Family films part one – What we’re watching

Andrea TomkinsI have a post coming soon about New Year’s resolutions, but first I wanted to write a little about one of our own. This year, I’ve resolved to watch more films. (Yes, more!) It might sound a little strange at a time when many of us are struggling to convince our own children to put down their devices and consume less screen time, but there it is. On the whole, I do believe that too many people spend too much time in front of a screen, but I think there’s an argument to be made, especially where film is concerned.

There are two specific areas that I’m interested in expanding with regards to our family film repertoire: foreign films and documentary films.

Foreign films are a wonderful way of opening our eyes to the way other people live – even though the portrayals are fictional or, in some cases, magical. Some of our favourite foreign films include many animated features by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki: My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away. And here’s a bonus: if you happen to grab a film with subtitles, kids will even benefit from a round of reading time.

Foreign films give us some much-needed perspective, one that ventures outside of our typical sphere. They show us that we’re not the centre of the world. I believe that incorporating more foreign films into our media diet helps us raise global-minded, culturally savvy citizens.

And then there are documentary films. Sadly, when we’re about to pop in a documentary the kids already expect something really boring. Our solution is simple. We ask them to give the film 20 minutes and if they’re bored after that they can leave. (It’s worth noting that we have yet to lose a kid when we’ve sat down to watch.)

Some of the recent documentary films we’ve enjoyed as a family includes Rich Hill and, as a polar opposite, The Queen of Versailles. (Talk about learning how other people live! Wow.) Most recently we watched Blackfish, a documentary about Sea World and their treatment of killer whales. Also on the list: Super Size Me and Bowling for Columbine.

I see film, any media really, as a way of raising critical viewers and opening up conversations with our kids. (That is, if we’re watching at home and can pause the film and chat about it.) It’s worth pointing out a few things to our kids when sitting down to watch a documentary film. For example, we talk about the fact that although the story might be true, there’s an inherent bias on the part of the director. What shots are chosen, which facts are presented and omitted, how it’s edited, who doesn’t get to tell their side of the story – this all comes together to shapes the final product as well as our perceptions of the issue at hand.

Are you watching foreign films or documentaries with your kids? I’d love to add some titles to our watch list!

In tomorrow’s post I will be writing a bit about where we are finding films to watch and also the issue of illegal downloads.