Cinema is one of the three loves of my life, the other two being music and food. Just like any other art form, cinema helps us escape to a different place and time, away from our mundane daily lives. Here are some of my favorite children’s films that I would recommend to anyone to show their children, to schools and other institutions dealing with children.
Children of Heaven
I first saw this movie sometime in the late 90s on cable TV. Many years later, I saw it once more. This is the most beautiful children’s film I have ever seen. There is something so simple and pure about the movie, which breaks the barriers of culture and community and it strikes a chord with your heart.
Children of Heaven is about a little boy named Ali who accidentally loses his sister’s shoes. He is scared to tell his parents about it. His sister Zahra worries how she’d go to school without them. So the both of them decide that she will wear Ali’s sneakers to school every morning, and then, he will wear them for his school in the afternoon. Thus begins the journey of Ali to get a new pair of shoes for Zahra. One day, Ali learns of a footrace for children where the third prize includes a new pair of sneakers. He tries hard for the third place but ends up winning. He is heartbroken but the movie has one last bit of magic and it will make you smile.
Watching the brother sister duo and seeing the world through their perspective makes you fall in love with them. The empathy they experience for others around them tugs at the strings of your heart. Children are so pure and innocent at heart, they don’t deserve to be scared of adults and their situations. The movie is filled with endearing characters. Technically too, the movie is brilliant. The movie has minimum dialogue and the feelings are aptly conveyed through expressions.
This beautiful gem of a film from Iran is meant for the whole world to cherish.
The Red Balloon
The Red Balloon or Le Ballon Rouge (French) is a 1956 French fantasy featurette directed by Albert Lamorisse. This thirty four minute short follows the adventures of a young boy, Pascal, who finds a sentient, mute, red balloon tied to a lamp post. The film has been shot against the backdrop of cobbled Parisian streets and neighborhoods. There’s fantasy, adventure, tension and a bit where two balloons fall in love. It is magical.
Childhood is one big adventure, with Pascal and his balloon wandering happily through an urban cityscape filled with adults to bother, buildings to explore and street-side bazaars to discover. The city is a play ground and a place where magic happens. Even when tragedy strikes, the Red Balloon still has one trick left up its sleeve, ending in a sky ride that simply must be seen to be believed.
The use of the color red has never been so powerful in the history of cinema apart from the little girl in Schindler’s List. Only in this case, it is more charming and sweet. It’s a must watch for children as well as adults. Everybody deserves a little magic after all!
I watched this movie as a kid in the mid-90s, on a VHS. Back then, we (my family) used to rent a VHS player once a year during our (my brother and I) summer vacations and watch movies through the night till dawn. There was no cable TV with millions of channels then, and watching movies often felt like a privilege.
Home Alone tells the story of an eight-year-old, Kevin, who got left home alone during Christmas and his tryst with the wet bandits. This John Hughes classic introduces Macaulay Culkin as Kevin whose elaborate adventures and booby traps make for thorough entertainment and fun.
The child ‘me’ often wished I could make my family disappear to get rid of all the punishments and daily routines. Every time my parents went away to visit the country-side family home, leaving my brother and me home alone for days, I reveled in saying we were ‘home alone’. We felt like Kings and the house was our kingdom to rule! We could eat whatever we wanted to, sleep as long as we wanted to, watch TV, skip school and do everything else we enjoyed.
The truth is, I have been watching this movie every Christmas eve for the last few years. I will always cherish the memories of me and my brother laughing till our bellies hurt, talking about the exploits of Kevin and the wet bandits late into the nights when our parents were asleep.
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
This is a children’s classic from 1982, directed by one of the greatest film directors of all time in cinema history. It is a science fiction fantasy film about a boy, Elliot who befriends an extraterrestrial being stranded on Earth. Steven Spielberg has based this story on an imaginary friend he had created after his parents’ divorce in 1960.
A cutely weird looking alien with telekinetic powers is stuck on Earth as his companions leave in a hurry after a botched up mission. Elliot, a shy and lonely boy in suburban small town America finds E.T. and takes it to his home. The film follows the story of how Elliot and his siblings try to protect E.T. from the dangerous government agencies and send it back on its journey home.
This is the quintessential Steven Spielberg film: profoundly cinematic, hopelessly innocent and unapologetically optimistic. No wonder it became the highest grossing film of all time, worldwide, and remained so until another Spielberg film, Jurassic Park, dethroned it. This movie has made generations of audiences around the world cry tears of sadness and happiness. Steven Spielberg infuses this family drama with the sense of awe and wonder of a child. There has never been a more magical ’80’s movie-moment than E.T. and Elliott biking past the moon. The iconic and timeless John Williams score adds another dimension to the visuals on the screen. This timeless classic is synonymous with eternal hope.
Debi Prasad Sahu is film-maker and in charge of brand & communications at Touching Lives