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Chicago International Children's Film Festival

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The Chicago International Children's Film Festival, now in its 17th year, runs Friday, October 13, through Sunday, October 22, at City North 14 and 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. For more information call 773-281-9075 or 773-281-2166. Programs marked with a 4 are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13

Home-grown Heroes

Short films about "courage, tolerance, and understanding." A Prince in the Projects tells of a boy living in Cabrini-Green who strikes up a friendship with the driver of a horse-drawn carriage, while A Mile in My Shoes concerns a young woman moving west with her family during the Depression. On the same program, the nine-minute John Henry. 84 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun

Senegalese master Djibril Diop Mambety, one of the greatest of all African filmmakers, made this 45-minute film as part of a triptych called "Tales of Little People" but died of cancer before he could complete it. Described by Mambety as "a hymn to the courage of street children," it's a fable about a crippled 12-year-old who sells newspapers in Dakar despite her male competitors' cruel efforts to discourage her. (The title is a pun on the newspaper she sells, Le soleil.) This 1999 release is closer to neorealism and less intellectually complex and ambitious than Mambety's remarkable features Touki Bouki and Hyenas, but it's still pungent, buoyant, and funny, with wonderful performances by nonprofessionals. If you're unfamiliar with his work, this may whet your appetite for his stunning features. (JR) On the same program, My African Diary, a 41-minute film from Denmark. (City North 14, 9:45 am)

Nobody's Perfect, Everybody's Special

This program's familiar theme of diversity is best served by a few of its inventively styled short animations. In Kelly Peterson's The Three Billy Goats Gruff the title brothers want to cross a bridge guarded by a supposedly nasty troll so they can get "where it's at"--a greener field. The drawings are just whimsical enough to make the story appealing. In Fat Cat on a Diet an overweight cat is fed "zero percent fat" cat food; animator Raman Hui exaggerates distances to show the difficulty the cat has reaching a pizza slice on a shelf. Among the live-action films, Shea Salyer's Rocky Mountain Ark provides hands-on education as it documents the Telluride nonprofit institution rehabilitating injured and orphaned animals, including cruelly discarded pets. In Essi Haukkamaa's Cello Boy the ten-year-old son of a Finnish cellist seems committed to becoming a professional cellist himself, but he's ambivalent enough to dream of becoming a soccer player. From Mexico, Victor Gonzalez's On the Way Home: The Fight captures the fantasy world of a young boy who dresses the same as his wrestling hero. And in Dirk Campbell's annoyingly didactic One Perfect Day, young Hannah learns that one shouldn't want perfection because "who wants to eat turkey for every meal?" Four more shorts from the UK and the U.S. round out the program. 92 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Ra-Tim-Bum Castle

Nino, a 300-year-old wizard who looks like a boy, lives in an old castle with his witch aunt Morgana and warlock uncle Victor, but he longs to be like other children. Meanwhile, the villainous real estate magnate Mr. Pompous and his slimy assistant Rat, in league with Nino's other aunt, an evil outcast from the witch community, plot to steal Morgana's enchanted book so that they can claim the castle. Director Cao Hamburger and art directors Clovis Bueno and Vera Hamburger have created opulent, labyrinthine interiors for the castle, where much of the action takes place; it becomes the most fully conceived character in this Brazilian film. 108 min. (Joshua Katzman) (City North 14, 10:15 am)

Katja's Adventure

Katja feels lonely and alienated in her modern Swedish home, but through a remarkable series of accidents she's carried on the back of a truck to sunny Italy, where she finds warmth, friendship, and confidence with a group of urchins in the streets of an unnamed city. Lars Hesselholdt's picaresque Danish film is one of those rare children's movies that will appeal to both grown-ups and kids, with interesting multilayered characters--even the secondary characters are warm and compelling. Hesselholdt and cowriters Pascal Lonhay and Tina Rud Mogensen have a light touch, allowing events to arise out of their characters rather than imposing a plot, which makes Katja's improbable adventures seem almost natural. Marco Pontecorvo's relaxed cinematography makes scenes that must have been carefully planned and executed (like the children's complicated adventures among the medieval lanes and squares) look highly spontaneous. 85 min. (Jack Helbig) (City North 14, 10:45 am)

Spooky House

A travesty. Director William Sachs and his wife, Margaret, scripted this hackneyed, touchy-feely fantasy about a magician (Ben Kingsley) who loathes children but is enticed from his secluded haunt back into society by an orphan. The formulaic material might have clicked in the practiced hand of Robert Zemeckis, but Sachs turns most scenes into pumped-up antics, some of them accompanied by pointless, treacly songs. The endless transition shots of the magician's mansion against a threatening sky further betray the director's lack of imagination. In keeping with the times, the five kids who befriend the magician are ethnically diverse and Net-savvy, while the trio of teenagers who torment them are out-of-control punks. Kingsley elevates a caricatured part with a degree of dignity and sadness; far less attentive to her work is Mercedes Ruehl, who plays the villainess as Cruella De Vil on a bad acid trip. 106 min. (TS) (City North 14, 11:15 am)

The Canary Yellow Bicycle

A grade-school teacher in Athens struggles to help a slow learner who administrators have decided is hopelessly retarded. Though based on a true story, this 1999 Greek feature will seem plenty familiar to anyone who's seen The Miracle Worker. Yet writer-director Dimitris Stavrakas deepens the story by showing us the main characters' complicated lives outside school: the teacher's frustration spills over into his behavior toward his parents and girlfriend, while his pupil must contend with taunting classmates and a mother and father who don't seem to care. With a sure sense of pace Stavrakas builds up a marvelous rapport between the serious, paternalistic teacher (Dimitris Alexandris) and his dejected but spunky pupil (Giorgos Halaris), and the film's ending is more ambiguous than most Hollywood producers would allow. 90 min. (TS) (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

Gracias a la vida

Bilingual shorts in Spanish from Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, and the U.S. 82 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

My Little Devil

An Indian feature about a young boy, sent to a boarding school after his mother dies, who makes friends with a boy in a neighboring village and discovers the Abyssinian origins and strange legends of the Siddis. On the same program, Education Her Only Future, also from India. 94 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14

Animal Crackers

An international program of animated shorts for very young children. Leo the Late Bloomer, based on the book by Robert Kraus, is a heartwarming parable about patience, as a father tiger worries over a young son who hasn't yet learned to read, write, or draw. In his Canadian short Cuckoo, Mr. Edgar!, Pierre M. Trudeau uses computer animation to create a sunny, bucolic world where a wooden cuckoo, living in a clock on the side of a cliff, inherits three eggs and becomes surrogate parent to three rambunctious chicks. Pete's a Pizza, narrated by Chevy Chase, is a whimsical vignette about a father's creative effort to snap his son out of his rainy-day funk; the wispy shapes lend it a buoyant feeling. In Co Hoedeman's deft, whimsical Ludovic: A Crocodile in My Garden a teddy-bear boy arranges a picnic with his collection of paper animals, but mischievous origami critters, including a red crocodile and several monkeys, wreak havoc in his backyard. In Island of the Skog a group of mice, tired of being bullied by other animals, cast off in a toy ship to search for an idyllic island; codirectors Don Duga and Irra Verbitsky maintain the spirit of Steven Kellogg's memorable book, a fable about tolerance and acceptance. On the same program, shorts from France, Germany, Iran, and the Czech Republic. (Joshua Katzman) 88 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

The Jar: A Tale From the East

A family who've bought an old house find a jar full of gold and jewels embedded in a wall and debate whether they should return the jar to the home's former owner while an evil neighbor schemes to get the treasure. Directed by Ammar Shorbaji, this mildly diverting animated feature from Syria works the familiar theme of trouble brought on by lust for riches, the art borrowed from classic Hollywood animation but nowhere near as rich. There's a tedious subplot involving some animals stealing the family's eggs, and the feel-good ending offers a little something for everyone (except, of course, the evil neighbor). On the same program, Kelli Bixler's cloying, syrupy Miss Twiggley's Tree. 85 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

Dog Days

In this 70-minute Swedish feature a man and his dog take a trip to Paris and get caught up in a mystery. (City North 14, noon)

Family Tree

A young boy tries to save the oldest oak tree in town from a development plan his father conceived. Paul Canterna's screenplay has a lot going for it--strong themes, generational conflict--but director Duane Clark manages to make it seem shallow, soulless, and melodramatic. Every beat in the story is painfully obvious, its characters familiar, its plot twists predictable; every dramatic moment is goosed with music and milked for pathos or charm. Clark has gathered a terrific cast (Robert Forster, Naomi Judd, a very grizzled Cliff Robertson) but they're helpless against his sub-Spielberg machinations. 90 min. (Jack Helbig) (City North 14, 12:15)

Fuzzy, Furry, Funny Friends

The best of these animations for very young children are so entertaining that kids may not realize they're being taught. In Maisy: Train, a British short by Leo Beltoft Nielsen, Maisy engineers a train with sequentially numbered cars, stopping to pick up ever-larger numbers of different animals. In Adam Shaheen's Super Why? an imp interacts with illustrations from a book of The Three Little Pigs, inviting the viewer into its world. Ming-ti Kao's Taiwanese short Piano, My Friend: Cave Musicians presents a little allegory about the beginning of ensemble playing: two musicians who've been trying to drown out each other are brought to order by the emergence of a conductor. Other entries are more playful: Using a suction-cup arrow, the title character of Theo Kerp's German short Häck Mäck: Flying Islands manages to capture a balloonlike "flying island" so that he and a friend can take a ride on it. In Gene Deitch's Anton, from the Netherlands, a little boy imagines flowers are chasing him as he walks home alone at night. And in James Mendes's spectacular, nearly surreal Train of Thought, apparently random objects in a landscape form figures when the camera angle changes. Seven more shorts round out the program. 83 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

A Little Christmas Tale

A child's teddy bear is mislaid and travels all over Sweden in this 55-minute feature. On the same program, The Enchanted Bell, a short from the Czech Republic. 70 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

Tomas the Falconer

Tomas, the son of a poor herdsman in medieval central Europe, can communicate with animals and win their trust, even aloof birds of prey. The boy falls in love with his feudal lord's beautiful daughter, becomes ensnared in court intrigue, and eventually helps good (a wise but misunderstood chief falconer) triumph over evil (the falconer's dark and conniving former protege). Slovakian director Vaclav Vorlicek tells a ripping good yarn, set against a landscape of rocky cliffs, thick-forested hills, and deep stream-fed valleys. But he also paints a compelling portrait of medieval life in all its squalor: Tomas and his family live a fulfilling but dirty life as the baron's vassals, and court life isn't much better. 97 min. (Jack Helbig) (City North 14, 2:00)

MVP--Most Valuable Primate

Jack, a lab chimpanzee at Pueblo University, can read, communicate in sign language, and take care of himself as well as any young child, but after his mentor dies he's earmarked for a college in Tennessee where he may become a test animal. An assistant helps him escape to British Columbia, where he befriends a hearing-impaired girl who also uses sign language (Jamie Renee Smith) and winds up playing in a regional hockey championship. Like the bargain-basement comedies that target a slightly older crowd, this children's film is full of crudely sketched characters and gratuitous high jinks, yet there's something endearing about a vulnerable animal trying to make its way through a tough, inhospitable world. 92 min. (Joshua Katzman) (City North 14, 2:15)

Kid Flix

These international videos by children, most of them animations, are rough around the edges but show how an active imagination can top most slick Hollywood product. The amoebas that have taken over Chicago in Forsaken City 2020 are the first I've seen with teeth, but such fancies charm, and the video's ending echoes one of the earliest films, Georges Melies' A Trip to the Moon (1902). Jairo Chavez's My Life With the Wave telescopes an Octavio Paz story to two minutes: a boy brings home a wave in his wagon, and in a frightening development the water fills his home. Aron Evans's UK short Earth shows the planet as a cabbage, its green surface quickly covered with roads and buildings as a voice-over expresses concern about overpopulation. The sincere, silly Lil' Pig was animated by children and directed by John Serpentelli; a pig farmer tricks the title character into boarding a truck to the slaughterhouse, and both of them have striking nightmares (the pig's ends in a cafe featuring BLTs). In Transylvanian Pastorale, a Croatian short by Kristinka Lazar Jasenka Jezovita, lines and flowers appear on-screen as if hand drawn, the space and colors seductively soft. In Velvy Appleton's winningly ridiculous live-action video See More Spaghetti a boy has the power to turn anyone he doesn't like (a teacher who reads the dictionary aloud will do) into a plateful of spaghetti. 85 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 3:00)

True Blue

Short films from Norway, Germany, Australia, the Czech Republic, and the U.S. 90 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 3:00)

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15

The Inside Story

Animated shorts from Germany, Canada, Belgium, the U.S., and the Czech Republic. 87 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

Tune In! The World on Every Channel

Judging from this anthology of international television, some European shows offer a more relaxed pace and more nuanced characterization than most American prime time. In the first episode of the Swedish program The Children on the Luna, directed by Tobias Falk, four children lose their parents to a plane crash and escape foster care by fleeing together on a boat. In "The Tree Club," an episode from the Danish series The Daltons, Rita Horst teaches a predictable lesson by showing very young children the consequences of either accepting or rejecting each other. In two examples of the Me in a Box series, directed by Karen Carter, kids tell about themselves in one or two minutes through objects they've gathered. In "The New Nanny," an animated segment directed by Sara and Simon Bor and Jamie Rix for the UK series Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, Mr. and Mrs. Frightfully Busy leave their two wild children to terrorize a succession of nannies (including a snake and spider from an animal-nanny agency), but they meet their match when an alligator arrives. (Viewers should note that the narrator's pants are on fire at the end.) In Mike Mort's Aunt Tiger, a British-Taiwanese coproduction, a tiger finds an ancient recipe that will turn him into a human if he eats three children. Norman J. Leblanc and Charlie Samsonetti's energetic and inventive "Astrofly," from the French-Canadian Fly Tales, concerns a housefly-astronaut who keeps getting kicked off the planets where he lands. Another short from the UK rounds out the program. 88 mins. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

Tommy & the Wildcat

A Finnish adventure story about a Laplander boy who moves with his father to his late mother's childhood village; together they plan to release a captive lynx into the wild. 95 min. (City North 14, noon)

The Canary Yellow Bicycle

See listing for Friday, October 13. (City North 14, 12:15)

Hopes & Dreams

Short films from Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Germany, and the UK. 85 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

Toons on Target

Video animation from around the world. My two favorites are extreme satires: In Mike Nawrocki's ridiculous Endangered Love a cucumber, watching a TV soap we never see, dances and sings a love song to its star, Barbara Manatee. An underground atomic test blasts a manhole cover skyward in Andrew Horne's Great Moments in Science: Manhole Cover First in Space; the rapid-fire narration parodies instructional films while images such as a mushroom cloud behind a family picnic bring home the nuclear age. Rotten Ralph, the cat in Rotten Ralph: Twinkle Toes, is a practical joker who thinks dancing is for "dweebs" and glues a dance instructor to the floor--yet one particular tune makes him dance. A number of the other videos are well-intentioned but stocked with feel-good cliches: in Susanne Deakin's Mums, mothers around the world morph into each other (surprise--they all love their sons). 96 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

Run the Wild Fields

Rodney Vaccaro adapted this fine coming-of-age drama from his own play, And the Home of the Brave, but there's nothing stiff or cramped about Paul A. Kaufman's sensitive, beautifully edited film. Set in the rural south during World War II, it focuses on three characters: Ruby, whose husband may have been killed in the Pacific; her daughter, Opal; and a handsome, homeless stranger who disrupts their long emotional winter. The premise may sound elemental, even cliched, but the film is intelligent and moving. 101 min. (Jack Helbig) (City North 14, 2:00)

Amy

Nadia Tass directed this Australian feature, a prizewinner at Cannes, about a young girl who becomes mute after her father dies. 105 min. (City North 14, 2:15)

I'm So Smart, My Brain's Bigger Than My Head!

Short films from Norway, Germany, Denmark, Romania, Slovakia, Australia, the Czech Republic, and the U.S. 83 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 3:00)

Tall Tales & Leapin' Legends

Unfortunately the longest thing on this international video program, Alexander Makarov's 26-minute Russian animation Journey to Oz: Silver Shoes, is one of the least inventive visually. But shorter animations provide a nice mix of striking images, near absurd fantasy, and life lessons: In Stan Resnicoff's Who'll Do the Moo? a clueless movie studio needs a "moo voice" for its new film, Citizen Crane, and issues a casting call that produces every animal but the right one. Rainbow Fish and the Popstar by Drew Edwards is as colorful as the title character, who learns a lesson about boasting after claiming to be friends with undersea pop star Bruce Sturgeon. Julian Kemp's live-action short The Plastic King, a welcome satire on consumerism, begins with a commercial for the latest toy, the Zomboid; crowds of kids taunt the protagonist for not owning one, a frightening view of a populace rendered mindless by advertising. Marla Fernandez's The Magical Garden offers the program's finest moment: a boy whose imaginary playmate always vanished when others were around returns home as an adult and cannot see the "playmate" of two young kids. 93 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 3:00)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 16

Friends From Near and Far

Short videos focusing on Africa and Asia, made in France, Australia, Taiwan, the UK, and the U.S. 94 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

I'll Remember April

In a California coastal town during World War II, four boys find and hide a Japanese sailor who's been washed ashore from his submarine; one of the boys is of Japanese descent, and his family is ordered to a relocation camp. The story unfolds through the eyes of the boy's best friend, whose parents (Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon) staunchly defend the boy's grandfather (Pat Morita) against the FBI and a greedy real-estate agent. Mark Sanderson's semiautobiographical script has a nice feel for sleepy small-town life in the early 40s and the boys' delight in their clandestine adventure, but it's overly schematic, the crises serving as tidy lessons in moral choice. Bob Clark (Porky's, A Christmas Story) directs as if thinking of The Goonies; he pushes a lot of emotional buttons, getting rambunctious performances from his kid actors but sanctimonious ones from the adults. With Trevor Morgan and Haley Joel Osment. 90 min. (TS) (City North 14, 9:45 am)

I'm So Smart, My Brain's Bigger Than My Head

See listing for Sunday, October 15. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Hathi

Following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, an Indian boy becomes a mahout, or elephant trainer, working in the forest with his father. 97 min. (City North 14, 10:15 am)

Amy

See listing for Sunday, October 15. (City North 14, 10:45 am)

Circleen--City Mice

Danish animator Jannik Hastrup directed this 1998 musical that revives three characters he introduced in the late 60s: Circleen, an adorable elf who sleeps in a matchbox, and her two mice sidekicks, Fredrik and Ingolf. The trio leave the countryside and take on the city like kids in a candy store, traveling in a roller skate, flying and sailing ingeniously rigged vehicles. They befriend a punk city mouse, learn about feta cheese and belly dancing from another mouse, Hassan (an Arab stereotype), and find themselves stalked by a big, lonely rat. Now and then, when the mood strikes, they break into jazzy sing-alongs. This innocuous tale, illustrated in pastel colors by Hastrup and collaborator Hanne Hastrup, coasts along in the same way, serving up discreet lessons in resourcefulness and group solidarity. 73 min. (TS) On the same program, Cuckoo, Mr. Edgar!, a 13-minute Canadian short. (City North 14, 11:15 am)

Real to Reel

Short films from Canada, Norway, Russia, the Netherlands, and the U.S. 81 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

World Watch

Short films from Norway, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the UK, and the U.S. 92 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

Catch of the Day

Animated shorts from Denmark, Australia, the Czech Republic, Canada, Norway, Germany, China, Poland, the UK, and the U.S. 78 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun

See listing for Friday, October 13. (City North 14, 9:45 am)

Sho' Nuff

This low-budget video has an appealing story: African-American boys in New Orleans decide to start a traditional brass band, learning to read music and ultimately winning over peers who were more interested in "urban contemporary." The musicians want to stay true to their culture by playing traditional jazz but without being exclusionary (one continues his classical training), and in the end their efforts win them real self-respect. Unfortunately, R.E. Henry's direction lacks the music's liveliness, many of the actors (especially the adults) are wooden, and the scenario rambles (do we really need to see a group of adult women discuss the Oprah Winfrey show?). There's an inspiring 25-minute short buried in here somewhere. 102 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Food for the Mind

Short films from Germany, Norway, Australia, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and the U.S. 96 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Amy

See listing for Sunday, October 15. (City North 14, 10:15 am)

Run the Wild Fields

See listing for Sunday, October 15. (City North 14, 10:45 am)

Tommy & the Wildcat

See listing for Sunday, October 15. (City North 14, 11:15 am)

Green Screen

Two animations distinguish this international program of videos about the earth and its resources. In "Burgerskip," directed by Sara and Simon Bor and Jamie Rix for the UK series Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, a ruthless burger tycoon cuts down Amazonian rain forest to graze his cattle, then tiny trees mysteriously sprout from his Wild West Whoppers, ruining his business. John Serpentelli's Why the Sky Is Far Away is based on a Nigerian folk story: the sky used to be very close to the ground and was edible, but because humans overused and abused it, it has receded. There's a playful mix of styles (some of the animation is by kids) together with skylike fields of color. In The Land of Khuzamah, a Saudi Arabian short by Gerry Woolery, the animation is more pedestrian, but its story of a bustard (a type of game bird) struggling to find its mate, which has been moved to a Saudi preserve, is both ecocentric and full of asides on preserving and restoring the environment. A Crack in the Pavement: Growing Dreams, a Canadian short by Jane Churchill and Gwynne Basen, shows kids developing gardens in urban lots, harvesting food, and studying a creek, but the animated creatures superimposed over this live-action tape are irritating, and the video makers have little to say about Canada's continuing large-scale destruction of its own wilderness. On the same program: Miss Twiggley's Tree, the Croatian short Eco-kids, and Shea Salyer's documentary Rocky Mountain Ark. 94 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

Strong Stuff

Short films from Norway, Israel, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands. 94 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18

Family Tree

See listing for Saturday, October 14. (City North 14, 9:45 am)

Pig Heart Boy

A 12-year-old boy with a failing heart has only one hope for survival--an experimental transplant from a specially bred pig. This BBC movie is often emotionally compelling: Cameron makes a video for his unborn sibling, not knowing if he'll ever get a chance to see him, and a suspenseful scene in which he sneaks into the lab to inspect the pig that might give him its heart is true to a child's desire to see things for himself. But other times the plot construction is manipulative, and Kate Cheeseman's direction rarely goes beyond workmanlike storytelling. 104 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

That's a Family

Short films from Norway, Korea, Australia, the U.S., and the Czech Republic. 89 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

A Storm in Summer

The heavy liberalism of Rod Serling's 1970 teleplay hasn't aged well. Set in the summer of '69, this new film adaptation concerns a curmudgeonly Jew (Peter Falk), the owner of a deli in an upstate New York resort, who's cajoled by a local socialite (Nastassja Kinski) into taking in a ghetto youngster for a spell. He and the strong-minded kid (Aaron Meeks) banter heatedly but grow to like each other, bonding over his son, who died in World War II, and the kid's brother, who serves in Vietnam. Together they confound prejudices in a town that seems ignorant of any racial progress. Hollywood hand Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music), directing for Showtime, accentuates Serling's didacticism by belittling the bigoted, though the genuine warmth between the two leads softens the simpleminded rhetoric (and Falk's hamming). With Andrew McCarthy and Ruby Dee. 98 min. (TS) (City North 14, 10:15 am)

Tomas the Falconer

See listing for Saturday, October 14. (City North 14, 10:45 am)

I'm Alive & I Love You

During World War II, a French railway worker discovers a slip of paper bearing a love note from a Jewish woman being carted to a concentration camp; he delivers the note to her parents and her four-year-old son, and when the family is persecuted he finds himself caring for the boy. 95 min. (City North 14, 11:15 am)

Animal Crackers

See listing for Saturday, October 14. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

The Inside Story

See listing for Sunday, October 15. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

Hopes & Dreams

See listing for Sunday, October 15. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19

Toons on Target

See listing for Sunday, October 15. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Watch Out World, Here We Come

Short films from Germany, Norway, Slovakia, the UK, and the U.S. 90 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

The Wishing Tree

A successful young attorney travels from Atlanta to rural country outside Savannah to bury her mother, a noted storyteller, and after two young children discover a mysterious woods dweller, the attorney senses that he connects with her mother's lost world. This film by noted Czech director Ivan Passer revolves around the tensions between city and country, reason and spirituality: at her law firm the attorney makes fine intellectual distinctions, but as the story progresses she learns to retell her mother's fanciful stories. Unfortunately Passer's style here is bland, Mary Alice Smith is underwhelming as the mother (seen telling stories on videotape in what should have been a key scene), and the film degenerates into a crime thriller with a highly predictable ending. 102 min. (FC) (City North 14, 9:45 am)

Saroja

A feature from Sri Lanka about two girls, one Tamil and the other Sinalese, whose friendship is tested by tension between their races. 110 min. (City North 14, 10:15 am)

Help, I'm a Fish!

Danish animator Stefan Fjeldmark draws on The Island of Dr. Moreau for this charming if silly feature. A girl, her older brother, and their cousin happen upon the lab of a mad but lovable scientist (the voice of Terry Jones), whose new serum allows humans to turn into fish and vice versa. Transported to the fish world, the three battle a conspiracy led by a power-mad fish (Alan Rickman) bent on taking over the world. To his credit, Fjeldmark honors the rules of his fantasy world, resolving the complicated plot in a way that should satisfy children and adults, and while the animation can't compete with Disney or Japanese anime, it outclasses most TV schlock. More impressive is how well Fjeldmark balances his love of outrageous physical humor against the need to tell a coherent story with moments of high drama. 65 min. (Jack Helbig) (City North 14, 10:45 am)

Katja's Adventure

See listing for Friday, October 13. (City North 14, 11:15 am)

True Blue

See listing for Saturday, October 14. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

Love, Lies & Secrets

A 12-year-old girl lies to her parents to conceal her relationship with a boy, then discovers a secret of theirs when her birth mother appears at the front door. On the same program, short films from India and the U.S. 80 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

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