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TIFF Kids Film Festival Preview

This year’s TIFF Kids Film Festival runs from April 7th to April 19th, with a fantastic line-up of films.

This includes Monkey Kingdom, which will be introduced by the legendary Jane Goodall,

Just in time for baseball season, Opposite Field, about a team from Uganda trying to qualify for the Little League World Series, and in a narrative twist on the theme, The Outlaw League, from Quebec.

There’s also the charming Mune from France, and from the U.K. along with France, from the celebrated Aardman Studios, the opening night film Shaun the Sheep The Movie.

A standout of the festival is Graham Townsley and Brad Allgood’s fantastic documnetary Landfill Harmonic, which won the Audience Award at the 24 Beats Per Second section of SXSW. The story is multifaceted, but uses its main story to make an examination of the society at large, The¬†Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, who discover and craft their instruments from garbage, (the title is actually a pun), is the main subject. But the film is as much an examination of the flooding in Paraguay and how it affects its citizens, a clever parable about the power of music, and interestingly, an examination of fandom, as the band Megadeth makes a very shocking appearance. But the differences between the Recycled Orchestra and the metal band are far fewer than expected, especially when it comes to matters of faith.

Another standout film is Famous Five Four, which is an adaptation from a series by Enid Blyton from director Mike Marzuk of Germany. Famous Five Four focuses upon a group of young adults that solve mysteries and fend for themselves against international villains in exotic locations, in this case, Egypt, and they centre upon objects of mystery. If the whole enterprise sounds a bit like Scooby-Doo meets National Treasure, with a little bit of Spy Kids thrown in, you would not be too far off. But yet the whole thing works, which is a testament to Marzuk, who films in such expansive hues and keeps the story humming along, with interesting twists and turns, and a few funny moments.

But there is a theme that runs throughout many of the TIFF Kids, and that theme is the power of one.

In the Australian animated film Maya The Bee Movie, for example, Maya is played by Coco Jack Gillies, who is soon to break out huge in Mad Max: Fury Road. Here, the movie is aimed at younger kids, but there are some pretty large issues at play here, which is what is Maya’s role within the hive? There is action and singing, and some pretty well-developed conflict, (and voice work from Richard Roxborough and Jacki Weaver). Yet the major conflict through the work is an internal one, and relies on Maya finding her place in the world. A very universal story.

Or take the short films, which are just an incredible mix of emotions, but lock in on the singular vision. The film Stealth by Bennett Lassiter focuses on Sammy, played incredibly and tenderly by Kristina Hernandez. The film is really memorable for its honest perspective on a girl feeling trapped in a boy’s body. An essential and well-shot film by the young Bennett, who happens to be the son of John Lassiter.

The film Mo’s Bows is quite impressive because of its perspective on a child entrepreneur, Moziah Bridges of Memphis, who runs a very popular bow tie business, with over two hundred different products, and yet as his Mom points out, he’s the boss of Mo’s bows, but she is the boss of Mo.

TIFF Kids Rainbow

As well, Class Trip touches on the story of Elin, an eight-year-old from Sweden. Like the title suggests, she is set to go on a class trip to go skiing, and then discovers that she is different than the other students in her class. The short film will appeal to students older than eight, as the subject matter and Elin’s response to it becomes transcendent.

In the features section, two radically different films initially seem to focus upon the power of two, but really more about the power of one. From India comes the colourful film Rainbow, which is directed gracefully by Nagesh Kukunoor. The film is ostensibly about a road trip between a brother and sister, but is about so much more than that. The trip of Pari and blind Chotu is an absolute delight. Japan’s When Marnie Was There is also seemingly a two-hander, but is really about Anna, who is taken to the countryside and discovers some surprising revelations about herself through her new friend Marnie, a beacon with blonde hair. The rumoured final film from famed Studio Ghibli, When Marnie Was There is an true stunner of a closing night film at the festival. Both films have so much to say about the power of the journey, and of the strength of one.

The TIFF Kids Film Festival features many directors and subjects listed above in attendance at the screenings.

For a full listing of the programs on offer, see http://tiff.net/festivals/tiffkidsfestival15/