Preview: The London Children's Film Festival, Barbican, London

Childish entertainment to sing about
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The Independent Culture

Now in its second year, the London Children's Film Festival is designed to turn the young cinemagoer into a serious film buff. Thirty-nine features and 30 shorts in 14 languages, including two silent films, will be screened in cinemas across London.

Among the films on this year's programme are Bonkers, a Dutch film directed by Martin Koolhaven, about a young girl growing up with a mother with manic depression; an early silent film from India, The Birth of Shri Krishna; Deported, a Swedish documentary about a 13-year-old girl and her family, who return to Bosnia after four years' exile in Sweden; and the Danish We Shall Overcome, again about a 13-year-old, this time a boy who, inspired by Martin Luther King's struggle for civil rights, stands up to bullies. Light relief is offered by Sing-along with The Jungle Book and Charlie Chaplin's 1921 silent classicThe Kid.

"We are trying to move children on from the usual diet of US blockbuster movies to give them a broader perspective of what opportunities film affords from film-makers all over the world," says Jillian Barker. As one of the artistic directors of the festival, she has watched a whole heap of British and international feature films made for children and families.

"There is a great reticence to engage with foreign-language film - people are frightened to take their children to films with subtitles. There is not much space in the market for these small independent releases. The way we are tackling subtitles in the festival is to give people a choice," says Barker. "If children don't want to jump in at the deep end, there are screenings with voice-overs, but having English actors reading the subtitles - especially in Indian and Asian films - can take away from the atmosphere of the film."

Azur and Asmar, an Arabian Nights-style animation film by the French director Michel Ocelot has been picked for the opening night gala, with three of his other films also screening.

18-26 November ( www.londonchildrenfilm.org.uk)

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