The movie screen is awash with images of smiling and playful children, cartoon characters and -- last but not least -- products.

All kinds of products are shown, but they have one common denominator: they are used or consumed by children. Candy and cereal are the most represented.

"There are 18 commercials in an average hour of children's programming," the narrator says. "Buy this, says the commercial, then you belong. Get this, then you're a winner."

Cut to an interview with a young child in his school classroom. He is explaining how he saw someone on TV eat a certain product and then jump into a backflip.

"I tried it," he said. "But I landed on my head."

On Monday, five weeks of hearings on the merits of television advertising aimed at children begin at the Federal Trade Commission. But Action for Children's Television (ACT), the Boston consumer group which first called for strict regulations of childrens advertising nearly a decade ago, decided not to wait for the hearings to fire its first volley.

So at a press conference here yesterday, ACT released its new 22-minute film examining the state of commercial children's television, "Kids for Sale."

ACT President Peggy Charren -- who will be the second witness at Monday's opening session before FTC hearing officer Morton Needleman -- called the film "a hard-hitting examination of commercial television and how it shapes the outlooks and insights of millions of American children."

The film, which will be distributed nationally, includes footage of children's programming, commercials and interviews with several Boston area school children.

At the press conference, Harvard Medical School professor and children's Hospital associate Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint warned that "some children watch up to 30 hours of television a week, and what our children see on television bears little relationship to the way the world is or could be."

"Moreover, television, with its enormous power to persuade, has neglected its role as an educator," Poussaint said.

"Broadcasters and advertisers have a responsibility to our children, but as 'Kids for Sale' demonstrates, television rarely plays fair with children," he added.

Poussaint said the movie whows how commercial television "too often buries child's sense of wonder, his curiosity about himself and the world, under a barrage of senseless cartoons and mindless advertising messages."

Portions of the movie deal with the mission of advertising for children: to get their parents to buy a certain type of toy or cereal.

"They (the children) use all the pester power they can muster" to talk their parents into purchases, a narrator warned.