Thursday, March 01, 2007

The New York International Children's Film Festival

The 10th Annual New York children's international film festival returns to it's old format this year (last year, it was an occasional series of films at the IFC center), with a large selection of features and shorts for children of all ages, but especially those between four and sixteen.

The shindig begins with the Gala premier of
Grégoire Solotareff's "U" (see review at on Friday, March 2 and continues for the next three weekends (the kiddies have school and homework and can't go to the movies, right?).

Here are reviews of a selection of shorts and a couple of features:

Mixed Animation,
Doctor L/Xavier Reyé, 2004, 4.5 min

The world is going to Hell, and it's all America's fault! That the message of this brief music video, which mainly shows Americans blowing stuff up to a hip-hop beat. Not a particularly brilliant work, but shows promise.

Malin Erixon, 2004, 6.5 min

This is an animated memoir. Conrad was a hypochondriac, so everyone called him hypo-Conrad. Everyone thought that since he was bitching about his health all the time, he was fine, so the narrator keeps on postponing his vital message. Kind of sad in a way.

Gaëlle Denis, 2004, 6 min

A Japanese girl arrives in London and undergoes a series of brief adventures which range from testing out her new English-language skills, to a slip-and-fall at the public pool, which sends her to an alternate dimension, where she receives a sparkling wand. The whole thing is done in a very bizarre animated style which the characters have photographed heads and computer rendered, and hand drawn limbs.

FROG USA Animation
Christopher Conforti, 2004, 4 min

In an attempt to escape the heat of the sun, a frog accidently causes havoc in a backyard pool. This is probably the best short in the set. Extremely funny and the trip through the…well, it should be seen to be believed.

Australia- US PREMIERE 2002, 7.5 min

Written and Directed by
Nassiem Valamenesh

Noel lives in suburban Melbourne. He wants to join the army, become a fighter pilot and fly an FA18, twin engine, black hornet fighter jet, and blow stuff up. Will he fulfill his dream? Or will it just be one of the many disappointments that have plagued his life?

This is basically a filmic memoir of the life of an Australian teenager, showing that he's actually rather normal. This is rather well done for something so short, and the imagery is perfect for the subject matter.

Doctor Simpo, 2006, 1 min

This was an experiment by a college student. It's about an attempt to rule the world and divine intervention. All this in a single minute.
For the length of time, it's excellent.

Live Action, Martin Lund, 2004, 10 min

Yes, we all have that color commentary going on in our heads. Except, here our hero has a couple of real commentators camped out in a booth in his room. As the old Arab proverb goes: Even getting up in the morning can be a Jihad. This is rather funny, and is just short enough to keep the joke from growing stale.

Sweden 2005, 18 min

Written and Directed
Cameron B. Alyasin

This is the most serious film of the entire set, it's about the consequences of war and children who are drafted at too young an age.

Dijo(Evy Makuena), an 11-year-old African refugee living in Sweden, is a suspect in a murder. The detective in charge(Duncan Green) is doing his best to interregate him, but Dijo plays dumb, so they bring in an interpreter played by Marc Badia. HE manages to get Dijo to talk and makes a chilling discovery. This is about the loss of humanity war provokes. There is no sympathy here for anyone, just the situation. Excellent film.

Live Action, Xavi Sala, 2005, 8 min

Fatima argues with her principal because she doesn't want to take off the Islamic veil. This has an air of reality about it. The ending is actually rather off-putting, showing Fatima's distain for her classmates.

Animation, Lorcan Finnegan, 2005, 3.5 min

Two caterpillars, wildly in love, embark on a journey of change, obviously the filmmaker has had some problems back in high school with an old playmate. Making movies is indeed the best revenge. The design is rather too psychedelic for what it wants to do, and “Clutch Cargo” animation technique is always grating.

Animation, Ryosuke Aoike, 2004, 2.5 min

This, in a word, is terrible. It's about of old communists living together and acting like they're in a demented episode of “Sesame Street.” It's not all that funny and the animation design doesn't work at all. This may or may not be from a TV show.

Animation, Sylvain Gignac, 2004, 3 min

Hello Kitty's cousin goes on a trip through the candy-colored land of Nulbür. This film is all about design and background, and nothing actually happens. This is actually for younger audiences, but something subliminal that I didn't catch might have been there.

Grave Decisions (The Sooner You Die, The Longer You Stay Dead)
Movienet; 104min NR

Written and Directed
Marcus H. Rosenmüller

Sebastian Schneider (Markus Krojer) thinks he's a murderer. After getting run over by a truck, and miraculously surviving, he's been convinced by his brother Franz (Franz Xaver Brückner) that not only is he responsible for the death of the rabbits that were being raised for food, but that of their mother as well [she died in childbirth].

Their single father(Fritz Karl) owns a local restaurant, and is hosting the rehearsals of a local amateur theatrical group, and Sebastian imagines them as God's court of judgment and since he's such a phenomenal sinner, he knows he's going to spend years and years burning in Purgatory [This takes place in Bavaria and they're very Catholic over there].

So in order to atone for his myriad sins and avoid dying at all costs, Sebastian tries a number of various methods at achieving immortality, which includes running away to Transylvania to be bitten by a vampire, becoming a musician, and finding a new wife for his dad. [to be immortal, you either have to create great art or reproduce] In counterpoint, we have to listen to the rantings of a local DJ named Alfred Dorstreiter (Jürgen Tonkel), who plays rock and is married to Sebastian's teacher(Jule Ronstedt). This creates problems, too, but one which would spoil the fun.

Yes, fun. This is for all intents and purposes a dark comedy for children, and while there's lots of talk about the great beyond, but it never actually gets too morbid. This won a ton of awards in Germany and one can understand why. It's a pity that it's not going to get a real release here in the 'States.

Call Me Elizabeth

Written and Directed
Jean-Pierre Améris

Betty's(Alba Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi) life is falling apart. Her parents (Stéphane Freiss and Maria de Medeiros) are breaking up, her sister
(Lauriane Sire) is going off to boarding school, and the only person she can talk to is a mute maid named Rose (Yolande Moreau) who lives at the mental hospital that Dad runs across the street.

Things begin to change when two men come into her life, one, Quentin (Virgil Leclaire), is her age and has a wine stain birthmark on his face and neck; and Yvon (Benjamin Ramon) has just escaped from Dad's looney bin and is going to be hiding in the backyard shed. It's an attempt at magical realism, what with an alleged haunted house and all.

This is supposed to be a lyrical kind of film, where Betty's inner world is something magical to be cherished. This cannot be further from the case. Betty lives in a house of horrors and she knows it. However, she's still a little girl and the parents somehow believe that she doesn't really know what's going on or is oblivious to the yelling from downstairs.

To make things worse, there's this constant atmosphere of betrayal. Not only are mom and dad betraying each other, there's the problems with Rose and at school, which makes the relationship with Yvon even more poignant and perverse. Obviously she doesn't realize that keeping him prisoner in the shed isn't the best thing to do.

The acting is fine, but there's something missing here. For most of the film, there's no real story. Sure, there's an attempt, a prisoner in the backyard shed and the budding romance at school, but the whole thing seems rather disjointed and the characters barely get into the second dimension. Aside from that, the film isn't particularly entertaining.

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