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Xavierpop Previews #TIFFKids International Film Festival – Part One

The creation of the Bell Lightbox has allowed the Toronto International Film Festival to really set roots and focus on what it does best, programme great films for audiences to see. The 2011 Festival was a great step in the right direction and makes the upcoming 2012 version that much more anticipated.

With this new home, the organization that runs the festival can now also focus on expanding the mandate of the other properties it manages. One of them is the popular but very underrated Sprockets Film Festival which has now been rebranded as the TIFF Kids International Film Festival.

We love the new direction and the rebranding.

One of the most slept-on areas in the film industry is Kids movies. Often deemed too juvenile for proper concern, the problem with that thinking is that it overlooks some of the best films ever made. (We’re looking at you Aardman Animation Studios, Pixar and of course Disney).

The thing that makes TIFF Kids that much more special is their focus on international fare. While we all get the requisite Peter Lord film, we also are exposed to a wide variety of films that usually don’t make it across our radar.

Xavierpop will be previewing the festival over the next few days as there are some fantastic films that you should definitely check out, regardless of your age.

Part One of our preview focuses on some of the films happening the first couple of days. Stay tuned for the subsequent parts and hopefully we’ll see you at the Lightbox.

 

Will
Themes: citizenship, friendship, media, politics
Content Advisory: parental and child death, explosion, mild language, religious references, living in a Christian orphanage

Director Ellen Perry will join us via Skype on April 14 and in person at the screenings on April 16 and April 21!

Saturday April 14
12:45 PM
Monday April 16
10:00 AM
Saturday April 21
02:45 PM
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If you know it to be true that it’s “football”, not “soccer”, than this is a movie for you. It tells the story of an 11 year-old English boy named Will (Perry Eggleton) left an orphan to a Catholic parish when his mother died and his father ran away. Now his father (Damian Lewis) is back, has taken control of his life, and would like to make amends with Will and to be the father to him that he knows his son needs him to be. They start by hanging out and talking in that nervous way we do when there is much to be said and we’re having trouble with where or how to begin. They connect through their mutual love of football as the father listens in amazement at the boy’s uncanny ability to recite the stats and the history of their favorite team, Liverpool.

Later, Will agrees to leave the orphanage and be with his dad, but then tragedy strikes: Will is made an orphan a second time at the sudden passing of his father and just after he had bought the two of them tickets to the Champions League final of 2005 in Istanbul, between AC Milan and their team, Liverpool.

Will picks himself up and decides to carry on with his mission to see his team play in the finals, no matter what. He rides as a stowaway on a freight ship, has an adventure in France and is helped along the way by Alek (Kristian Kiehling) a kindred football spirit about the same or just a few years younger than his father, who hauls produce around in his truck for a living but who is connected with Will in likely and unlikely ways.

Unabashedly emotional, “Will” is a pure audience picture that aims at the hearts of football fans the world over with its universal message of believing in one’s self and carrying on especially when times get tough and you feel like you’re on the losing end of a battle that’s rigged against you.

- MovieJay

 

Stay! (Blijf!)
Themes: citizenship, friendship, media, politics
Content Advisory: mild language, family removed from their home, defacing public property

Saturday April 14
01:15 PM
Sunday April 15
02:30 PM
Tuesday April 17
12:00 PM
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Lieke and Milad are best friends. They’re 11 years old and go to school and live in the Netherlands. Lieke is Dutch, Milad is Iranian, the youngest son in a family of five Iranian refugees living the Netherlands. Milad’s family is denied their residency papers and it begins the process by which they will be deported back to Iran, where Milad’s father will surely be arrested after fleeing the homeland and taking his family with him instead of staying and being thrown in jail as a political prisoner.

Milad is desperate to stay and it’s his good fortune to have a best friend as hard-headed and determined as Lieke, who simply will not accept that his family should be forced to leave. As the deportation date nears, their school teacher advises them that one of the ways to make Milad’s story heard is to contact the head of the Ministry of Immigration. Milad and Lieke go many steps further and set out on the unlikeliest of journeys that will see them runaway from the Immigration Police by crossing a river in an abandoned paddle boat, sleeping out in a farm in the country, and cleverly using a kind old woman on a train as their guardian.

Stay! is a movie not only about the power of friendship and the value of human relationships, but more than that, it’s about the kind of person you need to be if you’re going to be someone’s best friend. Lieke is just 11 years old, and in her we see the best in ourselves: plucky, determined, headstrong, always daring to rise above or go beyond whatever trouble comes her way, and to always stand up for what is right. In Milad and his family, we feel sympathy for them not only for being deported, but for being treated more like they’re criminals than humans with real problems and real stories that need to be heard and understood instead of being judged as quickly as they are. Yes, even your best friend can annoy you sometimes, and other times you may not even see eye to eye on things, but Lieke and Milad remind us that the things that are most important about our best friends make those other things seem really small.
-MovieJay

 

Wunderkinder (Miracle Children) – @MovieJay’s Top Pick
Themes: genocide, child musicians, music, friendship, social justice
Content Advisory: mature content – violence, shooting, person shot, guns, death (seen and discussed)

Tuesday April 17
12:30 PM
Saturday April 21
05:00 PM
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Wunderkinder is a special film about the unlikely bond between Hanna, a German girl, and Larissa and Abrascha, two Ukrainian Jews. The year is 1941, Larissa is a gifted pianist and Abrascha equally so on the violin, both considered to be child prodigies in classical music. They play in concert halls to the party elite and eventually play before Stalin.

Hanna and her parents live in the small town of Poltova, Ukraine because of her father’s burgeoning German brewery there. One day, Hanna attends a small concert featuring Larissa and Abrascha, and they cast a mesmerizing spell on the girl that begins an obsession she has to want to not only meet, but to play music with them. Her parents being fair-minded, culture-friendly and successful, are encouraging of Hanna when she comes to them demanding to take violin lessons from Irina, the teacher of the two prodigies.

Hanna finally meets them, they break the ice, but then their new bond is put straight to the test with the advent of the war. The German family is helped by the Ukrainians to hide and then flee from the clutches of the local party authorities, and then later it is Hanna and her family doing what they can to protect Larissa and Abrascha’s families.

I have read that the young actors were musicians first, actors second. That they are talented musicians in their own right goes without saying, but they can add acting as something they are capable and competent at doing with three remarkable performances here in a film with themes that are a cross between The Pianist in terms of music breaking beyond the borders that contain our subtle prejudices and fears, and The Boy With the Striped Pajamas in how well Wunderkinder is when it sees this world and its cruel values through the eyes of older children who are totally aware of the horrifying implications around them. The best moments are when the young ones ask straightforward, practical questions about what’s going on, and the deafening silences we experience afterwards that are filled with the knowing in the air that to answer those questions would mean to purge themselves of their own prejudices.

A wonderful experience for older children with an interest in history and classical music.
-MovieJay

 

Alfie, the Little Werewolf
Themes: family, acceptance, identity, bullying
Content Advisory: minimal comedic violence, unseen animal death (eaten), biting

Saturday April 14
10:15 AM
Wednesday April 18
12:15 PM
Saturday April 21
02:30 PM
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The first in a series of stories based on the popular line of Dutch books for children at or around 7 years old, we follow Alfie, a blond bespectacled little baby being laid at the doorstep of a family of three. They have one child already, a baby boy named Timmie, but looking at the abandoned child at their feet, they figure their home has enough love and space to accomodate a fourth.

Alfie grows to be a pretty normal kid, except for school that is, where he is made fun of by the girl he likes and is picked on by the schoolyard bully. He’s no good at gym class and falls when trying to climb the ropes, only to be made fun of some more.

Upon us is the eve of Alfie’s 7th birthday. Waking up just before the clock strikes twelve, Alfie gets out of his bed and opens his window in order to get a better look at the big, beautiful night sky with its stars lit up from the full moon overhead. And then it happens: Alfie starts feeling funny. He gets itchy all over. Hair begins to grow all over his hands. His ears grow larger….and hairier! Within seconds he has a full and plush white beard that even Santa would envy. His pajamas stretch until they break, his chest covered in thick white fur. If there is any doubt that Alfie is turning into a werewolf (albeit the most adorable of werewolves with a look that suggests the added DNA of a teddy bear and a poodle) than that long, furry white and silver tail that pops out of his behind is the clincher.

He begins to howl at the sounds of the night that include the cries of dogs and cats. He can’t resist, so Alfie jumps out of his bedroom window and into his backyard. Impressed with his newly-acquired athleticism, Alfie begins to forage through his neighborhood with his arms helping his legs to barrel down the street faster than most cars, even. And he can climb trees, too! Lucky for werewolf-Alfie that the next-door neighbor is a kind old lady who happens to have a chicken coop in her backyard, which Alfie gets into even though he knows it’s wrong, but just can’t help himself because when the moon is full, the werewolf inside of him takes over his better nature. Not sure if it was all just a really bad dream, Timmie asks Alfie how he’s feeling when they wake up the next morning with Alfie replying, befuddled, “I think I ate a chicken.”

With werewolf lore and a healthy dose of Jekyll & Hyde to boot, Alfie, the Little Werewolf is a Friday-night fright-flick for youngsters aged about 7-8. Younger children will pee their pants, older ones will roll their eyes, but for the grades 1 and 2 set, this ought to provide an equal dose of thrills and real laughs due entirely to the performance of Maas Bronkhuyzen as Alfie, with his Harry Potter-like glasses and the burden he must carry with a very hairy, scary double-identity.
-moviejay

 

About the TIFF Kids International Film Festival

Running from April 10 through 22, 2012, the TIFF Kids International Film Festival (formerly the Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children and Youth) will celebrate 15 years as one of the most important film festivals in North America with special programming and activities for children aged 3 to 13. New for 2012 is TIFF Kids digiPlaySpace, a family-friendly interactive environment which includes interactive installations, learning-centric games, apps, new digital creative tools and hands-on production activities.

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