Cosmico shown to children? Somebody call Ofsted! While festivals and curators around the world eschew the movie's controversial satire of religion, pioneering film collective Exploding Cinema prefers to get them young, adding C.J. Lazaretti's polemical animation to their Kids Show at the 2015 Supernormal Festival.
The annual Supernormal Festival started in 2010, offering a diverse program of visual and performing arts curated from international works outside the mainstream. Occurring over three days at Braziers Park, Oxfordshire, the event takes advantage of the beautiful surroundings of the Park's Grade-II-listed mansion house, run cooperatively by one of the oldest secular communities in the UK, founded in 1950.
The Kids Show was the latest in a series of open screenings by Exploding Cinema. The London-based coalition of filmmakers and video artists regularly hosts underground film showcases in low-key venues like pubs, clubs, cafes, church halls and disused factories. Beginning in the mid-90s, Exploding Cinema has also staged shows internationally, in Dublin, Prague, Brisbane, New York and Frankfurt, in addition to touring shows in Belgium and the Netherlands. All of that with no public support or state funding.
"Exploding Cinema is a labour of love," says Daden. "Its reward is creating that platform and encouraging filmmakers to make work, without being confined by 'industry'."
Exploding Cinema and the Supernormal Festival are great examples of artist-led initiatives that carve their own niche among the public, reaching out to audiences keen to find fresh artistic content in a world overloaded with input. The former operates under a no-censorship policy, previewing works only for programming purposes; the latter commits to a stated mission of "pushing boundaries" and "embracing difference whilst celebrating common cause." But is it safe to show the likes of Cosmico to underage viewers? Or is it a boundary pushed too far?
"Children are the most underestimated minority in the world," says Lazaretti. "We are all born with a spontaneous curiosity, a burning impetus to engage with reality, to understand it face-to-face. To smother that impulse with overprotective hysteria is patronizing and unhealthy — children are much smarter than we give them credit for. Instead of hiding controversy from the young, we should be exposing them to the good and the bad bits of the world, so they can ask questions, learn how things work and grow up to be responsible, informed and well-adjusted adults."
The Exploding Cinema Kids Show at Supernormal Festival screened films with a running time between one and nine minutes. Featured shorts ranged from light humor to provocative visual allegories, all the better to stimulate the eager minds in the audience. The kids must have had high expectations, judging by the description of Cosmico in the program notes: "all your questions about religions answered in three minutes."
Besides Cosmico, the show also featured endearing shorts like the eye-catching, award-winning cut-out montages of Clive Shaw's Girls and Boys (2011) and the inspiring puppet caper of Paul Tarragó's Stamps (2007), as well as Christopher P. McManus's Love Letter (2010), an experimental gem in which a young man sends his own stomach a confession of affection — in writing.
"We all have much to gain from enjoying the innovative and daring experimental films offered by the likes of Exploding Cinema, regardless of age," says Lazaretti. "It's high time we learned to stop worrying and love the arts. In one of the films in the program, for example, children invade the Houses of Parliament and set it on fire. I think we can trust our kids to get the right kind of inspiration from those images, far more than we could trust most Britons of voting age."