June 20, 2013

Guest contributions

The 2013 Melbourne International Film Festival features The Next Gen program showcasing 13 handpicked films from around the world. The program offers young people the opportunity to explore cultural and social issues they can identify with. Truth 4 Youth caught up with Next Gen Coordinator Thomas Caldwell.


Next Gen Co-ordinator Thomas Caldwell

How did the Next Gen program evolve from the main MIFF?

The Next Gen program began in 2007 and it’s been an important part of the main MIFF program ever since (rather than being a side program). It was established to not only allow people under 18 to attend films at the festival, but to enrich their cinema experience and to stimulate discussion and social awareness.

What is the selection process for the films that feature in Next Gen?

Almost as soon as one festival finishes, the search for the Next Gen films for the next festival begins. We look at what films appear in other international festivals such as the festivals in Toronto, Rome and Berlin – all of which have strong youth programs. We also speak to local distributors and international sales agents to find out what new films they have that would suit the Next Gen program. And then we watch the films, take loads of notes and debate what ones will best suit the program.

Do you have a favourite film from the Next Gen line up?

I really loved the French-language animation The Day of the Crows. It’s a perfect example of a film suitable for all ages. It’s a beautifully animated film full of humour and whimsy, but also contains some very serious themes about persecution and parental neglect. I also really enjoyed the off-beat black humour of the Japanese film Capturing Dad and I found the US documentary Valentine Road completely shattering, but essential viewing.

Valentine Road – “[A] stirring pro-tolerance documentary.” – Hollywood Reporter

Why do you feel that there is a need for a specific youth component of the MIFF?

From a practical sense, having a dedicated youth program allows MIFF to get a special classification exemption on those films so that younger people aren’t excluded from the festival. But more importantly, it allows MIFF to screen films that young people will benefit from seeing in terms of the films delivering insights into different cultures and exploring complex themes – while still being entertaining of course!

Tell us about the Talking Pictures: Watch and Learn Program.

The Watch and Learn program began last year to include Next Gen films in the Talking Picture program, which is a series of panel discussions with filmmakers who have films in the festival. Last year the Watch and Learn event was organised around the film Bully, which filmmaker Lee Hirsch took part in. Due to the success of that event, we are doing a similar event this year with the film Valentine Road. The film’s director Marta Cunningham will be involved along with other special guests including Tom Ballard (Triple J) and Paige Phoenix (The X Factor). Inspired by the film, the panel will discuss issues surrounding teen sexuality, bullying, intolerance and how we can all make Victoria’s schoolrooms safer, more aware and more compassionate places for everyone.

Foxfire – “A heartfelt, naturalistic period drama” – Hollywood Reporter

What is your impression of the way film education is taught in secondary schools?

When I first got involved in film education as a writer, Australia was considered one of the leading countries in terms of film education at a secondary level. I still believe that film is fundamentally taught quite well in Australian schools and it’s great to see films appearing as texts for analysis. My biggest concern is that film can still sometimes be taught as a literary text rather than as a visual text. I’d like to see films taught more in Media and Art classes rather than see it taught in Literature classes.

Which movies have influenced or impacted on you the most over time?

The film that had the biggest impact on when I was young and continues to be my all time favourite film is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was the first film that made be realise that cinema could be complex and ambiguous – and that it’s not always essential to ‘get’ a film on a first viewing (or even a second, third, fourth etc). Other films over my life that have blown my mind and challenged me to rethink what cinema is capable of include Blade Runner, Eraserhead, Rear Window, PlaytimeWings of Desire and Edward Scissorhands. 

What led you to a career working with film?

I always knew I wanted to work with film in some way and in my teens and 20s even dabbled in acting and directing. I soon realised I much preferred watching films and sharing my enthusiasm for them so I studied Cinema Studies at university and began writing about film as a freelance critic. Eventually that led to getting my secondary school textbook Film Analysis Handbook published, I started the Cinema Autopsy blog and I became the weekly critic on the Triple R Breakfasters show. Eventually that all led to getting a programming job at MIFF, which has been wonderful!

What can people expect from the Next Gen program?

Films that are diverse, entertaining and sometimes challenging. These are films that you won’t typically see at the multiplexes, but they are films that deserve to be seen for their integrity and high quality. I think people are going to be really excited by some of these films as they aren’t the kinds of things that are typically considered to be ‘family’ or ‘youth’ films, but simply great films that we feel young people will appreciate seeing.


Individual sales to the general public are available from 5 July 2013. For ticket sales and further info go to the MIFF website.

The Melbourne International Film Festival runs 25 July-11 August 2013.


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