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More than just child's play at New York International Children's Film Festival: movies where kids call the shots


By WcP.Movie.Critic - Posted on 02 March 2009

This year's edition of the New York International Children's Film Festival, which runs from February 27-March 15, demonstrates that the most interesting movies for children are not necessarily always children's movies. Opening the festival is the French and Italian animated feature Mia and the Migoo, directed by Jacques-Remy Girerd

(quote)

Sometimes the most interesting movie for children isn’t necessarily a children’s movie. That seeming contradiction lies at the heart of the New York International Children’s Film Festival, which this Friday begins three weekends of screenings, filmmaker visits and voting, culminating in a juvenile version of the Oscars: a prize ceremony and reception on March 15. While the festival’s 100 films from 30 countries offer plenty of animation and fantasy, they also delve into real-world conflicts that affect children’s lives. “With a great many of these films, the filmmaker would say, ‘That’s not a kids’ movie,’ ” Eric Beckman, who founded the festival in 1997 with his wife, Emily Shapiro, said in an interview.

Sita Sings the Blues screens at the New York International Children's Film Festival

This year’s programs include the American animated feature “Sita Sings the Blues,” Nina Paley’s interweaving of the Indian epic Ramayana with the autobiographical story of a female filmmaker’s marital collapse. Not intended as a children’s film, it is recommended for age 9 and older. A Chinese news documentary, “Circus School,” explores the grueling training of young acrobats (age 12 and older).

Sita Sings the Blues is Nina Paley's interweaving of the Indian epic Ramayana with the autobiographical story of a female filmmaker's marital collapse

Films specifically for children also often explore serious themes. Friday night’s opening gala features the American premiere of the French and Italian animated feature “Mia and the Migoo” (age 7 and older), directed by Jacques-Rémy Girerd. It follows a girl’s quest to save her father, a laborer trapped at a construction site that also threatens the Tree of Life. “Battle for Terra” (7 and older), an American animated feature (sold out), focuses on the peaceful beings of Terra, who are threatened by human survivors fleeing a destroyed Earth.

Battle for Terra is an American animated feature that focuses on the peaceful beings of Terra, who are threatened by human survivors fleeing a destroyed Earth

“It looks at imperialism by taking an alien-invasion genre and flipping it,” the director, Aristomenis Tsirbas, said in a phone interview. “Here, we’re the aliens.” He added, however, that there were moral ambiguities on both sides. Ethical questions also fill the festival’s first Children & War series; the boy in the Indian film “Tahaan” (age 8 and older) is asked to commit a terrorist act. In another first, the festival has a movie for those no younger than 14: the Canadian feature “West of Pluto,” in which teenagers talk and act, well, like teenagers.

Ethical questions fill the festival's first Children & War series. The boy in the Indian film Tahaan is asked to commit a terrorist act

“It’s eye opening without being horrifying,” Mr. Beckman said. And while the festival includes five showings of “Shorts for Tots” (ages 3 to 6) and films like “Secret of Moonacre” (ages 5 to 12), a Hungarian, British and French live-action feature about a magic necklace, it generally aims older than the BAMkids Film Festival, this weekend at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The New York festival’s short films compete for prizes. Children vote for the best in each of six programs and for the grand winner. An adult jury — including actors, directors and producers, among them Susan Sarandon, Gus Van Sant, Christine Vachon, John Turturro and Evan Shapiro (president of IFC TV and the Sundance Channel) — also awards a prize.

Secret of Moonacre is a Hungarian, British and French live-action feature about a magic necklace

In recent years the festival has broadened its reach, with monthly screenings in New York and other cities, as well as films on its Web site, gkids.com. In 2008 it began a foray into theatrical distribution, releasing the French writer and director Michel Ocelot’s animated feature “Azur & Asmar” (also in the festival, for age 6 and older) into about 50 markets nationwide so far.

“I never made a film for children,” Mr. Ocelot said in an e-mail message. “That’s the reason why they like my films.” “Azur & Asmar,” about the fateful friendship of two boys — Azur, blond and blue-eyed, and Asmar, dark-skinned and Arabic-speaking — was originally destined for a straight-to-DVD American release.

“With Hollywood movies, so much money is at risk that few chances are taken,” Mr. Beckman said. By relying on word of mouth, reviews and Internet publicity rather than costly advertising, he intends to bring younger audiences more daring work. “Some of the films playing this festival will have a life beyond New York,” he predicted.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of New York International Children's Film Festival, Roadside Attractions

Original Source: NY Times

Awesome post indeed, it reminds me of my childhood as well. I think this will be best for children because they learn and enjoy lots of things from this festival.

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