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Our Story

In Southasia, in our still developing and often politically volatile countries, most children have little or no access to education, health, shelter and security let alone good cinema. And those who are privileged enough to have access are often swamped with mediocre, consumerist, stereotypical and violent entertainment content. Coupled with this duality is the lack of adequate investment or distribution for locally produced, original and imaginative stories that are rooted in our reality and aspirations and encourage a culture of reflection and enquiry, empathy and empowerment for our young viewers.

40% of the population in Southasia, approximately 650 million is under 15 and for them, cinema is one of the most compelling forms of storytelling and entertainment. And yet only 0.02% of the 1200 films produced every year in Southasia are children’s films.

While dozens of TV channels cater exclusively to children and one-third of the programming is now local (Indian), it is largely animated and imitative of the dubbed imported content. Economics also dictates homogenous and regressive programming frameworks that often reference mythology or Bollywood and validate the absence or stereotyping of marginalized groups and communities.

At the same time, because of the proliferation of multiplexes, the rising popularity of indie cinema and access to technology and the internet, we are also witnessing a gradual momentum around cinema for young audiences. This is evident from the steady rise in the numbers of children’s films produced in the last five years especially in India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bhutan, some of which have travelled rather successfully to international film festivals and even sold in territories across the world.

New film festivals are being added to our calendars every year. India alone hosts a dozen and both Pakistan and Bangladesh have established annual film festivals. Filmmaking and film appreciation workshops for children are sprouting across cities, with schools and parents demanding more.

And yet the creative and commercial potential of children’s films in this region is far from explored.

It is this concern and belief in what may be possible, that brought together 18 like minded organizations and key industry players from Southasia to the First Round Table on Children’s Cinema in December 2012, at Thiruvananthapuram, India to gain consensus for creating a regional umbrella network. Producers, directors, distributors, film festival organisers and film educationists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia and UK deliberated upon the challenges and potential of nurturing a domestic children’s film industry. After two days of learning and sharing and intense discussions, participating organizations resolved to lend their support to form the Southasian Children’s Cinema Forum (SACCF).

SACCF is now a growing network of film industry, film festival and film education professionals; government, private and non-profit organisations from across Southasian borders. While we can expect the tasks at hand to be complex as the state of the film industry, available technology and know-how in the 9 countries is vastly different from each other and creating platforms and programmes that are mutually beneficial and efficient will be challenging.

But at the same time both linguistic diversity and linguistic commonality offer immense possibilities for marketing children’s films across borders. For instance a Punjabi film from Pakistan can be distributed in schools in Indian Punjab; a Pushto film from Afghanistan can similarly be screened in Khyber Pakhtunwa province of Pakistan; a Bengali film from West Bengal can travel to Bangladesh, a Tamil film from Sri Lanka can be released in Tamil Nadu and a Nepalese film in Sikkim. Regional cooperation will clearly pave the way for a viable locally produced independent children’s film industry.

Our work, we hope will also provoke a discussion on contemporary children’s content among film makers and broadcasters, industry leaders and policy makers, parents and teachers and young audiences themselves.

What is Southasian Children’s cinema? What sort of dialogue should it have with its own diverse, historical and modern milieu? How can children’s cinema lend itself to commercial exploitation without giving up on its originality, distinctness and authenticity? Can popular children’s media take the risk of accommodating the representation of diverse groups and worldviews? What response can children’s films offer to the rising politics of homogeneity and hatred, intolerance and violence? How can children’s content engage with social realities and introduce difficult and challenging conversations and yet remain simple, fun and delightful?

We are very hopeful that our efforts will eventually compel our states - that share fragile and often volatile relationships - to ease and erase restrictions so we are able to meet, interact and collaborate more freely. Active cooperation in cinematic and artistic pursuits will also help us nurture and strengthen a distinctive ‘Southasian’ voice; and help young people in our region discover and embrace a Southasian identity – a sensibility that celebrates various simultaneous identities at once and encourages empathy, understanding and cooperation amongst those who have for centuries shared common histories.

Monica Wahi,
Director
Southasian Children’s Cinema Forum

Our Logo

IDENTITY

Everyone has an important story to tell. Our stories are anchored in where we come from and enable us to validate our identity and our experience as individuals and communities. In a world that is increasingly overwhelmed with the sameness of narratives, we hope for a landscape, where distinct identities express themselves and converse with one-another with equality, empathy and empowerment.

DIVERSITY

The dance of colours celebrates the variety of religions and ethnicities, languages and cultures, beliefs and practices that exist within each Southasian community and connects them to one another in an accommodating, inclusive and kaleidoscopic universe.

Cinema

It started with the opening of the shutter. The camera captured an image and when images came together they started to tell a story. And soon each world wanted to tell its own story through its own eyes and its own voice. Through films we create our own fantastic fables and evocative epics that move and inspire us, help us understand ourselves and shape the world around us.

Vision

The eye behind the lens is the real storyteller. It determines the focus and the framing of the image. The eye is the window through which we perceive our reality, record our memories, and dream fantastic dreams. The eye has the ability to see beyond the immediate and the present. The eye creates as well as receives the image and can therefore re-imagine the world.

Integration

To move forward we must recognise and strengthen the threads that bind us together. By linking experience to expertise, knowledge to networks, artists to audiences; by connecting stakeholders from film, education and development; private, government and non-government organizations; parents, schools and children themselves, our ambition is informed by a shared vision and a shared commitment to travel together.

Imagination

Man made borders across Southasian states may discourage and sometimes even disallow their citizens to meet each other, but water creates its own path. As a river it flows from one country into another connecting many nations, and sometimes as an ocean creates a bridge between them. Our fish then is an independent citizen of this waterworld – and just like cinema – it travels across physical borders to bring joy and meaning to those who seek it and breathe life into our collective imagination.

We are still in Beta.
Please share your feedback at
mail@ccfsouthasia.org