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Actober: 50 Major Child Performances 6/10

The art form of cinema often seems like a kind of paradise to a child. I know I remember it so. Still do. Whether your from Italy or  Albuquerque, love to play vampires or witches – or even just love a good book – the world of film is a vast one for exploration and adventure. This crazy kids are smarter than they first appear. Ambitious firecrackers, able to feed themselves, defend their honor, see the good in the world. And with them, a love of movies flourishes.

Little Miss Sunshine

Abigail Breslin as Olive Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

In a wildly dysfunctional family like the Hoovers, you need a linchpin to keep them together from falling apart. Enter the youngest Hoover, Olive, and her dream of entering the child beauty pageant in California as the adhesive that keeps them tied down. What makes Breslin’s turn all the more memorable is how she observes the craziness that happens as the Hoovers trek from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach, and the maladies of each character.

From an overbearing father (Greg Kinnear) trying to make it as a life coach, to her brother (Paul Dano) taking a vow of silence until he becomes a pilot; accepts each person’s imperfections and just asks to be loved. The highest compliment is saying that you cannot envision another performer in the same role, and that’s the best way of describing Ms. Breslin’s importance in this comedy-drama road trip. – – – – – Jonathan Holmes

Mary Badham

Mary Badham as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Robin

I’ll always hear the boisterous little Scout, as she has to be held back by more than one boy in the school playground: “He made me get off on the wrong foot!” Scout is not particularly troublesome, this lovable rascal can certainly stand up for herself. And is, indeed, not afraid to speak her mind. It’s a truly wonderful, timeless character from writer Harper Lee, but carved oh-so delightfully by Mary Badham into not just the history of cinematic adaptation itself, but a kind of cornerstone of child acting. A restless, curious kid deserves a damn good portrayal, and Badham obliges with aplomb.

I guess, I used to look ahead to my later life, and want a daughter just like Scout someday. My little girl is six now, and does have tomboy tendencies, so much of the work is done. A lot that shines about Mary Badham’s swell, energetic performance, is that the learning curve, the raw life experience, how things just sometimes are in the real world, forms an essential part of Scout’s appeal. Some unforgettable scenes involving Badham and Oscar-winning Gregory Peck, as Atticus Finch, are cinema magic. There’s an almost educational insight in their relationship, one which feels warm, and homegrown. 10 year-old Badham would also score an Oscar nomination, but what-do-you-know, another darn kid wins the prize. – – – – – Robin Write

Cinema Paradiso

Salvatore Cascio as Salvatore Di Vita in Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Cinema Paradiso is one of Italy’s most popular films, the film is an ode to youth, to the movies, and to the pleasures and perils of small-town life.The film has at it’s center an unusual friendship between the young Toto (played by Salvatore Cascio) and Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) who is an aging projectionist. What we see on-screen is the power of friendship. The bond between the two grows deep when a film catches fire – acetate film was flammable – and blinds the old man.

As no one else can work the projector, Toto takes over Alfredo’s job. Cascio manages to portray a child’s curiosity and their unique outlook on life, his performance is full of enthusiasm and eagerness. This was his first film roles, and he seems natural and relaxed in front of the camera. There is also a sense of realism because Cascio never seems to be ”acting up” for the camera. His efforts paid off and he won the  BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. – – – – – Bianca Garner

I Am Not a Witch

Maggie Mulubwa as Shula in I Am Not a Witch (2017)

I Am Not a Witch centres around a young girl, Shula, who appears in a Zambian village without explanation and is subsequently accused of witchcraft by the residents. Following a trial she is taken to a government funded witch camp, tethered with a long white ribbon and told if she ever removes the ribbon she will turn into a goat. From there Shula’s story becomes more and more bizarre and we see all of this reflected in Maggie Mulubwa’s performance. She plays Shula with a quiet restraint, that perfectly suits the story.

Interestingly, Shula isn’t really the protagonist in the traditional sense. As a character she’s mostly passive, observing the people and events around her, as she is pushed from one disaster to the next. It is the people who interact with Shula who move the story forward and are changed by her – the government official who takes her under his wing, the former witch who tries to give her some hope. Mulubwa’s moderation allows these secondary characters to take center stage, and by extension allows the story to embrace wider themes of misogyny and community and tradition. It is the subtlety of Mulubwa’s performance that provides the scope for the larger story to take place around her and as a result what could have been a melancholy tale of isolated abuse transcends definition and takes on much greater meaning. – – – – – Chris Regan

Kirsten Dunst

Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Every vampire couple needs a child, and in Interview with the vampire this exactly what happens when Lestat (Tom Cruise) and Louis (Brad Pitt) decide to turn a young girl (Dunst) into a vampire. Louis has a pure love for Claudia, while Lestat treats her more as a student, training her to become a merciless killer. As thirty years pass, Claudia matures psychologically, but still remains a little girl in appearance, and she’s treated as such by Lestat.

Kirsten Dunst manages to make the viewer both sympathetic and irritated by Claudia. Often she acts like a spoiled little brat, a deadly one that feeds on blood. A testament to Dunst’s acting ability, as the viewer fully buys into the fact that she is a vampire. Dunst effectively manages the anger and rage that one would feel if they were trapped in the body of a girl. The eleven-year-old actress was spotted by talent scouts, and was the first girl tested for the role of Claudia, which shows her ability to give a dramatic performance. Dunst manages to prove her capability as an actress, holding her own with the two biggest stars of Hollywood at the time, and personally speaking she’s the best thing in Interview with the Vampire. – – – – – Bianca Garner


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