Updated: Jul 9, 2020
There are several fine things that films have to show, just like all other art forms – making long-lasting connections with each other, managing friendships, self-esteem, setting goals and working towards achieving them, the value of relationships (internal and external) – with animals, with humans, with nature, and with self as a whole. Cinema is also personal history generalised for a larger audience. When children access and discuss these, they get closer to other perspectives – a crucial catalyst for empathy building and the ability to look at the bigger picture. Many parents and educators are more conscious of how movies can have a negative influence on the growing mind. But conversations around everything that a film has to offer should be encouraged, so that the child can become a discerning consumer of audio-visual media because it all pervasive and cannot be avoided today. This feeds back into what kind of movies become popular, while also remaining mentally engaging.
Age-appropriateness of content is a very valid concern. However, there is no saying where and how a child can come across something disturbing or inappropriate on TV, the internet, or even on a mobile phone, on their own or by accident. Just setting up controls on media at home isn’t enough. There are posters and hoardings outside, insensitive (most often provocative) forwards that come on WhatsApp, children find ways to access magazines and inappropriate content on their cell phones/computers. Violence and sexuality are exciting at a certain age and constant exposure to it has been known to de-sensitise children or make them rather cavalier about these aspects of human interactions. They should be comfortable enough to talk about it with their parents or teachers without the fear of being reprimanded or disciplined, and understand why what they have seen is deemed inappropriate or otherwise. Improving media and cinema literacy among all age groups is key, but especially children, because their minds are still getting shaped. Unfortunately, most of the time they are unsure of how their grownups will react to their questions about what they have seen on screen. These conversations are central to future individual and societal development where the primacy of audio-visual media is on the upward curve. So parents need to be more receptive to the idea of answering these tricky questions with patience. It is also important to de-glamourise all that the camera makes attractive, so that we can distinguish between real and reel. Cinema is a medium that tells the truth through lies and magic tricks; people need to connect with what is real and be able to leave out the dramatic aesthetic. Cinema becomes a live case study for everyone to study and learn from. In this context, it is the endeavour of Breakfast@Cinema to help more people look at the medium that way.