Movie Mom

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Tusk
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

This is Where I Leave You
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 2014

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

TrueSpark: Teaching Children and Teens About Character With Quality Films

posted by Nell Minow

I am honored to serve on the advisory committee for TrueSpark, which provides quality films and curricula for schools at no cost to use in teaching character.

Parents and teachers who want to learn more can find out how to enroll on the website, which also has information on how to volunteer, donate, or suggest films to be included.

Interview: Genevieve Bailey of “I Am Eleven”

posted by Nell Minow

There’s a reason that so many heroes and heroines of classic literature are eleven years old. It is that last magical moment at the cusp of childhood and adolescence, which is what makes it so fascinating and delightful. Genevieve Bailey remembered the year she was 11 as one of the happiest of her life, and so she decided to make a movie about 11-year-olds around the world, a wide variety of religions, cultures, nationalities, economic and educational levels, but all extraordinarily open, thoughtful, and engaging.  At the end of I Am Eleven, she revisits one of the boys, now 14.  When she asks him a question, he says, “That’s embarrassing,” and refuses to answer, and we see how precious those last moments of childhood are.

Why is it that the sense of embarrassment accompanies adolescence?

It’s true. I think when you become a teenager, there’s all sorts of things that we all go through; more self centering and feeling like life is more complicated and worrying about looking cool and acting cool.  That doesn’t happen too much when you’re 11, it’s just before all of that.

I think people will be surprised to see how philosophical these kids are, how deeply they thought about life.

Yes, that’s definitely been the response, we’ve screened at film festivals are in 20 countries and across cultures we are often surprised particularly by boys like Remi.  They say, “Is he really 11? Is the French boy really 11? He is such an old soul and his sense of humanity and community is very strong at a very young age.”

Tell me a little bit about how you found these children.

I decided on landing in these foreign countries where I didn’t speak the language, the easiest way to find children would be to go through schools because of course, that’s where they are Monday to Friday every week. But I did also worry a little bit that don’t teachers might nominate the students with the best grades or they might pick one of the kids who has acting experience and I didn’t need those things. I just needed the child to be 11 and want to be involved.

So I thought rather than going through schools, I wouldn’t take the easy approach. I would actually hit the streets and try to find children in the mall, or in some other random way. So I would go to marketplaces, I would go to families, ask people if they knew anyone who would want to be involved.  Each country brought its own challenge and sometimes I found them quite quickly in weird and wonderful ways and sometimes it took a lot longer.

But I’m really glad that took this approach rather than auditioning dozens of children to select someone for the film. In some ways, the children found me in their own weird and wonderful ways when I was out in the city.

I tend to assume as I think most people in the first world do that children around the world are very influenced by Anglo-American culture. Did you find that to be true?

Copyright Proud Mother Pictures 2014

Copyright Proud Mother Pictures 2014

I didn’t find that to be true because I covered such diverse places and I went to 15 countries and the children were speaking in 12 languages.  I think that definitely in Western English-speaking world, there are obviously influences. But the thing I really wanted to uncover, some places that I knew very little about like Morocco and Bulgaria and explore these words through the eyes of kids because I think there is a sense of clarity at that age in expressing who they are and their identity.

So yeah, I did see influences but there were a lot of things I did not know until I went to places kind of outside of the usual tourist traps and where backpackers normally go.

I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the children dancing.

Yeah, I love that. That wasn’t a deliberate conscious effort for me to ask the kids to dance. It was something that was happening organically and I love that because I love dancing when I was 11; much like Kimberly, I used to dance in front of my mirrored wardrobe to no end. And that was something that was really nice to see across cultures.

Yeah, the influence of music and dance was seen in each community so I’m really glad that I was able to edit together that sequence that’s taken from around the world and watching the children dance. I particularly like Billy’s dance moves on his bedroom floor.

You seem especially fond of him. Talk to me about him a little bit and about why you chose to include his father, one of the few parents in the film.

From the minute I walked into the Billy’s flat in London, I was completely charmed. And I ccouldn’tturn the camera on quick enough that she was ready to go – he was on the couch, he was asking me all sorts of questions.  He wanted to know if I had a theme song yet. Because he had a theme song he wanted for the movie, a 1984 wrestling movie theme song, he thoguht might be appropriate. And I was kind of just bowled away by his idiosyncratic way of speaking and his sense of humor; he was very cheeky but also very honest.

Audiences have really taken to him; he has resonated across the world. Especially young audiences always come out of the cinema saying, “We want to meet Billy!” Billy is autistic and he is very happy to chat specifically about that. And basically I think sometimes we see films and read books or articles about children on a spectrum and they focus on the challenges of what makes it difficult. For most, that’s true.  The film does not label him but he is really celebrated by audiences and I think it’s great for children to see that it can be really a positive thing.  Billy has his way of engaging audiences and I’m really glad that he is in the film.  His family is very loving and they celebrate him.  Hiis father was obviously very impressed and proud of how far he had come and that’s why I decided to include that scene where he explains that when Billy was young, he couldn’t talk or he couldn’t hold a pencil.

I think he provided some insight for the people watching the film, into how Billy has developed and that’s the reason why I decided to include that scene. And I also felt that Billy, when he was in that scene, he was very comfortable.  I also included the moment of Jamira with her father when it was Father’s Day and a few of those moments with adults because obviously as children, we are very influenced by those who are raising us; our mother, our father or both. But yeah, I was very conscious that for every minute or two that I used my screen time on exploring adult relationships that would be a couple of minutes and had to take away from the children. So that’s why I was very conscious of having a limited presence of adults on screen but there was little bit of it in their obviously to give some background context to certain relationships that I felt were very insightful.

Another one which I thought was very worthwhile was the guy from the orphanage talking about the house they were going to build for the children.

When I first went to the orphanage, obviously there are all different sorts of orphanages around the world; there are ones that are well run and there are others that are not so well run and ones where there is a lack of resources. And when I arrived in India I definitely saw that they were short of certain things but what they weren’t short of love and I felt very happy to know that we could still get involved on a long-term basis in supporting the kids and empowering them and having a focus on making sure they can complete their education and not have any financial hardship in regards to doing that. And because we knew that they were being cared for very well.

Despite their adversity in younger years, they are in a very safe place now.

Most people feel that children of that age are either too young or would be too upset to deal with the world’s various problems but these children seem to deal with them in a very honest way and yet not lose their sense of optimism.

Absolutely. That’s what I found across the board in every place that I went to. This sense of optimism and I think when you are 11, you are excited about dreaming big and you are ambitious and whether or not you are growing up in a privileged environment or a challenging one, you really believe that things are possible when you are 11.

I think sometimes we become teenagers, we lose that a little bit and obviously into adulthood we often lose that and become more cynical or skeptical of pursuing certain dreams. But I love that when they are 11 that they do really believe that dreaming big is a good thing.

Was it difficult to edit all of your footage into feature-length?

It was a challenge but it was a huge learning experience.  I am glad that I didn’t fear the risk factor of including so many voices.  Sometimes we are used to seeing films with three or four characters and of course, I could have chosen three or four of the English-speaking kids but I really wanted the audience to feel that they have traveled around the world in a hour and a half and seen some places maybe they haven’t seen on screen before. So it was a risk to include so many children in the same but I am glad that I didn’t shy away from the risk.

What did you learn from the 11 year olds?

11-year-olds are courageous and I think that rubbed off on me.  I am glad that people have the opportunity to meet all these different voices.  I could’ve made the film just in Melbourne with all different children but I really wanted to visit these places for the first time. I had never been out  of Australia so the big challenge that I set myself was to go around the world and not leave any city until I had met an original there.  So that was a little part of my process.

I think that as a filmmaker, I fell in love with these kids and they are big part of my life.  They are like my nieces and nephews. But to be honest, you kind of expect them to be a bit excited about the film as what you are. But as we have traveled with the film and screened it and we visited these kids, I’m really glad that even if some of them laugh at their hairstyles or some of the boys whose voices have now broken say, “Oh, my voice was so squeaky?!” But they are all really proud of themselves and how they are represented and also proud of being part of a really global perspective on the world. So I think that is something that I’m really happy with, with the children that are proud of being part of “I am Eleven.”

The Best TV for Kids May Be Online

posted by Nell Minow

Children have more choices than ever on television, but some of the best viewing for kids is online. Common Sense Media has a great list of family-friendly YouTube stars. I’d add EvanTube to the list. Newsweek calls him The Most Popular Kid You’ve Never Heard Of, with 272 million views of his engaging videos, whether reviewing toys or just fooling around.

YouTube Preview Image

I like this one.

YouTube Preview Image

I hope it inspires other families to create their own films.

Fifty Years of Fiddler on the Roof

posted by Nell Minow

fiddler japaneseThe Yiddish-language stories of Sholem Alechim, collected as Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories (Library of Yiddish Classics), inspired one of the most successful, influential, and widely performed Broadway musicals of all time, “Fiddler on the Roof,” which opened fifty years ago this week. It set the then-record of 3000 performances and still is listed as the 16th longest-running Broadway musical in history. There has been hardly a day since this story about a Jewish community in czarist Russia opened that it has not been performed somewhere around the world. Its songs, including “Sunrise, Sunset” and “If I Were a Rich Man,” have become standards, performed and recorded by singers around the world.

The play establishes its setting with the opening number, “Tradition,” where the fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters sing about the roles established for them by their culture and religion. But the theme of the play will be the pressure of modernity as all of the assumptions and beliefs of the community will be challenged.Cannonball_Adderley's_Fiddler_on_the_Roof

The central character is Tevye (played by Zero Mostel on Broadway and the Israeli actor Topol in the movie). He is a poor milkman with five daughtersshmuel_rodensky_in-anatevka_-_fiddler_on_the_roof.  Tradition would give Tevye the role of selecting husbands for his daughters based on what would be socially and economically advantageous. He approves of the widower butcher for his oldest daughter. But she challenges tradition by asking for his approval for her to marry the shy tailor she loves. Tevye must bend because he loves her and wants her to be happy. Seeing her in love makes him question for the first time whether his wife of 25 years, chosen for him, loves him. But his second daughter asks him to bend farther. She loves a hot-headed revolutionary, and she says they will marry whether Tevye approves or not. He is worried, but he gives them his blessing.

And then the third daughter asks him to bend further. She is in love with a non-Jew. Tevye says that is something he cannot accept. It shakes the foundations of his beliefs to even consider it. But not as much as they will be shaken by an anti-Semitic pogrom, with the Czar’s men all but destroying their village. The title of the play comes from the image of a musician precariously trying to maintain his balance and stay safely on a roof. The play ends with Tevye following millions of Europeans over the late 19th and early 20th century — immigrating to America, under the lamp held high for them by the Statue of Liberty.fiddlerplaybill

Many years ago, my parents were visiting Tokyo and saw that a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” was on stage there. They bought tickets. Even though it was in Japanese, with Japanese actors, they recognized the story and music. And they enjoyed the enthusiastic response of the audience. When it was over, my father asked one of the Japanese audience members who spoke English why the play was so popular there. He smiled, “It’s very Japanese!” The details, including the style of the music, are very particular to one group. But the themes of balancing tradition with growing understanding about ourselves and the world, about struggles between parents and children, about what is best for the community and what is best for the individual, are universal.

Previous Posts

TrueSpark: Teaching Children and Teens About Character With Quality Films
I am honored to serve on the advisory committee for TrueSpark, which provides quality films and curricula for schools at no cost to use in teaching character. [iframe width="420" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/akEWIRfjnxk?rel=0" frameborder="0"] Parents and teachers who want to lear

posted 8:22:33pm Sep. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Genevieve Bailey of "I Am Eleven"
There's a reason that so many heroes and heroines of classic literature are eleven years old. It is that last magical moment at the cusp of childhood and adolescence, which is what makes it so fascinating and delightful. Genevieve Bailey remembered the year she was 11 as one of the happiest of her l

posted 8:09:47pm Sep. 21, 2014 | read full post »

The Best TV for Kids May Be Online
Children have more choices than ever on television, but some of the best viewing for kids is online. Common Sense Media has a great list of family-friendly YouTube stars. I'd add EvanTube to the list. Newsweek calls him The Most Popular Kid You've Never Heard Of, with 272 million views of his engagi

posted 3:59:29pm Sep. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Fifty Years of Fiddler on the Roof
The Yiddish-language stories of Sholem Alechim, collected as Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories (Library of Yiddish Classics), inspired one of the most successful, influential, and widely performed Broadway musicals of all time, "Fiddler on the Roof," which opened fifty years ago this week.

posted 8:00:47am Sep. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Great Cinematographers on Instagram
Indiewire has a gorgeous array of Instagram feeds from Hollywood cinematographers. Be sure to talke a look so you can follow them.

posted 8:00:27am Sep. 19, 2014 | read full post »


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