In the first part of this article, the author reflects on her experience of making filmmaking workshops with young people in Australia, China and the UK an integral component of a research project on the representation of child migrants and refugees in world cinema. She then sets her approach to these workshops in the context of Alain Bergala's ideas about film education, of which she had initially been unaware. In discussing a couple of further workshops that she ran in the UK and Australia as part of the 'Cinéma, cent ans de jeunesse' programme, she focuses particularly on the benign or obstructive role of institutional gatekeepers, who act as intermediaries or agents determining the terms of access to children and young people for film educators, researchers and practitioners. The legal, protective and ethical dimensions of the relationship between educator, gatekeeper and participating students are discussed. The article cites cases in which the interaction worked well, and others in which it proved problematic. The functions, responsibilities and potential drawbacks of gatekeepers are compared with Bergala's conception of the pedagogic role of the passeur – a figure who also holds power in relation to young people's access to film and film-making, but one that connotes positive, even magical, properties.