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Chicago International Children's Festival 

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The 22nd annual festival continues Friday through Sunday, November 4 through 6, with weekend programs at Facets Cinematheque and the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble. Tickets are $8, $6 for children, and $5 for Facets members; for more information call 773-281-2166 or 773-281-9075. Following are some of this week's programs; a full festival schedule is available at www.cicff.org.

Offbeat and bittersweet, the Finnish feature Pelican Man (2004, 84 min.) sometimes resembles a silent Chaplin comedy, thanks to the considerable skill of Kari Ketonen as a pelican that assumes human form and befriends a ten-year-old boy from a broken family. This fish-out-of-water story derives much of its humor from the avian man's bewilderment with his new environment, but it grows more serious as the boy teaches him to read, opening the door to a sad awareness of mortality. Liisa Helminen directed. (Sat 11/5, 5 PM, Vittum Theater)

Also strong but more somber is the German coming-of-age tale The Treasure of the White Falcons (89 min.), written and directed by Christian Zubert. A teenager in a small town, determined to have one more adventure before his family moves away, accompanies two buddies on a treasure hunt through the woods, their map drawn by an infamous local teen who's long gone missing. Multiple dangers confront them, each testing their courage and self-reliance. (Sun 11/6, 1 PM, Facets Cinematheque)

Despite the participation of Paul Dooley, Martin Mull, and Lea Thompson, Doug McKeon's Come Away Home (101 min.) plays like an after-school special with its ho-hum story of a 12-year-old Manhattan girl forced to spend the summer with her grandfather in South Carolina. (Sat 11/5, 3 PM, Facets Cinematheque) The Golden Blaze (2004, 81 min.), directed by Byron Carson, also shows the influence of TV in its basic 2-D animation, but it has a lively script about a comics-obsessed kid who's thrilled to see his science-nerd dad transformed into a superhero. Blair Underwood and Michael Clarke Duncan voice key roles. (Fri 11/4, 11:45 AM, and Sat 11/5, 3 PM, Vittum Theater)

More aesthetically pleasing is the English-dubbed German animation Laura's Star (2004, 77 min.), based on Klaus Baumgart's popular picture books. A seven-year-old girl, disgruntled over her family's move to the big city, finds consolation in a star that falls to earth. Piet De Rycker and Thilo Rothkirch directed. (Sat 11/5, 11 AM, Facets Cinematheque) Shadow puppets, clay animation, 2-D, and CGI are all represented in the shorts program Animation Nation (83 min.); its best entry, Through My Thick Glasses (2004), is a Norwegian reverie about life in wartime. (Sat 11/5, 5 PM, Facets Cinematheque)

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