Put your pants back on and your guns away. Cinema should never be an adult exclusive zone. That’s why Douglas Parkes chats with the curator of the International Children’s Film Carnival to learn the highlights of this year’s programme
Film festivals are usually stuffy affairs, full of self-importance. If they’re not filled with the kind of highfalutin fare that most cinemagoers have no interest in, then there’re scant few tickets for the public at all. That’s without mentioning how few festivals ever make allowances for children and the kind of films that parents might want to see with their kids. That’s why the International Children’s Film Carnival is riding to the rescue. Time Out sits down with Mable Ho, the festival’s curator and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department’s head of the Film Programmes Office, to hear her top picks of what’s on.
Birds of Passage
Named Best Film at the Montreal International Children’s Film Festival, Cathy’s father gives her a fertilised duck egg for her birthday. When it hatches, the duck sees Cathy’s disabled friend, Margaux, and believes her to be its mother. Sadly, Margaux’s parents don’t believe their wheelchair-bound daughter is capable of taking care of the duckling. Desperate to live a normal life, Margaux runs away with Cathy so that she can look after her little duck away from the adults.
Ho: This is a very moving film. Very touching. It has the message that sometimes parents are too protective of their children. Yes, that’s very controversial. But the film shows that if you give children something to love and to learn about, they can develop their own stronger life.
I Shrunk My Teacher!
Felix has to start life at a new school. Tough as that is, things only get more complicated when he accidently shrinks his stern headmistress down to just 15cm courtesy of some ancient magic.
Ho: Sometimes, you need to blend realism and fantasy together. Many students would love to shrink their headteacher. I hope this film helps kids in Hong Kong see that maybe children in other countries have that same fantasy and that they’re not alone in thinking this way about school. But, hopefully, it’ll also show them that learning to communicate better with teachers can make for a better life, too.
A smart Dutch family comedy, Little Gangster finds our grade-school hero, Rik Boskamp, attempting to evade constant bullying by convincing his classmates that his timid father is in fact a Mafia don.
Ho: This one is about a boy who’s always bullied at school. He wants to change his life, so he decides to makes up a story: “I am a little gangster and my father is a big mafia boss.” It’s a movie, so everyone believes him and then they’re afraid of him. Ultimately, it’s about how to build better relationships at school and not to try and solve your problems through lying.
The story of an energetic six-year-old boy just starting school in Denmark (Hong Kong kids will be envious). Exceedingly playful and constantly getting into trouble, Villads challenges what he sees as the unreasonable rules of adults and is constantly getting into trouble as a result.
Ho: This is a very special film. Every year, we try to pick a movie that’s a little controversial. This film’s about a very hyper six-year-old boy. He’s very playful, he doesn’t want to obey any rules. Naturally, when he starts school that becomes a problem for his teachers and parents. So how does he adapt? We’re not looking to teach kids any serious [lessons] during the festival. Fun is the first thing. But films should also be interesting and also meaningful. We are trying to balance these different things, rather than be ‘socially responsible’.
Chubby 10-year-old Max is a fan of the Wild West, in particular Winnetou, the Native American hero of German writer Karl May’s classic stories. When he discovers that the young actor set to play the son of Winnetou in a production has been injured, he becomes determined to secure the role for himself.
Ho: This is one of my favourites from this year’s collection. It’s about a 10-year-old boy who wants to be cast in the role of a famous Indian chief. But he’s fat, he’s pale, he's weak and he wears glasses. He looks nothing like a Native American. But because he wants to do it so badly, he listens to his heart and he overcomes the hurdles. This film is about courage, persistence and friendship. It’s a very happy film.