Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 2pm
The Children's Cinema

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

The Grasshopper and the Ant, Lotte Reiniger, 1954, 16mm, 10 mins
Parade, Charles and Ray Eames, 1952, 16mm, 6 mins
In Paris Parks, Shirley Clarke, 1954, 16mm, 13 mins
Rainbow Dance, Len Lye, 1936, digital projection, 5 mins
The Balloonatic, Buster Keaton and Eddie Cline, 1923, 16mm, 27 mins, with live accompaniment by Zachary Koeber

Amos and Marcia Vogel’s storied film society Cinema 16, one of Light Industry’s defining influences, operated from 1947 to 1963 and, over the course of its many seasons, helped to foster a vibrant alternative film culture in New York. Among the offerings of their 1958 calendar was “a special project,” The Children’s Cinema, “for youngsters four to eight.” Such a program might have seemed a curious development for an organization like Cinema 16, which had long described itself as “a film society for the adult moviegoer” in its membership materials, had never shied away from screening controversial or even banned films, and had earned a reputation as a cradle of the avant-garde. Nevertheless, in keeping with the Vogels’ pointedly eclectic lineups, The Children’s Cinema promised to showcase “a wide range of subjects: fairy tales, nature films, art, documentary, comedy, films of city life, folk tale and abstract films.”

The printed matter conceived for the series featured original art by Maurice Sendak and the following statement of purpose:

- To offer children a view of the worlds of reality and fantasy, as only the cinema can reveal to them.
- To bring to them human and artistic values in entertainment and fact films from many countries.
- To encourage them to take part actively in a film experience and thereby give them an exciting introduction to the art of cinema.

At the events themselves, the Vogels distributed notes written specifically for children, offering information on how some films were made and introductory explanations of the society’s philosophy of filmgoing. “A movie can be many things,” reads one set of notes. “It can be made in different ways. It can show you people you never saw before and take you places where you have never been. Sometimes it will show you things you already know, but in a new and exciting way.”

This afternoon, as an homage to both Cinema 16 and the adventurous, underestimated sensibilities of little cineastes, Light Industry will recreate the inaugural program of The Children’s Cinema, which originally screened on February 16, 1958 to a sold-out audience at the Beekman Theatre in Manhattan. In the varied selection one encounters Cinema 16’s ongoing commitment to experimental and documentary forms, but here calibrated especially for pint-sized audiences: Len Lye’s vividly polychromatic animation Rainbow Dance; Lotte Reiniger’s The Grasshopper and the Ant, which recounts Aesop’s fable through intricate cut-out silhouettes; the Eames Office’s puppet film Parade; and Shirley Clarke’s early study of public amusements, In Paris Parks. The program rounds out with The Balloonatic, Buster Keaton’s aeronautical caper, reportedly a big hit with the Beekman crowd.

“Most of the stuff that was considered good children’s films we knocked out,” Vogel said in an interview years later. “We would take films that weren’t considered children’s films; we made them into children’s films.”

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 1:30pm.

Above: Rainbow Dance, courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, Department of Film. HDR photograph by Barbara Flueckiger.