Family films to catch at the Jewish Film Festival

The Jewish Film Festival  is on at locations across the country from now until November 17th and its a great opportunity for the whole family to catch two great films.

Go to the Festival website www.ukjewishfilm.org and look for The Zigzag Kid and Igor and the Cranes Journey. The Zigzag Kid, a fast-paced thriller, is a film from the Netherlands, directed by Vincent Bal and starring Isabella Rosselini. It was one of the films selected for this year’s Generation section of the Berlinale (Generation is the programme of films for children).  Igor and the Cranes Journey, a Polish/Russian/Israeli co-production was screened at both the Chicago and Cinekid children’s film festivals. There are several screenings across the country: The Zigzag Kid is showing  in London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Leeds and Igor and the Cranes Journey in London ( on November 3rd only – so hurry!)and Leeds.

This is a rare chance for the whole family ( 10+ recommended) to see two films of a very different and engaging kind!

Australian Film ‘The Rocket’ sweeps up all two prizes at Cinekid

 

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The debut feature by Australian director Kim Mordaunt last week won both the Jury and the Audience prizes at Cinekid, the prestigious international film festival for children in Amsterdam.

It’s yet another accolade for this multi-award winning film which has not yet been released in the UK. It also won the prestigious Crystal Bear award for best film in the Generation (children’s) section and Best First Feature award at the Berlinale, as well as prizes at the Tribeca Festival, New York and Sydney and Melbourne Film festivals in Australia. It is now also Australia’s Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film.

The film, which is set in Laos and uses Laotian actors, tells the story of a 10 year old boy who, after a series of disasters following his birth is believed by his family and the camp of homeless people with whom he lives to bring only misfortune. As the camp searches for a new home in the Laotian wilderness, it follows his struggle to prove himself not cursed by lucky.

The Rocket was screened at the London Film Festival, but if you were looking for family films you will probably have missed it as it was under the ‘Journey’ category! How is that a film which was judged suitable for children at both the Berlinale and Cinekid was not seized on for this section? And when will it be released in the UK? It will depend on whether a UK distributor has bought it and we’d welcome information on that … Meanwhile why not request it for your local cinema? If they receive enough requests, exhibitors feedback can influence what distributors decide to invest in, especially, as is the case with Curzon and Picturehouses cinemas they also have a distribution arm…

Films for the Family at the London Film Festival

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The London Film Festival ( 9th – 20th October) offers a rare opportunity to see some films from around the world the whole family can enjoy. This year there is a Gala screening of Foosball 3D, an animated feature. Anyone who saw the Oscar-winning The Secret in their Eyes should be intrigued as it’s made by the same Argentinian director Juan José Campanella….Also in the Family section are features from South Africa, Germany , France, Spain, Denmark and a Uruguay/Colombia co-production, Anina. Good to see so many live –action films in the mix too and also a rare UK contribution to the family film catalogue, Side by Side, a first feature from director Arthur Landon. Trailers for most of them can be found on YouTube (or Vimeo for The Kids from the Port) if you want to get a taste, and hopefully an appetite. But look beyond the family section too – there may well be other movies lurking under categories that could also be of interest: in particular we spied The Rocket in the ‘Journey’ section which was in Generation K Plus at this year’s Berlinale. It won the Chrystal Bear ( the main prize in Generation) and is reviewed in our April blog by Laura Kloss.

It’s a pity the Family section of the Festival is still the smallest – a total of 8 feature films out of a total of 234 in the Festival -and perhaps the least publicised. But if we want more in future years the Festival needs to be convinced they will attract a big audience – so vote with your feet and go!

Foreign language films have subtitles but some will also have an actor reading the text which younger views can listen to through headphones. But why not suggest they try without them first – they may find it easier than they think!
More information on all the film at : www.bfi.org.uk/lff

Jenny Thompson

‘Scary Stories’ DVD release: vintage films for a new generation of children

Scary Stories

 

Ever heard of the Children’s Film and TV Foundation? It was founded in 1951 by Lord Rank ( he of the Rank Organization – if you’re old enough you may remember the iconic ‘Gong Man’) and funded by the Eady Levy, with the enlightened aim of making British films for British children. Over more than 50 years of activity it produced well over 150 low-budget features and TV series. Sadly it’s now defunct, as try though it did, it could not persuade the Lottery Film Fund, nor anyone else to provide niche funding for children’s films after the demise of the Eady Levy. However the CFTF’s catalogue of films has been handed to the BFI who are gradually releasing some of the highlights on DVD.

Scary Stories the 4th volume of the CFTF collection is released on September 23rd, including a film by John Krish, Out of the Darkness.

Krish also directed another film The Salvage Gang which follows the adventures of three children in pursuit of a bed through the streets of late 50’s London. I showed it to a group of primary school children and asked them to tell me all the things that seemed different about the lives of children then compared with now. They produced some fascinating responses, not least of which was the greater respect with which the adult characters treated the children! It’s also a great film to show to demonstrate the many ways in which London has changed since those children’s grandparents were young. The Salvage Gang is included in London Tales (Vol 1), and other volumes are titled The Race is On (Vol2) and Weird Adventures (Vol 3) , which includes neglected films by Powell and Pressburger (The Boy who Turned Yellow) and Alberto Cavalcanti.

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I’m including the DVD titles because the BFI make them very hard to find out about on their website and they don’t seem to be listed under the ‘Family’ section of the BFI shop website. The only sure way to find them seems to be to type their titles into the Search bar. They can be ordered from the BFI and also from Amazon.

Jenny Thompson

Lahore International Children’s Film Festival 2013 Call For Submissions

Not many good news stories come out of Pakistan these days but the Lahore International Children’s film festival (www.lahorehildrenfilm.com) is definitely one of them. Its declared aims are ‘ to screen the best films made for and by children from around the world… and to educate children through new media and film on a number of topics such as, cultural understanding, peace, religious harmony, global citizenship and environment. Our festival is also trying to revive the tradition of collective movie watching experience in Pakistan. We hope to nurture children to become future filmmakers or at least appreciate the art of film and support it in their future lives.’

The Festival was started in 2008 by Shoaib Iqbal the hugely energetic and visionary director of a Lahore-based children’s arts organisation, The Little Art (www.thelittleart.org).It has since grown from a relatively modest event in Lahore, drawing audiences of 14,000 in its first year to a festival travelling across 6 cities bringing together a total of 40,000 children to watch an international selection of films; last year they screened 83 films from 33 countries. There are also filmmaking workshops for children and sessions for teachers on using film in the classroom.

This year the Festival will also be a competition and they are inviting international submission in 6 categories: Best Children’s Feature Film, Best Animation Feature Film, Best Short Film (Animation), Best Short Film (Live Action), Pakistani Cinema, Best Child Made Film. So if you are a producer why not support the festival by submitting a film? There is no fee for submission. The deadline for entry is May 31st. Contact info@lahorechildrenfilm.com for more information on how to submit.

Another founding aim of the Festival is to encourage Pakistani filmmakers to make films for children. The Festival is also already working with young professionals there to produce short films for their young audiences. There is very little indigenous children’s television in Pakistan and films made for children are almost non-existent so growing an audience is a key element in encouraging more production for children.

 Jenny Thompson

 

On The Move – Berlinale Kplus Generation Winners 2013

The Berlinale Kplus Generation section this year brought an interesting selection of films from all around the world, continuing its skill in igniting a political spirit in its young audience. As usual families and schools flooded to the cinemas eager to see the international programme and meet the filmmakers in Q&A. It was a joy to watch films with children happily reading subtitles unperturbed by the array of languages on offer. Some of the screenings had up to three languages at a time; the original language, English subtitles and a German voice over, which didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the films, but only added a more dynamic, international feel to each screening. Australia triumphed in this year’s Kplus Generation awards with Kim Mordaunt’s The Rocket (2013), an Australia/Laos co-production, taking the Crystal Bear , the Award for Best First Feature and the Amnesty International Film Prize and the excellent Satellite Boy (2012) directed by Catriona McKenzie was awarded the Special Mention by both the Youth and International Juries.

This year’s winners both sensitively depict families displaced from their homes. The Rocket, set in modern day Laos amidst rapid economic development, takes an intimate look at a family forced to move from their home because of the construction of a government dam in their valley. Similarly Satellite Boy tells the story of an Aboriginal boy, Pete, troubled with a confused sense of belonging, whose home (an old outdoor cinema) is threatened with demolition by a construction company. In the effort to stop the destruction of his home Pete and his best friend Kalmain find themselves on a treacherous walkabout across the Outback to confront the construction company on their own.

The young protagonists in both films go on extraordinary journeys, negotiating their immediate landscape and cultural heritage. Ten year old Ahlo in The Rocket is born with the curse of being a twin, which in Laotian culture brings bad luck. After the death of his mother, Ahlo’s Grandmother and Father lose trust in him. However, with the help of some outsiders, the fantastic ‘Uncle Purple’ (an alcoholic veteran of the Second World War obsessed with James Brown) and his orphaned niece, Ahlo is able to subvert cultural traditions when he bravely enters a spectacular competition for self built rockets.

The moving and beautiful Satellite Boy on the other hand brings us closer to cultural tradition. As young Pete drags a stick, cutting a line through the sacred ground, his grandfather Jubi, warns him to respect the country. “Listen to the wind”, he wisely says “your people have been here since the first sunrise.” Jubi played by David Gulpilil who starred in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971) as a teenager, passes on his ancestral knowledge of the country with care, hoping that Pete will learn the traditional ways. Pete’s mother has since moved to the city to start a new future and Pete is torn between staying with his loving mother and the allure of material wealth or remaining with his grandfather and living by his Aboriginal traditions. When Pete accidentally finds himself in the desert with nothing but his grandfather’s teachings to guide him, he discovers a new relationship with the land which helps him understand where his home is.

The strength of both protagonists’ convictions is an inspiration to audiences to stick to what they believe in. Both The Rocket and Satellite Boy are both quite tough films for young audiences to watch and are both recommended for children over the age of 11-years-old. Laos is littered with unexploded bombs, the Outback’s harsh landscape is threatening and the issue of family rejection in both films only heightens a constant sense of danger and fear. Yet even though both films have strong content, the festival continues to challenge its audience and celebrates their poetic but direct approach to storytelling. Like the characters in the films, the Berlinale keeps moving, discovering new landscapes and new approaches to presenting cinema for children.

Written by Laura Kloss