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ASTRA 2016

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16,000 children got the chance to watch films in Sibiu


- The city with a population of 150,000 and only one movie theatre introduced the art of documentary cinema to 16,000 children over five days

16,000 children got the chance to watch films in Sibiu

The 23rd Astra Film Festival (AFF), which took place last week in Sibiu, the capital of the Romanian region of Transylvania, with a population of 150,000, dedicated a large chunk of its programme to young audiences through its Astra Film Junior section.

From 10am until 2pm every day, four of the festival's six venues were dedicated to screening documentary films to children, separated into two age groups: 6-12, and 13+. The youngest were watching short films that portray how children are living in their respective environments, such as Wilder and His Wild Life from South Africa, and Max Rescues Animals from Germany. 

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"We work a lot on the programming," says Csilla Kato, the festival's head of programming. "Through cinema, children can discover the world, how their contemporaries are living their lives. So we were searching for films made for children, about children living in the world now.

"What we think is important is to give the children the experience of watching films together on the big screen. There is only one cinema in Sibiu, which only screens Hollywood films. So the children might have a chance to see educational films intended for their age, but on TV or a computer – not in the cinema."

Another interesting section was aimed at film literacy. The AFF designed a competition for comic strips made by children, inspired by the films they have seen. The festival also trains school teachers to introduce cinema to their pupils, and organised a workshop entitled "Sibiu as Seen by High-school Students", where ten teenagers participated in an intensive training programme where they learnt about documenting, filming and editing techniques. As a result, they made films that were screened on the last day of the festival. 

Meanwhile, there was a very attractive offering for teenagers: the documentary hits Sonita [+see also:
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and Searching for Sugar Man [+see also:
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, plus films with strong educational value, such as Andrew Morgan's True Cost, about child labourers in clothes factories around the world, and Duki Dror and Tzachi Schiff's exploration of the dangers of the internet, Down the Deep Dark Web

A special attraction – not only for children, but also for the citizens of Sibiu and the surrounding villages – was the full-dome cinema, set up in the city's central Mare Square. Three films were selected for the Astra Film Junior programme: Dream to Fly, a history of flying machines and their inventors; The Blind Man with Starry Eyes, a fairy tale about the importance of knowledge; and The Longest Night: A Winter’s Tale, a fable about courage, generosity and the rebirth of nature.

The festival reported that 16,000 admissions were sold for all the children's screenings over the five days of the festival, including organised school screenings. 

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