Dear Documentary Filmmakers: It’s not “cute” to interview kids about your film’s topic. If it’s not about them, leave them out.
Add this one to the list of trends that I’ve noticed over the past year or two – a film is about something decidedly unrelated to kids, say campaign finance reform or the plight of the endangered Siberian musk deer, yet the filmmaker thinks s/he should get the opinions of some precocious tots. Maybe the filmmaker thinks this would be somehow endearing, or, instead, ironically underscore how simple the answer to a problem is but that adults are missing it – “out of the mouths of babes,” as it were.
Generally – it’s overused, it’s not original, and it’s not effective. If the topic doesn’t have a direct, tangible, and justifiable connection and bearing on the people you interview, why should an audience care what they have to say? The same goes for other interview subjects, not just kids, of course, but it strikes me as much more deliberately manipulative when kids are dragged in.
If your topic does have an impact on children, then, by all means, consider interviewing them. However, even in this case, there’s only so much of a Cindy Brady lisp to which an audience will want to be subjected – look beyond their cuteness factor and how you think it will influence viewers and try to select articulate, intelligible child interviewees. Cuteness only goes so far – if you want your points to be taken seriously, remember who you’re attempting to reach, and do so intelligently.