What will the seventh art—cinema—offer Britain’s ten million kids under ten on their splendid voyage through summer? Toy Story 3, Shrek Forever, The Karate Kid, Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty, Tinkerbell and the Great Fairytale Rescue, and Marmaduke. All of these are sequels or remakes, except Marmaduke, which at the time of writing is scoring 1.9/10 on the Internet movie database. All, of course, are American.
Given that original films for kids are being made all over the world, and that those from Denmark, Iran and the Czech Republic have been good for decades, there’s a degree of market failure going on here. I don’t want kids’ summer voyage to be formulaic, and have decided to do something about it. Tilda Swinton and I have had an idea. We are proposing that half way between a child’s 8th and 9th birthday, their 8½th birthday becomes their movie birthday. On that day they see a special movie, something different. They can get suggestions of what to see on our website or, if they find its “secret cave” and get inside it, they can see clips from great films, write to us saying which they like the look of, and we will send them DVDs of 2 or 3 of what we think are the most inspiring, mind expanding movies from around the world. For free. And we hope that the child will have a party before they watch, switch off the lights, dance etc. An enchanted day. A small rite of passage.
We tested this idea in one school in Scotland, and it fizzed like a Catherine wheel. Kids who’d never seen a subtitled movie before loved King of Masks from China and giggled through Jacques Tati’s sight gag panto, M Hulot’s Holiday, so the Scottish arts council gave us money to try the 8½ Foundation, as we’re calling it, across Scotland, a far bigger bailiwick.
We need support to work at such a scale, but the first signs were good. Many key people in British film have enthusiastically joined our team of advisors, or given us films at greatly reduced prices. And, abroad,…