New Delhi: “Content is the key" is a commonly heard refrain in the context of the kind of programming on television and films that passes off as children’s entertainment. While no one questions the creative talent of film makers, visualizers and designers, there is consensus on there not being enough good scripts, themes and story ideas.

Vani Subramanian’s “Ayodhya Gatha

The annual Open Frame Festival organized by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT), along with Prasar Bharati Corporation, UNESCO, Max Mueller Bhavan and INPUT was held in Delhi’s India Habitat Centre from 23 to 29August, bringing more than 70 documentaries and reality films from around the world on the theme of gender and children.

Moving away from a passive viewing format

What added value to the event were the panel discussions that preceded the screening of some of the festival’s most thought provoking and poignant films. Having the film makers on board led to animated exchanges, usually from students of film institutes and budding independent film makers.

According to Rajiv Mehrotra, Managing Trustee, PSBT “We have made a deliberate effort to move beyond passive viewing of films to having a highly engaged relationship and experience with the audio-visual medium."

The festival provides an ideal space for the exploration and experience of engaging films and cinema with conversations around our lives and identities. Yet another example where you find that the world has shrunk. For, where else will you find images and insights into cultures, people and lifestyles of countries, most of us may never get a chance to visit.

Finding an expression

The PSBT platform encourages and facilitates people to step forward and tell their own stories. Abuse, marital conflict, violence, alternate lives and multiple identities are not an issue and neither does the film maker have to present a solution. Confusions of the mind or highly individualized interpre

Vijay S Jodha’s “Pedalling to Freedom

Many of the films are on a shoestring budget and they may sometimes lack technical finesse or the quality of voiceover and editing skills, but even so, they fill a space in the cacophony of commercial television driven by the interests of advertisers and big business.

‘Bare’ which won the 23rd International Short Film Festival at Hamburg was “about a feeling". Using a telephone conversation as a soundtrack in a home video, it brings out what a child goes through living with an alcoholic father.

Pedalling to freedom used a bicycle as a metaphor for women empowerment, takes viewers to a real village in Pudukkottai. Then there is Haryana’s alarming sex ratio to a solo mobike riding experience of a lonesome traveller who takes the road less travelled from Mumbai to Changthang Plateau in the remote and difficult Ladakh region to a series of award winning films on environment and social issues ensured that there was an abundance of good stuff going, free of cost.

Plugging gaps in kids’ programming

By showcasing some of the best television programmes produced around the world, viewers could do an instant comparative analysis on where it is that we lack. Two definite grey areas that stood out were in the field of conceptualization and treatment. It is not the ideas that were lacking or the ability to put the film together, it is a lack of understanding of what to tell children and how to do that.

Susanne Seidel’s “A slippery tale

Children’s films from Sweden, Netherlands, Germany rubbed shoulders with those from Nepal, India and Bhutan, showing once again that issues that are important to children are universal. And the irony is we still fail to fully understand what it is that they want.

With film makers like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mrinal Sen and Shyam Benegal on the panel, PSBT’s endeavour is to expand its scope and reach. Compared to last year, the films were slightly better attended. Maybe the organizers should find a way of reaching out to their audiences and ensuring a full house.