Head of UK Learning Programmes, BFI
|The Spirit of the Beehive
|KIRIKOU ET LA SORCIÈRE
|Not One Less
|Ray Ashley, Ruth Orkin
|Vittorio De Sica
Iranian cinema is unique amongst national cinemas for its portrayal of life from children’s points of view - for complex social and cultural reasons. This real-time narrative follows the desires and impulses of a young girl, on New Year’s Eve.
Loach, Barry Hines, and Tony Garnett powerfully give ‘voice to the voiceless’ Billy Casper, and by extrapolation to a whole class of neglected children. Loach’s ensemble work and improvised method was perfectly suited to the politics of the story.
The Spirit of the Beehive
Extraordinary attempt to render the ‘child’s eye view’ of complexities that are almost completely beyond her apprehension, dramatising her attempt to make sense of an adult world.
KIRIKOU ET LA SORCIÈRE
For an animation aesthetic like no other, and a protagonist (it’s hard to say whether he’s a child or not) that children readily identify with.
When I saw this at the LFF in 2017, my partner said ‘this film should be seen by every child in London; what are you going to do about it?’
Not One Less
A 13-year old supply teacher is put in charge of a village school and told she will only be paid if she doesn’t lose any students. A film that is rather literally about the movement from the country to the city, which critic Alain Bergala says has been the abiding preoccupation of cinema in the twentieth century.
Truffaut said ‘without le Petit Fugitif there would have been no 400 Blows’.
A longish short about two boys’ ingenious attempts to get into a village cinema which features some of the foundational tropes of film: the arrival of a train, a dream sequence, the collective experience of watching a film, abrupt switches in scale (see Spirit of the Beehive).
I prefer Ramsay’s powerful, elliptical short to her feature-length Ratcatcher. Evocative not just of time and place, but also of a child’s awareness of the adult world and its impact on her life.
Bicycle Thieves will be a popular choice, but it’s here because of the abrupt switch in focus at the end to the child’s point of view, and his transformed view of his father. There are two bicycle thefts, and thieves, in the film.
Best of lists are slightly absurd I always think, like trying to race starfish against helicopters - why do it? But here’s a chance to foreground films that focus on children and the ‘child’s eye view’, which once upon a time was pitched as a BFI season. It never happened. Some of the great directors have focused on children, reminding us that the poet Louise Gluck said: "We look at the world once, as children; the rest is memory."