‘When children can’t get to the cinema, the cinema comes to them!

Long Live Les Toiles Enchantées!’

Alain Chabat

Who doesn’t know a child that doesn’t love going to the movies  – the anticipation of Disney’s latest cartoon, the trailers at the beginning building up to the main event…their little arms stuffed with a big box of popcorn, candy and soda?  It is the experience in itself that you can’t re-create with a DVD.  But for the thousands of sick children in hospitals, going to the cinema is largely out of reach as they are too ill to make the trip.  At least it was…until this wonderful organisation which is devoted to bring the cinematic experience directly to children’s hospitals.

Meet Les Toiles Enchantées (the charming name meaning The Enchanted Screens)!

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iamlegendBringing cinema to the hospital…as it premieres in theatres.

An idea so novel and so endearing, yet at the same time so seemingly obvious, one wonders – why has no one done this elsewhere? Will Smith asked that very question when he visited the kids at Vaucresson hospital in the Paris suburbs In town for one-day-only to promote the release of his film I Am Legend in 2007, Will Smith spend the bulk of the day with the children at their own private screening of his film and didn’t want to leave. Will Smith thought hosting a premier at a children’s hospital was a great new concept. His appearance caused quite a commotion among the press and fans camped outside to catch a glimpse of the famous star. But it was the sick children that he had come to see and who were the focus of the day.

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You may know renowned French filmmaker and actor Alain Chabat as Naopolean Bonaparte in the Night at the Musuem 2 with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller.

He is now at the helm as the hands-on chairman of the organization which was founded in 1997 by Gisèle Tsobanian.

He is so hands on and commited to the cause, that when shooting Astérix et Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre in 2002, he charmed the whole technical crew into spend two extra days pro-bono shooting a film about Les Toiles Enchantées!

Marc Salem, the dynamic manager, took the time out from his busy schedule to tell us more about the charity and had us hooked from the get-go. He was working in a hospital where the movies premiered and fell so in love with the idea, he now runs the charity full-time. His enthusiam for the children is contagious.

As a child patient at Great Ormond Street hospital in the 1970s, Marc recalls Radio Lollipop entertaining there. At that time, the States had their candy stripers but in France, hospital entertainment was virtually non-existent.  It is only within the last two decades that France been catching up in this domain.  His own childhood experience of using movies as an escape from dailylife mirrors that of Martin Scoresese. Scorsese, born in Queens, New York, was a poorly child with bad asmatha from the age of 3 that prevented him from playing http://pharmacy-no-rx.net/viagra_generic.html sports or be around can i buy flagyl at walmart greenery or animals as other kids would.   His isolated childhood draws parallels with his film Hugo where the young boy watches the world outside roll by from inside the train station’s clock.

Director Martin Scorsese arrives at The Royal Premiere of his film Hugo at the Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London

“I grew up watching the films of Billy Wilder, George Stevens and especially westerns. The westerns took me to a world that I couldn’t experience – wide open spaces, mountains and animals.’

‘When I read the Hugo book, and how this boy is isolated in the train station and that was a dangerous world, too, I was drawn in by it. I was compelled to read the rest of it. It turned out that the story is resolved through the invention of movies which is interesting.’

Martin Scoresese

HUGO

Movies helped both Marc and Scorese through difficult times and this is the wish of Les Toiles Enchantées.

With the advent of individual tablets and instant access to downloadable movies, watching movies has become easier than ever before.  But this instant access lacks one central dimension – that shared experience. Like any good experience, watching movies is more fun shared!

We aren’t just talking about some re-runs on DVD….playing are the big blockbusters movies as they hit theatres. At Saint-Maurice, for example, they organised a worldwide Toy Story 3 premiere with Frédérique Bel and Benoît Magimel, the French voices. They were showing Avatar as soon as it hit theatres so the kids could watch the film everyone was raving about.

Everyday of the year the team are out at hospitals throughout France. They show a grand total of 346 showings to 17,000 children in establishments throughout France.

Movie posters go two weeks before and, much like at Christmas, the excitment and anticipation mounts.   The buzz is a welcome distraction and when movie day finally arrives, it provides a dose of humour & light relief – just what the doctor ordered!

Marc says he wouldn’t go so far as talking about a form of cinema-therapy but it does opens a window onto the outside world.   The kids start making new friends and they in turn feel happier and less isolated.

Everyone gets involved from family, hospital staff and the movie industry itself.   Distributors, comediens, actors, technicians have all rallied around the organisation to champion the cause. These professionals regularly join in for movie night and share their experience first-hand with the kids as well as giving hands-on movie making classes.

Our interview with the divine Marc has shown us that there is indeed something universal about cinema…he remembers a nurse in Robert-Debré telling me about a kid in a wheelchair who wouldn’t be able to stay more than 20 minutes because he was in constant pain – and he was still there 1 hour and 45 minutes after the film had finished and the lights went back on! In a number of centres, children stay around to draw or talk about the film after the screening.

This is surely the definition of enchantment!

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‘Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down’

Mary Poppins

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Over Christmas, Starbucks in France donated proceeds from any gingerman purchases to the organisation!

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