Features

All the films listed here are films we have seen. The age suitability suggestions are our own.

If you check on Amazon you will find that several of the films listed below have an age 15+ certificate.

This is because they are have not yet been acquired by a UK distributor and so have not been officially certificated by the BBFC. It does not necessarily mean they are unsuitable for children under 15.

If you are an Exhibitor and would like further information on screening these films please contact us.

The Black Stallion (USA, 1979)

It’s more than 30 years old but this American film (so it’s in English of course) is still one to enthral children and adults alike. Adapted from a children’s book that became an American classic, The Black Stallion is the story of 10-year old Alec and the beautiful but wild Arab stallion he encounters first on board ship when travelling home from North Africa with his father. But the ship is struck by lightning in a violent storm and sinks. Alec manages to free the horse but both are thrown overboard. Clinging to the horse, he and the stallion are washed up on a desert island and so begins the central and magical section of the film in which he learns to tame and ride the horse, who in his turn also protects Alec. Unusually, there is almost no dialogue throughout this extraordinary part of the film which is a beautifully edited combination of image, sound and music with fantastic photography; there are amazing shots of the horse swimming shot from beneath him, under the sea! Eventually both boy and horse are rescued and the second part of the film is the story of their bid to win a race against some of the fastest racehorses in the country.

Francis Ford Coppola was Executive Producer of this film (and his father wrote the music), which is directed by Carroll Ballard and the story of its making is worth another film in itself. The desert scenes were filmed in Sardinia and the whole crew, including the horses (several played the same part) had to be shipped from the USA. Equipment was carried by hand by the film crew over high and hot sand dunes and to film the scenes of the horse swimming a special barge was built to carry him out to sea far enough to film him swimming back. The film has its own website: www.theblackstallion.com where you can read about the extraordinary story behind the making of the film.

Suitable for ages 7+

Language: English

Available at: Amazon, Lovefilm

Bonkers (Knetter) (Netherlands, 2005)

The Dutch make many great films for children and this is one of their best.

11 year old Bonnie lives with her single-parent mother (who the adults in the audience would recognise as being bi-polar). Bonnie knows that her mother has times when she is hugely energetic and fun but others when she hardly gets out of bed, but the whole family is well taken care of by her lively grandmother. But when her grandmother is killed in a car accident Bonnie has to manage her mother alone…

Life becomes very unpredictable…especially when her mother brings home an elephant!

In spite of its serious theme, this is a delightfully funny and moving film, told entirely from Bonnie’s perspective. It also sensitively addresses the issues for children who live with a parent who is mentally ill and would be a very good way to open up a discussion about this. But it treats its theme with a very light touch and is fun for anyone to watch.

For ages 7+

Language: Dutch (English subtitles)

Available at: Amazon

The Colour Of Paradise (Iran, 1999)

Directed by Majid Majidi, whose Children Of Heaven (1997) was the first Iranian film to be nominated for an American Academy Award, this film is the compassionate story of Mohammad,  a student at a special school for blind children in Tehran. When the summer holidays starts Mohammad is left wondering if his father will ever come and pick him up from school. He wanders round the gardens of the school and hears a little bird that has fallen out of its nest. In a beautiful scene which becomes a significant metaphor in the film, Mohammad picks up the bird and triumphantly feels his way up the tree and returns it to its nest.

His father does eventually arrive, and Mohammad spends the summer with his sisters and grandmother at a farm surrounding by dazzling fields of wild flowers. The summer in the country is a joyous experience for Mohammad, until he discovers his father is thinking of re-marrying, and considers his handicapped son could be a stumbling block to his future matrimonial plans.

For ages 10 +

Language: Farsi (English subtitles).

Click here for the trailer.

Available at: Amazon

Dustbin Baby (2009, UK)

It’s April’s 14th Birthday and she’s had a row at home because instead of the mobile phone she wanted, she was given a pair of earrings. So far, so normal but April’s life has been far from normal. Abandoned as a baby, April has been through a series of disastrous children’s and foster homes. Now she has found a new home and whilst her new ‘mother’ is very kind, she struggles to understand how April’s past life still affects her. The row with her new foster mother provokes a crisis and instead of going to school that day, April decides to revisit some of the people and places she remembers from her fragmentary childhood. She is desperate to learn more about her own past–but what will she find…?

Based on a Jacqueline Wilson novel and originally made for the BBC, this is an absorbing and moving drama, with wonderful performances from Juliet Stevenson as April’s new foster mother and Dakota Blue Richards as April. Winning both International Emmy and BAFTA awards,it will appeal to all ages – and it’s a shame that it didn’t get a cinema release !

Suitable for ages 9/10 +

Click here for the trailer of the film.

Available at: Amazon; Lovefilm

The Eagle Hunter’s Son (Sweden/Kazakhastan, 2009)

Set in the stunningly beautiful landscape of Kasakhstan, the film is the story of 12 year old Bazarbi, the younger son of a Mongolian family of nomads. When his much-loved older brother leaves for the city to find work, his father, to console him, takes Bazarbi to the annual great Eagle Festival, even though Barzabi is not interested in hunting or his father’s eagle. But when the eagle suddenly flies away, startled by a photographer’s flashlight at the crowded festival, Barzabi, in remorse, goes in search of it. The eagle soon finds him.. and the two forge an extraordinary bond that leads them to an even greater adventure..

This is a film which transports you to an entirely different world, with stunning photography. The scenes between the boy and the eagle are especially magical.

For ages 10+

Languages: Kazakh, Mongolian ( English subtitles)

Available at: Amazon

Eleanor’s Secret (France/Italy, 2009)

When Nat’s grandmother dies she leaves him her precious collection of storybooks that she used to read to Nat. However Nat can’t quite read yet and is disappointed with a gift he can’t use. As no one really wants the library Nat’s parents decide to sell the collection. Whilst the books are being packed away Nat discovers that the library is a magical set of original prints that contain little real-life versions of the original characters. Nat embarks on a journey to save the books with his favourite characters but must break a spell by learning how to read. This is a beautifully animated adventure in which a boy’s new found ability to read not only sets his imagination free, but saves the day!

For all ages

Dubbed in English.

Click here for a clip of the film.

Available at: Amazon 

Exhibition enquiries: Soda Pictures (Distributor) : www.sodapictures.com

Finding Friends (2005, Norway)

12 year-old Petter is fed up that he has to spend his summer with his family on a country farm which seems to him like the middle of nowhere. But he soon finds the countryside is not as quiet and peaceful as he thinks. Walking in the forest he finds a dog which has clearly been ill-treated, which he cares for. The owner wants it back but then he meets Nela, an Indian girl and her friend Sampson, a bull, and together they rescue the dog and unmask the criminal activities of some local car thieves. The summer turns into a dangerous and exciting adventure.

This is an entertaining film with lots of animal appeal. Amazon show a rating of 15+ but this may be a default rating because it hasn’t actually been classified by the British Board of Film Censors. Having seen it, and also watched with a 10 year old, we would recommend it as suitable for anyone 9+ – or younger if the subtitles don’t present a problem.

For ages 9+

Language: Norwegian (English subtitles)

Available at: Amazon

The Great Bear (2011, Denmark)

The Great Bear is an animated film from Denmark. It’s about two very modern quarrelling children, Jonathan and his younger sister Sophie who go to stay for the summer with their grandfather, who lives on the edge of a large and mysterious forest. In spite of their grandfather’s warnings, the children inevitably venture into the forest. When Sophie is ‘kidnapped’ by an ancient bear of mythological dimensions Jonathan’s better brotherly instincts force him to reluctantly go in search of her. But when he finds her the adventure is only just beginning…

This is a beautifully animated film, the first by its director, Esben Toft Jacobsen (who also wrote the story and designed the animation) which, once the action moves into the forest, sweeps you into a magical realm, and avoids the ‘cuteness’ of talking animals.

For ages 6+

Language: Danish (English subtitles) and there is also a version dubbed in English

Available at: Amazon, Lovefilm

Karla’s World ( Denmark, 2007)

 

A family comedy that deals with problems of a very modern family. The story is seen through the eyes of 10-year-old Karla, who struggles to keep her family together at Christmas. This is however not easy when your parents are divorced and you have a new step dad and irritating brother as well as a father who doesn’t always keep his promises. Pushed over the edge by her warring family Karla decides to run away…the people she meets when she does teach her something new about living in a family.

Like many family films for children from Scandinavia this film doesn’t pull too many punches about the imperfect behaviour of children and adults but in doing so it avoids cloying sentimentality whilst finding its way to a positive conclusion.

For ages 7+

Language: Danish (English subtitles)

Available at: Amazon

 

Kauwboy (2012, Netherlands)

Kauwboy has won awards across the world, from the Berlinale to Buenos Aires, and was nominated for the 2013 Oscars. This is the story of Jojo, who at first seems just a lively 10 year-old living a bit chaotically, but not unhappily, with his father. His mother, we are told, is ‘away’. But when Jojo finds a jackdaw chick, which has fallen out of its nest, he is determined to keep it, in spite of his father’s opposition. Through his determined and often funny efforts to nurture the bird, whilst hiding it from his father, the film gradually reveals the reality and darker complexity of Jojo’s life as we realise both father and son are struggling to cope not with his mother’s absence, but her death.

Though ultimately a triumphant but believable way through is found,this film does not shrink from its difficult and complex issues, and it might seem like too dark a subject for a family film. But how many children’s stories start from the premise of their parents’ death and which child has not imagined or feared this, as well as the many that have had to experience it? Kauwboy deals with the impact of bereavement and the relationship between father and son wholly movingly but without sentimentality. Our experience is that children have an appetite for serious films which reflect their complex feelings with real understanding and respect and this film is a brilliant example. Definitely one to watch together as a family and talk about afterwards!

Note: It does contain two uses of the f*** word – wholly realistic and justified by the situation– but we thought you should know! This alone would probably prevent it from receiving a PG certificate in the UK, although other countries are more robust, and perhaps less precious, about what children can be seen to say, and it has been screened in many children’s film festivals across the world.

For ages 10+ (but if in doubt, watch it first, before showing it to your children and decide for yourself!)

Language: Dutch ( English subtitles)

Available at: Amazon

Kirikou and the Sorceress (France, 1996)

From the celebrated French animator Michel Ocelot Kirikou and the Sorceress is our favourite of Ocelot’s films. Ocelot is brilliant at bringing stories from around the world to life using a unique animation style which draws upon silhouette traditions of the past combined with vibrant patterned backgrounds.

Loosely based on a West African folk tale, this film tells the story of a boy named Kirikou who can miraculously speak and walk from birth. Kirikou’s village is suffering a long drought and all the men have dissappeared and the villagers are convinced that this is the fault of an evil sorceress who has dried up their spring and devoured all the men of the village. Little Kirikou decides he wants to help his village, and accompanies the last warrior to fight the sorceress. Although Kirikou is small, he is also fast and intrepid and may be the last hope of the village.

Some audiences may find the the animation a little simplistic by comparison to the latest CGI films, but we love this film because of the way it explores West African culture in every aspect of the film, from the story and music to its colourful animation techniques. There is no other film like this.

Michel Ocelot has also directed Tales of the Night (2011), and Azur & Asmar: The Princes’ Quest (2006), also both available in the UK on DVD.

For ages 8 +

Language: French ( English subtitles) or English dubbed version

Please click here for some clips with the English dub.

Please click here for the French trailer.

Available from: Amazon, Lovefilm

Laura’s Star (Germany, 2004)

Faithful to the style of its German source books, this animation will charm young audiences. Seven-year-old Laura has just moved to a new city with her family, and she is having a hard time finding new friends. Then, one night she watches a little star fall from the sky. She rushes to find the star and discovers it’s been hurt in the fall. With loving care, she mends its broken point, and it’s the beginning of a fantastic friendship. But, Laura soon realizes that in spite of all the love she feels, she must let the star go and return to its home in the universe. If the star stayed on Earth, it would fade away. It’s a hard decision for Laura to make, but Max, a boy who lives next door, proves to be a great help.  Laura forgets her initial reluctance and is happy to find a new friend.

There is also a wonderful sequel, Laura’s Star and the Mysterious Dragon Nain in which Laura moves to China. Unfortunately, it hasn’t got distribution in the UK yet but is available in Germany through Amazon.de as Lauras Stern und der geheimnisvolle Drache Nian.

For all ages

Dubbed in English.

 Available from : Amazon, Lovefilm

Exhibition enquiries: Warner Brothers

The Miracle of Bern (Germany, 2003)

A football story with a difference: set in a German mining town, nine years after the Second World War, it is the story of 11 year old Matthias and Germany’s surprise World Cup victory in 1954. Matthias lives with his mother, sister and brother. His father has remained a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union since the end of the war. Matthias loves football and a top player in his local team, Helmut Rahn, has ‘adopted’ him as the team’s lucky mascot – the team always seems to win when Matthias is there.

Then Matthias’ father finally returns home from the Soviet Union, but in spite of their relief, the family all have problems adjusting to life with their long-absent father. Matthias does not get on with a father who is a stranger to him, and who shows no interest in the forthcoming World Cup soon to be held in Bern. Matthias is desperate to go as Helmut is part of the German team, in spite of his father’s opposition…and he is sure they won’t win unless he’s there to bring them luck.

This is a moving film about the relationship between father and son – as well as football! It’s also a rare and telling depiction of post-war life for German families. It would be a great film to show if your children are doing this period in History at school.

For ages 11+

Language: German ( English subtitles)

Available at: Amazon

Exhibition enquiries: Soda Pictures (Distributor) : www.sodapictures.com

Miss Minoes (2001, Netherlands)

An enchanting comedy about a little girl, a journalist and a cat who turns into a woman….

Tibbe is a shy journalist on a local paper. His only friend is the young daughter of his landlady. To avoid being fired Tibbe must come up with a good story. Then he meets Miss Minoes who claims she used to be a cat and also makes friends with the landlady’s daughter. As she supplies Tibbe with exclusive news provided by her friends the neighbourhood cats, he decides to make her his assistant and becomes a successful journalist. Meanwhile the cats and the landlady’s daughter discover that Mr Ellemeet the local entrepreneur and seeming local benefactor is in fact up to no good…Between the three of them, and a few more cats, they have to stop his evil schemes.

This mutli-award winning film, directed by Vincent Bal, was a great success in other European countries and has even had a US release but shamefully has never been bought by a UK distributor. A DVD is available but please note it is a US import, and a region 1 DVD, so you need a multi-region or NTSC compatible DVD player to screen it. The DVD has subtitles in English and also an English dubbed track for younger children who might find subtitles difficult.

For ages 6+

Language: Dutch (English subtitles) or English dubbed version

Available at: Amazon

Offisde (2006, Iran)

There is a strange boy on the bus full of football fans going to the match.. in fact he is a girl, dressed as a boy. She loves the game but girls in Iran can’t go to matches, even though many are keen to. But the girl is caught at the turnstile and locked up in an isolated area with other female fans who were also caught out. The girls can hear the crowd and the cheers but they can’t see anything. Nonetheless they won’t give up until they can see the match with their own eyes…

Directed by Jafar Pahani, who also made The White Balloon, this film quietly challenges preconceptions and prejudices about girls in an Islamic country.

For ages 11+

Language: Farsi (English subtitles)

Available at: Amazon, Lovefilm

The Secret of Kells (Ireland, France, Belgium, 2009)

This intricately animated feature from Irish filmmaker Tomm Moore follows 12-year-old Brendan as he helps Brother Aidan finish the legendary illuminated Book of Kells.

Brendan lives in a heavily fortified medieval outpost known as the Abbey of Kells, where the ongoing threat of Viking raids causes the peaceful monks to live in a state of constant fear. When the mysterious Brother Aidan arrives at the abbey carrying an unfinished tome filled mystical secrets, Brendan discovers he has a talent for illumination that he never knew he had.  Only the Book Of Kells can save his village from the Vikings and with the help of Aisling, a half-wolf/half-human fairy, Brendan is guided through this enchanting yet dangerous new world to help him finish illuminating the important text.

The animation is visually striking and uniquely reflects the skillful illuminations of medieval texts. It is a fantastic and accessible way for children to learn about Irish history and culture and comes highly recommended.

For ages 8 +

Language: English

To watch the trailer please click here.

Available at: Amazon, LoveFilm 

We Shall Overcome (2006, Denmark)

The film is set in rural Denmark in 1969 and the turbulent events of 1968 are beginning to filter through even to this rather remote corner of Europe. When 11-year old farmer’s son Frits starts secondary school he encounters a brutal and rigid regime, where the headmaster brooks no dissent.

But Frits, who has begun to be aware of the momentous upheavals amongst youth in Europe and beyond, refuses to conform to the school’s constraining rules and rituals. He soon attracts the headmaster’s disapproval and finds himself isolated also by his classmates whose response to the atmosphere of fear in the school is to bully any ‘outsiders’. They draw him into a prank that goes disastrously wrong and discovered by the head, who meets out violent punishment, wounding him badly.

His parents are horrified and so begins the family’s struggle to bring the headmaster to justice, in a closed and conservative community that does not want to hear the truth about one of its most respected members.

The film won the prestigious Crystal Bear at the 2006 Berlinale as well as awards from the Chicago, Amsterdam and other major children’s film festivals. Whilst the post ’68 context may need a bit of explanation to today’s young audience, most children will respond to the universal experiences of fear, injustice and bullying which many children will encounter at some time in their school lives, (even if, hopefully, not as extreme as those portrayed here) as well as Frits’ struggle to maintain his identity and values amid the pressure to conform. Also heartening is the film’s portrayal of his parents, who battle against the authorities together with him; in so many films centred on children parents either seem to be entirely absent or ineffectual.

For ages 11+

Language: Danish ( English subtitles)

Available at: Amazon, Lovefilm