Chicago International Children's Film Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

Chicago International Children's Film Festival 

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The Chicago International Children's Film Festival, now in its 18th year, continues Friday through Sunday, November 2 through 4, at City North 14 and at Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton. Tickets are $6 for children and adults, $4.50 for Facets members; various discounts are available for four or more tickets. Professional actors will be on hand to read subtitled films. For more information call 773-281-9075 or 773-281-2166. Programs marked with a * are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2

No More Lies

Ten short films, including several from the French antiracist series "No More Lies." 90 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Snow in August

Richard Friedenberg adapts the best-selling novel by Pete Hamill, a thoughtful meditation on faith and courage that cleverly retells the legend of the golem, the protective giant of Jewish folklore. An Irish-Catholic schoolboy in Hell's Kitchen (Peter Tambakis), whose father died fighting the Nazis, witnesses a brutal attack on an elderly Jewish shopkeeper and later befriends an immigrant rabbi (Stephen Rea) who lost his wife to the Holocaust. The film embraces Hamill's assertion that such a friendship could happen only in America, strongly articulating the moral value of affirming one's beliefs in the face of violence. 105 min. (Joshua Katzman) (City North 14, 9:45 am)

* World of Fun

Fifteen videos, all of them pleasing and some of them enchanting in their inventiveness and unexpected twists. In Stan Resnicoff's Seven Ate Nine number nine is missing and number seven is the prime suspect; numerals are marched down to the police station, and an inventive mix of animation and live action (the numbers "do" Leno and Letterman) shows that the world would have trouble functioning without any nines. In Linda Kudzmas's clever Five Little Monkeys the nursery-rhyme monkeys jumping on the bed are identical each time, but whenever one falls off and cracks his head the doctor is doing something different (one time he's playing golf). Other videos manage to be instructive without lecturing: in Thomas Voigt's Marvelous Milly and the Fearbuster a girl's fear of the "lumpy bumpies" behind her bedroom curtain is defused when the lurking monsters turn out to be only cats. 75 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

* Little Crumb

A likable adapation of Chris Van Abkoude's 1922 Dutch memoir, a literary descendant of Dickens and Twain that was hugely popular in its day. Ten-year-old Kruimeltje (Ruud Feltkamp), abandoned at birth by his unwed mother, bounces from one caretaker to the next but mostly lives in the streets of Rotterdam, hustling odd jobs, stealing food, sleeping on piers and in alleys, and trying to elude the police. The episodic structure makes for an arresting story at first, though the final third of the film is overloaded with coincidences. Feltkamp is charismatic in the lead role, and Sacha Bulthuis gives a solid performance as the boy's stingy guardian; Maria Peters directed her own screenplay. 119 min. (Joshua Katzman) (City North 14, 10:15 am)

There's Only One Jimmy Grimble

An aspiring young soccer player receives a pair of magic boots that make him invincible in this UK feature by John Hay. 102 min. (City North 14, 10:45 am)

Tainah, an Amazon Adventure

Abundant landscapes of the Amazon rain forest enliven this ecological tale from Brazil (2000) in which the title character, a good-hearted Indian girl, matches wits with unscrupulous trappers and grotesque trophy-hunting gringos. After Tainah befriends a boy from the city, the film manages to involve us in their curiosity as each learns something about the other's world; unfortunately the story is bogged down by fairly predictable plot twists and constantly italicizes its message about saving rare species. Directed by Tania Lamarca and Sergio Bloch. 90 min. (TS) (City North 14, 11:15 am)

The Asian Panorama--Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Taiwan

The longest of these three videos, Hanung Bramantio's Indonesian short Tinkling Glass, is an effective and sometimes moving lesson in accepting differences and overcoming self-centeredness. A boy's family, ashamed that he's apparently retarded, has locked him in a shack; he makes music by striking glass vessels, sometimes lit by small shafts of sunlight, the imagery imparting a magical quality to his existence. A little girl persuades other kids to help him escape into the sunlight and elude the nasty woman hired to care for him, but the tragic ending blurs any distinction between good kids and bad adults. In Ananda Abeynayake's Devils of the Magosa Tree a boy who's lost his father and brother to a terrorist bomb in Sri Lanka seeks solace in traditional music and dance; Ricky Lee Tze-leung's My Childhood: Passage of Times is a bland documentary on changes in Taiwanese education (children are now encouraged to "explore their own interests"). 91 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

Parents and Other Puzzles

Seven short films about parents and children. 73 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

From Far Away: The Immigrant Experience

Six short films about adjusting to foreign cultures. 73 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3

Circleen: Mice & Romance

Jannik Hastrup directed this sequel to his 1998 animation Circleen--City Mice, featuring the elfin heroine and her two mouse sidekicks. On the same program, The Story of Apple, a short from Iran. 75 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

Got Problems? We've Got Answers

Nine videos that educate and enlighten, several from multicultural perspectives. The most provocative is Tonguc Baykurt's Jan-Yusuf, in which a young German boy overhears that he's going to be circumcised at the request of his Turkish grandmother and confuses that operation with amputation; the grandmother becomes a repository for his fears until his resistance earns her respect. In Dave Pescod's British animation Sweetpeace world leaders decide to make candy rather than missiles, despite a protest from dentists, and the world becomes a more colorful place. In Jon Doyle and John Offord's The Foxbusters: Acluckalypse Now flying chickens try to stop a fox threat by seeking out a legendary chicken; a corpulent parody of Brando's Colonel Kurtz, he explains, "To defeat the foxes you must become the foxes." The most visually lively entries are Sylvain Charbonneau's one-minute shorts from the Canadian TV series Science Please: in "Sound Is Vibrations" black-and-white images of sound-producing objects (birds, a chainsaw) are intercut with color animation of vibrating molecules. 91 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

* Ikingut

In a desolate coastal settlement of northern Iceland, the lonely, precocious son of the local minister spots a white, furry specter walking on the ice and discovers that it's an Inuit boy. The two become inseparable, but the superstitious townspeople, fueled by booze and ignorance, decide that the child is some sort of monster who must be captured and imprisoned. Director Gisli Snaer Erlingsson, best known for his documentaries, does a credible job recording through a child's eyes the hardships endured in a cold, inhospitable corner of the world, and the folktale elements of Jon Steinar Ragnarsson's screenplay provide the necessary dramatic balance in this 2000 feature. 90 min. (Joshua Katzman) (City North 14, 11:00 am)

Our Place in the World

Eight short films from Denmark, Norway, and the U.S. 85 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

Tainah, an Amazon Adventure

See listing for Friday, November 2. (City North 14, 1:00)

* 'Way Cool Comix--From Goofy to Ghoulish

Fifteen short videos ranging from comedic to somber to feel-good multicultural. In Obie Scott Wade and Michael Adamo's "Hole in One," from the series Julius and Friends, a bear residing in "the world's first planned community for cartoon characters" begins to worry after discovering a hole in its "perfectly manicured" lawn but then relaxes when an Asian bunny emerges to exchange gifts with him. Charles E. Bastien parodies boy bands in "'Ntalented," from the series Pelswick: girls faint whenever a new member is announced, while the boys disdain anyone who likes the band's music. In Becky Bristow's "Mr. Winkle's Monkey," from the series Cramp Twins, a boy becomes convinced that a soap factory conceals an animal-testing lab and resolves to capture it on videotape. Much recent cartoon animation is visually bland, but the two best pieces on this program are striking: In the labyrinthine The Forest, by Taiwanese animator Li-wei Chiou, a humanlike forest creature gazes wistfully at the towers of a city, but when he journeys there it proves even denser than the woods. And in Natalia Berezovaya's Russian short It's My Life precisely articulated drawings with flickering textured surfaces lend a distinctive edge to a piglet's existential musings. 96 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

Kids With Movie Cameras 2

Many of these 18 videos are collective efforts by middle-school classes, the best of them goofy but also appealingly sincere. The boy in Breathless has halitosis so extreme that everyone in his path blacks out, which makes him unattractive to girls but earns him cheers when he sends the teacher to the floor. Aliens? uses clay animation to present person-in-the-street interviews with amusing creatures who affirm the existence of life on other planets, followed by one nonbeliever--an earthling. In I'd Like to Visit the Moon an enjoyably crude spaceship takes two kids to the moon as their earthbound classmates watch through a telescope. The Scottish short Guid Man of Ballengeich makes interesting if not quite coherent use of drawing, clay, and cutout animation, and in the playful No Skrubs, a music video for TLC's "No Scrubs," girls brush off various males who come on to them. 85 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 3:00)

Maurice Sendak's Little Bear: The Little Bear Movie

Two bears from different backgrounds strike up a friendship in this animated feature by Raymond Jafelice. 75 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 3:00)

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4

Prop & Berta

A man and his talking cow move into a cottage in the forest and must contend with a local witch in this Danish animation by Per Fly. 73 min. (City North 14, 11:00 am)

The Testimony of Taliesin Jones

Life lessons are too neatly bundled into this 2000 Welsh drama about an inquisitive 12-year-old (John-Paul Macleod), despondent over the breakup of his parents' marriage, who befriends an old piano teacher (Ian Bannen) and learns how to heal through prayer. The religious skepticism of his family, his schoolmates, and the local priest leads to a crisis of self-doubt, but director Martin Duffy plays down the spiritual element to focus on the boy's gawky handling of his dilemmas. The transparent script is based on a novel by Phidian Brook, its overall blandness enlivened occasionally by Macleod's naturalistic performance, a subtle turn by Jonathan Pryce as the boy's father, and shots of the Welsh countryside. 91 min. (TS) (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

TV Time Around the World

A program of "the best of international toddler TV." Amr Koura's Sesame World: Egypt is an Egyptian edition of Sesame Street in Arabic with English subtitles, featuring a segment on weaving and a genie who grants wishes that don't quite work out as the wisher might have hoped. In Jamie Whitney's amusing "Hamilton the Ham," from the Canadian series Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, Hamilton the pig proves to be an awful dancer to Bach's music but excels at singing something simpler. In "Muck's Sleepover" by Sarah Ball, from the UK series Bob the Builder, a construction vehicle sleeping over at a farm to get an early start the next morning is terrified by night sounds. And in Second Star to the Left, a Christmas adventure by UK animator Graham Ralph, three pets venture into the snowy outdoors to deliver a present that's fallen out of Santa's sleigh, one of them a rotund cat who prefers room service and central heating. 75 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

The Hidden Fortress

A war game between two summer camps turns progressively unruly in this heavy-handed adventure from Canada, written and directed by Roger Cantin. The Conquistadors and the Indians are divided not only by location but also by their parents' socioeconomic status, and Cantin wastes no opportunity to stress the class conflict, frequently invoking Lord of the Flies and Romeo and Juliet (the leader of one camp falls in love with the sister of his counterpart in the other camp). The plot is overloaded with antiwar and ecological messages, and when the young actors aren't delivering them they're usually mugging for the camera. 90 min. (TS) (City North 14, 1:00)

Magic's the Thing

Five videos on magic and myth. In Rafael Illesca's Mexican On the Way Home: A Very White Day, images of a young girl walking alone convey her longing for her father, who had to leave home in search of work, and she finds solace in an angel with large and hokey wings. The lively French digital animation Xcalibur conflates Arthurian legend with a little too much Star Wars decor, yet the characters' artificial faces seem appropriate to the tape's schematic nature, and director Didier Pourcel conjures up dramatic angles that would be hard to get in a live-action film. John R. Dilworth's The Tower of Dr. Zalost is the strongest entry; its story of a scientist disgruntled with a town that won't fund his "research" is invigorated by spirited animation and dramatic color schemes. Some images are inherently funny, like the ridiculously tall stone tower from which he fires cannonballs at his opponents, and the characters' rapidly changing poses recall classic Warner Brothers cartoons. 93 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

You Gotta Have Friends

Seven short films about friendship. 98 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

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