his eccentric family. The children retreat into a fantasy world, but they cannot hide from reality forever. Rene Clement’s angry masterpiece blends tragedy and farce into a heart-breaking account of children caught in a war they can’t possibly understand.
The King of Maths – July 13
An old illusionist in China needs an heir to pass on the secret of his mask tricks – so he buys himself a grandson from a needy peasant. But the child is hiding a secret. When the magician finds out, there’s hell to pay, and only spectacular action can save the day. Swooping emotional drama about a kid who wants to be loved, and an old man who learns how to open his heart.
The Boot – July 14
A little girl, Samaneh, pesters her mother to buy her red boots, then loses one, then tries to find it. The story is fairy-tale simple, but the emotions swell, like in Bicycle Thieves. Director Mohammad Ali Talebi had been working with children for years, and it shows. He makes Samaneh one of the most vivid characters in the movies.
Tomka and His Friends – July 15
When the Nazis occupy an Albanian village after the withdrawal of the Italian army from WW2, Tomka and his gang are furious – because the Germans set up camp on their football pitch. The local partisans recruit the boys to spy on the invaders, and help to set an ambush. Who knew war could be this much fun? Albania’s greatest female director Xhanfise Keko spins a classic boys’ own adventure yarn, but in a style as raw and authentic as anything from the Italian neo-realists. Never before seen in the UK, freshly restored, this is a rare discovery.
Moving – July 17
Renko’s mum and dad are splitting up, and her heart is burning. So she plays with fire, tears up the rule book, holds herself hostage, even starts talking to the weird girl in school who’s the only other one with divorced parents. But as Renko watches her childhood go up in flames, she learns how to forge a new self from the embers. Director Shinji Somai is hugely regarded in Japan, but only starting to be known in the West, more than a decade after his death.
Willow and Wind – July 20
A school window is broken, and kids can’t concentrate because the rain is getting in. The culprit isn’t allowed back into class until he mends it. So he carries a large pane of glass by hand across the countryside in a gale. The wind blows; but will he crack? In the hands of writer Abbas Kiarostami and director Mohammad Ali Talebi, this simplest of stories becomes an epic quest, poetic and breathtakingly beautiful. It has big-hearted humanism, but Hitchcockian tension too.
Long Live the Republic – July 21
Set in Moravia towards the end of WWII, Karel Kachyna’s forgotten masterpiece jumbles reality, memory and fantasy to capture the intensity of childhood in a war zone. Oldrich is the runt of his village, beaten by his father, bullied by the other boys. But he has imagination on his side, and a wiry toughness they can’t defeat. As the Nazis retreat and the Red Army advances, he dodges amid the mayhem, taking his share of blows but always managing to stay one step ahead.
The White Balloon – July 26
A masterpiece about a little girl who won’t take no for an answer. Razieh wants a new goldfish to celebrate the Iranian New Year, even though she’s already got several. But tricking her mum into giving her the money is just the start of her adventure. What’s a white balloon got to do with it? You’ll have to wait to the end to find out. Utterly real, quietly hilarious, totally brilliant. Jafar Jafar Panahi became the first Iranian filmmaker to win a major prize at Cannes when “The White Balloon” was awarded the Camera d’Or in 1995. In 2010, the Iranian authorities sentenced him to six years for subversion, though he has yet to be sent to jail, and banned him from filmmaking for 20 years.