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BAFTA rewards change with new childrens category

BAFTA's Children's Committee chair Helen Blakeman tells Kidscreen about its new Content for Change category that recognizes kids content that tackles important social issues.
November 22, 2018

To recognize kids content creators who are trying to address some of the world’s major social problems with their work, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has created a new category for its Children’s Awards on Sunday called Content for Change. Of 25 submissions received, a membership and jury vote has selected four final nominees, based on intention and execution of the submitted content. They are: What Do You Mean I Can’t Change the World (pictured), My LifeHike to Happiness, Reply With a Full Stop if You Get This and Newsround Inspirational Stories. 

“It’s always children who change things way ahead of the adult world,” says Helen Blakeman, chair of the BAFTA Children’s Committee. “This is our chance to realize that there is a lot of content out there that is not just educational, but has a purpose for the greater good—for social issues or starting discussion.”

Coincidentally (because it’s not part of the criteria), this year’s nominees are all non-fiction productions. But they don’t necessarily all hail from TV, given that BAFTA opened the category up to content commissioned by digital channels for the first time, including web-based broadcasters and streaming video platforms.

What Do You Mean I Can’t Change the World tells the story of a black working-class student who struggles with low self-esteem. In the film—co-produced by London-based prodcos CTVC and TrueTube—she wishes for straighter hair and lighter skin, but comes to realize her self-esteem problems are a result of the culture she’s grown up in.

Also from CTVC and TrueTube is Reply with a Full Stop if You Get This, a short film self-narrated by poet and teacher Emily Harrison, who has bipolar disorder. She uses her personal experience to refresh outdated stereotypes about mental health. “She’d like society to be more understanding and accepting of people with mental health disorders as they live normal day-to-day lives, but with the underlying issue,” says Blakeman.

Another nominee exploring mental health is documentary series My Life—Hike to Happiness, about teenagers who are experiencing issues like anxiety and depression. They work with The Wilderness Foundation to build emotional resilience and better understand their mental health. A co-pro from Nine Lives Media and CBBC, the show incorporates animation and discussions with professionals to appeal to young people.

Co-produced by BBC Children’s In-House Productions and CBBC, Newsround Inspirational Stories is a social media-based series in which children facing major adversity talk about their experiences dealing with challenges like living with autism and treating a brain tumor. “It’s direct and uncompromising,” says Blakeman. “It challenges stereotypes and reminds the audience that other children have tremendous resilience and strength.”

The Content for Change category recognizes many parallel avenues of change—from the ways children access content, to the ways creators are reflecting real changes happening in the world. Blakeman says the 12-member Children’s Committee felt it was time to broaden the eligibility criteria in the learning categories beyond pure curriculum. “Given the climate of change happening in the world, [we] think it’s really important to tackle social messages right now,” she explains.

The decision may be part of a brewing trend. Just this month, UK kidcaster Sky Kids bowed FYI, a weekly news show produced by Fresh Start Media. Hosted by kids ages seven to 12, the 15-minute series answers the audience’s questions about news, current affairs and politics while incorporating entertainment, sports, TV and computer game news. Norwegian pubcaster NRK Super also recently debuted My Body Belongs to Me, an animated kids series about human bodies, healthy boundaries and sexual abuse that has been nominated for a 2018 International Emmy Kids Award in the factual series category.

The first-ever Content for Change winner will be announced and celebrated at the BAFTA award ceremony on Sunday night, along with winners in other Children’s categories including Special Award, Channel, Comedy, Digital, Director, Drama, Entertainment, Factual, Feature Film, Game, International Animation, International Preschool, International Live Action, Performer, Preschool Animation, Preschool Live Action, Presenter, Short Form, Writer and Young Performer. A full list of nominees in each category can be found here.

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