Irish folktales an inspiration for Kantola
Text: Jaana Heikkilä
Photography: Outi Pyhäranta
Translation: Heidi Hietaniemi
The ”Stories from around the world” -pilot project, in which children make their own animations based on folktales from different countries, was launched last year.
The idea was born a couple of years earlier, when media educator Maikki Kantola was charmed by folktales while working in Ireland.
”I searched the library’s children’s section for stories to be used for scripts for the animations we made with young people. I came across some folktales and was immediately captivated by them. The Irish folklore is extremely fascinating with all the fairies and leprechauns”, Kantola tells enthusiastically.
This spark was kept alive in the back of her mind and gradually formed into a concept of pro-tolerance animation workshops. The ”Stories from around the world” -project was shaped into workshops mainly carried out in kindergartens and schools.
”At first my plan was that, for example, Afghan children would make a film based on a Afghan folktale, which would then help make their culture known in other countries. In practice it turned out to be more fruitful to carry out the workshops in multicultural groups of children. Thus the international education begins already when working with the group”, says Kantola, who herself works for the Pirkanmaa Film Centre.
Cigar box trees instead of spruce trees
According to Kantola, the folktales of different countries don’t really differ much from each other; they teach little practical lessons of life or explain different phenomena. Children are also used to hearing stories from different parts of the world from an early age. Cultural differences, however, may bring surprises when illustrating landscapes or people.
”Grown-ups have to introduce the children to the wildllife and culture of the country in question. Five or six year olds can’t possibly know that there are no conifer trees in rain forests or that an African princess is not a stereotypical blonde”, Kantola reminds us.
It depends on the teachers how much the children can learn of the theme in question. Some kindergartens are very enthusiastic about acquainting children with the chosen country.
”For example, one kindergarten chose a brasilian folktale and they got to know not only the story but also brasialian music. The children also visited a botanical garden to see trees and plants that grow in rain forests. They were especially impressed with the cigar box tree”, Kantola says, smiling.
Next step: television
The ”Stories from around the world” -pilot project welcomes groups of children from different countries or children with relations to other countries. The aim is to take in all groups who want to join the project. Thus we will have more and more stories from around the world and they will find their ways to international film festivals and movie theatres.
Next year, these folk tale animations can be seen on television, in the popular children’s programme Pikku Kakkonen. The programme’s series called ”Moving pictures” will be continued with works provided by the ”Stories from around the world” -project. So far there are ten finished animations.
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Festival News, Wednesday 3 March 2004