Ligia Soare • Programmer and organiser, Animest
“Animated films can help children open up”
by Stefan Dobroiu
- We chatted to Ligia Soare, who is in charge of the kids’ events and sidebars at Bucharest’s Animest International Animation Film Festival
Part of the team since the very first edition, Ligia Soare could easily be described as the beating heart of, and a factotum at, the Animest International Animation Film Festival (4-13 October, Bucharest). She is also in charge of the festival’s sidebars and events dedicated to children, so we asked her about the complicated relationship between film events, children, parents, teachers and institutions.
Cineuropa: There is no other Romanian festival comparable in size to Animest with a bigger focus on children. What is your role at Animest, and how important are children’s films in terms of the gathering’s selection and strategy?
Ligia Soare: Animest is an animation film festival that programmes movies for all ages. We have a comprehensive selection where the core is aimed at mature audiences. However, the section dedicated to children, called Minimest, has always played an important part, with screenings for families during the weekend and for schools on weekdays. Moreover, one of the competition sections is dedicated to short films for children, with a jury consisting of kids aged 7-12, and that is where I play my part in Minimest, because I am the programmer of this sidebar. We also programme feature films, and attempt to take the teachers and the kids out of the schools and bring them to the cinema, to enjoy the unique experience of the big screen. We want to nurture the future lovers of good cinema, the audience that goes beyond the commercial films that we usually have access to, outside the festival.
The 14th edition is the biggest in the history of Animest. Is this growth visible in Minimest, too? You have also prepared workshops for children…
We basically doubled the number of films dedicated to children, with 28 shorts in competition and 11 features. Apart from traditional theatres, we now screen these films at the Museum of Recent Art and the Comic Opera for Children, and we truly hope these alternative spaces will help us reach more children. The idea behind the workshops this year was to make them more consistent and coherent. And here we are, offering two stop-motion workshops and a comics workshop, with a record number of participants.
Every year on the “thank you” page in the festival catalogue, you mention your son Max. Do you pitch new ideas for Minimest to him? How important is the kids’ feedback regarding the events made especially for them?
Well, I mention my son’s name among the people I am thankful to because he plays a part in organising the festival. He helps with the selection of the films in competition. We take into account the children’s opinions because their perspective is different from the adults’; they see things that we might ignore or overlook, and in a selection of films, I believe you can always tell if it was only an adult’s eye that made the final decision. It is also true that we look for films that deal with problems or topics that are interesting and useful for kids nowadays, because animated films can help children open up or better understand the world around them.
Animest has had a bumpy relationship with the institutions. Do you think there is a state strategy in place for children’s education through cinema?
Film festivals are not easy to organise in Romania, because no matter how big or relevant or successful your festival has been, you will always need to convince the institutions to invest money and confidence in what you do. You start from zero every year. Unfortunately, multi-year programmes are non-existent in our field for the moment. What I’ve noticed is the growing interest of private entities and NGOs in developing programmes for children and using cinema as a means of education. There is no long-term strategy from the state, but there are some interesting and refreshing initiatives from small organisations and fellow film festivals.
What about the parents’ feedback? Do they think education through cinema is necessary?
On the whole, I feel like most parents in Romania do not consider film education as an important element in their children’s development. And it’s not their fault, as film culture is almost non-existent in Romania; animated films for children are only funny cartoons to pass the time, not to teach children something relevant, or to raise awareness or challenge their imagination. It’s a pity. But there is growing interest in it! Parents write to us and ask about the films they have seen at Animest. Teachers contact us to ask for good material to use in class. They ask about workshops dedicated to children who want to learn how to make animations. This year, several parents from other cities are travelling to Bucharest so that their kids can attend our workshops. What could be more rewarding and encouraging for us?
What new elements would you bring to Animest if you had access to more resources? Are there any new avenues you’d like to explore for the upcoming editions?
We would like to have more consistent screenings and workshops all year round! And if we had a sort of magic wand, we would change the mentality of most education policy makers, inspectors and teachers who think it is too hard and too challenging to take the kids out of school and bring them to theatres or other, alternative venues. As for our plans, next year, Animest could – and should – come up with a nice offering for children with special needs. So help us, God of Festivals!
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