Laws set aside coin for children's films

ROME — Movies for kids are much more integral to the entertainment industry in the five-country Nordic region, where corporal punishment of children was first banned and Hans Christian Andersen fables and Astrid Lindgren’s “Pippi Longstocking” are major cultural exports.

Denmark, where the population is 5.4 million, financed nine films for young folks in 2006 thanks to a law that earmarks subsidies for for kidpics. In Sweden, the amount allocated is a minimum of 10%. Under the subsidy system in Norway, funding for films classified as “being for children” matches 100% of their box office returns.

“Childhood really exists here; it’s a phase of life we care about as part of our democracy,” says Charlotte Giese, head of the Danish Film Institute’s center for children and youth film.

Among other pics funded by the DFI is Zentropa’s “We Shall Overcome,” which bagged the Kiderfilmfest’s Crystal Bear last year before going on to become Denmark’s top 2006 homegrown hit.

Since the post-WWII period, social realism has been blended into the region’s kidpics, often combining with a little tyke-world magic, such as in Lasse Hallstrom’s “My Life as a Dog.”

Nordisk Film, the region’s entertainment powerhouse, started its Nordisk Film Junior division in 1951, attesting to the longtime prominence of kidpics in the local industry.

“(The Nordic entertainment business hasn’t) done this because they are better people but because they are a small market,” says Berlin Generation topper Thomas Hailer.

Indeed, Giese is the first to admit “it means a lot to us that Danish children are watching Danish films” and proudly underscores Denmark’s 30% share of the local market. In Finland, where the local market share is about 15%, all three top 2006 homegrown hits are children’s pics, led by Nordisk’s “Mother of Mine,” a WWII-set drama helmed by Klaus Haro.

“The great thing about the Scandinavian countries is they don’t consider children’s films minor movies,” says Fabia Bettini co-topper of Alice in the City, the RomeFilmFest kiddie section.

In fact, Scandi helmers often make the transition between films for more adult audiences and kidpics.

Take Danish helmer Nikolaj Arcel, who, following the success of his political thriller “King’s Game,” is now in post on Zentropa’s “Island of Lost Souls,” an effects-laden children’s action adventure. “Island” is among the upcoming kiddie pics the region has high hopes for.

Making genre movies for young audiences is indeed the new ground being broken by the Scandi kiddie-pic pioneers, per Giese.

Recent regional hit “Kidz in da Hood,” a musical about a 9-year-old immigrant and a tattooed wannabe rock star by Swedish directors Ylva Gustavsson and Catti Edfeldt, which is unspooling in Generation, plays into that theory with nice B.O.

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