Not so long ago, children’s films were generally pretty anodyne. It often looked as if they were made more for worried parents than the children themselves.
It is very different today, at least partly because film-makers have taken up the challenge of the internet, where children can and do access far more adult films.
The Barbican’s third Framed Film Festival, which starts this weekend, and appeals to younger children (aged four to 11), is a case in point. Some of the films are surprisingly sophisticated and not all have the usual U certificate. Many are also the sort of productions we are unlikely to see commercially in London, being from Norway, France and other European countries.
Added to this are opportunities during the festival for hands-on experience, with free workshops where children can star in their own trailers or try out stop motion animation techniques.
One of the best films on display is a clever and exciting adaptation for the popular book Belle and Sebastian (screened on November 23), where a young boy and his dog foil a Nazi attempt to capture French Resistance fighters during the war.
But the most popular film — and gala opening preview — is Penguins of Madagascar (a spin-off from the DreamWorks Madagascar series, with Benedict Cumberbatch lending his voice to a wolf secret agent called Classified), which will be shown on two screens November 22 to meet demand.
The festival will be followed in the new year by a similar event for older children. The hope is that, once hooked, young audiences will get the cinema habit. They just might.