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Chicago International Children's Film Festival

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The Chicago International Children's Film Festival, now in its 18th year, runs Friday, October 26, through Sunday, November 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, OCTOBER 26

See It With Your Heart

Short films about social responsibility. 82 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

History: Up Close & Personal

Short videos about Muhammad Ali, the Harlem Renaissance, the Little Rock Nine, African-Americans in the movies, and other historical subjects. 95 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Standing Tall: Insights From Asia, Africa, Latin America and Australia

Four shorts, including Quiero ser/I Want to Be, about two boys living on the street in Mexico, and The Unique Oneness of Christian Savage, about apartheid in South Africa. 85 min. (City North 14, 9:45 am)

Oscar's Magic Adventure

A young boy and his sister journey across Venezuela in search of their anthropologist mother, mistakenly convinced that she's deserted them and their father, and along the way they encounter a forest shaman who teaches them to respect nature (2000). Writer-director Diana Sanchez tries to wed magical realism with zany comedy, but the two mix like oil and water: every time the story's contemplative side begins to emerge, it's trampled by unlikely plot developments, roundhouse humor, or the actors' shameless mugging. 105 min. (Joshua Katzman) (City North 14, 10:15 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, 10:45 am)

*Princes and Princesses

French animator Michel Ocelot (Kikirou and the Sorceress) created this thoroughly beguiling and edifying compilation of shadow-puppet vignettes (1999) based on folktales from different cultures and linked by two illustrators, a boy and a girl, who imagine themselves as the leads and decide on the period style. Not coincidentally, all these fables feature a powerful woman--a princess, a sorceress--who bestows love or some other reward on the humble and resourceful hero. The backgrounds, patterned after black African, Egyptian, medieval, and futurist art, are uniformly ingenious, but two episodes are especially clever: in one of them, inspired by the scrolls of the Japanese artist Hokusai, an old lady outwits a thief and then gives him a splendid kimono as a parting gift, and in the other, a prince and a princess are transformed into a succession of creatures after each kiss, only to have their roles reversed at the end. (TS) (City North 14, 11:15 am)

School's Cool

Short films about experiences in school, from Iran, Canada, Norway, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

High Hopes

Ten short videos, including Juanito Jones, about a Spanish boy who wants to be a shaman, and The Specialist Show, about a German girl entering a TV competition. 89 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

The Miracle of the Dolphin

An 11-year-old girl, traumatized after nearly drowning, undergoes "dolphin therapy" in Florida. Christoph Schrewe directed this German feature. 90 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27

Toons for Tots

Ten short animated films. 80 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

Tall Tales

Nine short videos, including The Last Polar Bears from the UK and Eggnatious the Mighty from Australia. 89 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

*Hanuman

Hanuman is the Hindu Monkey God of the epic poem the Ramayana, and this fanciful adventure-romance by French filmmaker Fred Fougea takes place in the present-day monkey kingdom, a mountain in southern India roamed by thousands of monkeys. Fougea intertwines a tale of two young monkeys whose love is threatened by an alpha male with the story of an archaeologist whose childhood sweetheart is betrothed to an entrepreneur eager to loot the mountain. The entrepreneur's scheme sets off spectacular sequences in which the monkeys are massacred and exact their revenge, and the routine human love triangle is ennobled by the innocence and poignancy of its simian counterpart (whose lovers, Hanou and Seela, are nimbler and more expressive than most human actors). 90 min. (TS) (City North 14, 11:00 am)

Different Strokes

Nine short films, including Titanic: The True Story, a French film featuring the Penguin Army Special Forces. 91 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

*World of Fun

Seventeen 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 Balazs Pal's The Cow's Trousers a cow ogles a pair of jeans in a store window and works multiple jobs to buy them, and 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, 1:00)

*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, 1:00)

Pinky and the Million Dollar Pug

A young detective sets out to find a millionaire's lost dog in this German feature by Stefan Lukschy. 90 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 3:00)

The Best Things in Life . . .

Twelve animated and live-action videos, their lessons softened by humor and whimsy. Two deal with E-commerce: in Amanda Cardo's Canadian Buy Buy Bill a beaver becomes a credit-card junkie, ordering things on-line in response to amusingly dumb commercials, and in Phoebe Middleton-Newell and Stuart Cunningham's Australian Hot Chunks: Sea Monkeys animated "chunks" order monkey pets that immediately attack them, using one as a basketball and ultimately forcing them to take refuge in the monkeys' cage. In The Horror of Kindergarten, by Canadian Jeff Stearns, a scared kid being hauled off to school by his dad speaks in florid literary language about being "at the mercy of incomprehensible circumstances." From the Netherlands, Camiel Schouwenaar's Puppetry shows a puppet flying with paper wings, but the hands manipulating him are clearly visible, their crude artifice reminding us that kids' make-believe doesn't require slick illusionism. Michael Robinson's Open a Door: Kevin is an effective tale of anger defused: a mom glares at her son as he plays in the rain, but after she's splattered by a passing scooter, her rage breaks into laughter, and the kids join in. 88 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 3:00)

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28

*The Happy Cricket From the Amazon

Self-taught Brazilian animator Walbercy Ribas Camargo has been making films for over 40 years, and since 1966 his studio, START Desenhos Animados, has been turning out shorts and features that rival anything Disney has produced recently. Interweaving folk story, political allegory, and environmentalism, this seamless 2000 narrative tells of a cricket and his insect buddies whose idyllic lives in the rain forest are interrupted when a ruthless lizard king arrives with his army of thuggish toads. 81 min. (Joshua Katzman) (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

Animated Animals

Ten short video animations, including the French-Welsh Hilltop Hospital: Butterflies in My Tummy and the French-English 64 Zoo Lane: Zed the Zebra. 92 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:00 am)

Oscar's Magic Adventure

See listing for Friday, October 26. (City North 14, 11:00 am)

Animation Extravaganza

Eight short animations, including the Slovakian short Why Centipedes Have One Hundred Legs. 86 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

Kids With Movie Cameras 1

A lively assortment of 20 videos by kids ages 7 through 13. Rusty Kelly's The Clicker Boy demonstrates the power of childhood fantasy, as the young hero uses a remote control to turn a clump of grass into a toy and the toy into a bottle of chocolate soda; in an epilogue titled "30 years later," he's a grown man who clicks the remote at an irritating teenage driver and turns the kid's car into a skateboard. The collagelike mix of styles in Chris Elliott and Leonie Sharrock's Bad News Bats includes rapid-motion sequences that effectively depict what a bat might see while flying. In the amusing one-minute video The Struts, Lane Beckstrom mimes three different walking styles, the "cool strut," the "jazz strut," and the "nerd strut"; like other simple shorts on the program, it has the improvisational feel of the earliest motion pictures. The group effort Billy Gates & Doris the Dorkus includes a mischievous parody of substitute teachers, but many of the collective pieces seem preachy, a sure sign of adult supervision. 70 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 1:00)

Delivering Milo

Bridget Fonda is an expectant mother whose child refuses to come down from heaven, and Albert Finney is the angel who gives the unborn boy a tour of life on earth. Nick Castle directed. 95 min. (City North 14, 1:00)

We're All in This Together

Eleven short films about the interconnectedness of people. 96 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 3:00)

The Penny Promise

A good-hearted but klutzy young teacher wants to marry a rich man's daughter, but the father won't consent until the teacher can save $10,000. Produced by Feature Films for Families, which promises movies that "strengthen positive values," this competently made but convoluted video is uplifting but manipulative, moving but ultimately sappy. The plot twists seem calculated to make moral points, and the humor mostly falls flat. Tim Nelson and T.C. Christensen directed. 90 min. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 3:00)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 29

Pint-Sized Heroes

Short films about courage, from Mexico, Sweden, Iran, and the UK. 85 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

The Penny Promise

See listing for Sunday, October 28. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 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, 9:45 am)

Standing Tall: Insights From Asia, Africa, Latin America and Australia

See listing for Friday, October 26. (City North 14, 10:15 am)

Touched by an Angel

A Swedish teenager is forced to move from the city to the countryside and befriends an old woman who knows secrets about their village. Christina Olofson directed. 90 min. (City North 14, 10:45 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, 11:15 am)

Arts Alive

Short films about Bach, Shakespeare, and Michelangelo, plus an adaptation of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. 79 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

Got Problems? We've Got Answers

Eleven short videos about overcoming challenges, including the UK entry The Foxbusters: Acluckalypse Now. 96 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

Faith, Hope, & Batman

Eight short films, including the title entry from Denmark. 92 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30

You Gotta Have Friends

Seven short films, including the Scottish story The Green Man of Knowledge. 98 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Hola, Amigos!

Short videos from Uruguay, Mexico, and the U.S. 87 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Fading Light

Vassilis Douros directed this Greek drama about a gifted young musician who's slowly losing his sight. 107 min. (City North 14, 9:45 am)

Bhago Bhoot

A mischievous boy strikes up a friendship with a forest hermit in this Indian feature by Sai Paranjpye. (City North 14, 10:15 am)

The Bloody Nuisance

A girl decides to turn her mother's boyfriend into a more suitable father in this German feature by Andrea Katzenberger. 90 min. (City North 14, 10:45 am)

Mariken

A medieval mystic exiled from his Dutch village (the commanding Jan Decleir) adopts an abandoned baby girl, and a few years later, at the height of the Black Death, she sets off in search of her mother. Peter van Gestel adapted the screenplay for this 2000 feature from his own novel, and its implausibly constricted world allows for any number of coincidental encounters. Yet the film's rickety plot is redeemed by director C.V. Andre's richly detailed evocation of the Middle Ages, rife with pestilence, superstition, and wanton cruelty toward children. 90 min. (Joshua Katzman) (City North 14, 11:15 am)

That's a Classic!

Adaptations of Wagner's Ring cycle, Cervantes's Don Quixote, and Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. 82 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

Our Place in the World

Short videos from Uruguay, Canada, Finland, France, Iceland, New Zealand, and the U.S. 80 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31

Trick . . . or Treat? Tall Tales for Halloween

Spine tinglers from Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. 79 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Magic's the Thing

Five videos on magic and myth. 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, 9:45 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. (City North 14, 9:45 am)

Animal Farm

With its animatronic technology, this live-action 1999 adaptation of George Orwell's political parable has a leg up on the 1955 animated version, though one might argue that its analogy to the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalin is more dated. The story itself, told in flashback by the sheepdog Jessie, seems more immediate, as oppressed animals rebel against the farm's indolent owners only to be betrayed by their own leaders, and director John Stephenson cleverly mimics the iconography of Leni Riefenstahl for some scenes. Despite its clunky editing and caricatured performances (by Pete Postlethwaite, among others), this is a credible, visually captivating update. With the voices of Julia Ormond, Kelsey Grammer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Patrick Stewart. 91 min. (TS) (City North 14, 10:15 am)

*Hanuman

See listing for Saturday, October 27. (City North 14, 10:45 am)

You Are Free

Two Iranian boys find themselves on their own after being released from reform school. Mohammad Ali Talebi directed. 90 min. (City North 14, 11:15 am)

Being Responsible for Ourselves and Others

Short films with moral messages, from France, Canada, South Korea, Hungary, Switzerland, Croatia, Australia, and the U.S. 90 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

Secrets & Smarts

Ten short videos, including two entries in the Canadian series "One Minute Science" and the Taiwanese video Think Big: The Kung Fu Master's Uncensored Secrets. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

10 + 2: The Big Secret

Miquel Pujol directed this Spanish-German animated feature about life in Numberland. 84 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 1

They Call Me Sirr

Michael Clark Duncan stars in this screen biography of Cincinnati Bengals running back Sirr Parker. Robert Munic directed. 97 min. (City North 14, 9:30 am)

Fittin' In and Figurin' It Out

Eight short films from Denmark, Canada, Norway, and the U.S. 85 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

Just Imagine!

Ten short videos, including The Tree With the Golden Apples from the Netherlands and The Pope's Potatoes from the U.S. 83 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45 am)

*The Happy Cricket From the Amazon

See listing for Sunday, October 28. (City North 14, 10:15 am)

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, 10:45 am)

My Louisiana Sky

A delightful if rather genteel coming-of-age drama set in rural Louisiana in the mid-1950s. Twelve-year-old tomboy Tiger Ann (Kelsey Keel) is the child of mentally retarded parents, and after her grandmother and guardian dies, she's forced to choose between living in Baton Rouge with her aunt (Juliette Lewis) and staying put. Director Adam Arkin sets a leisurely pace, exploring the heroine's minor pleasures and frustrations, and pays close attention to the small-town milieu, especially the allure of the big city. The ensemble acting is solid, distinguished by Keel and by Karen Robinson as the no-nonsense maid. 98 min. (TS) (City North 14, 11:20 am)

Vive le Francais!

Eight films from France (and one ringer from Canada), including an adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. 75 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

You Go, Girl!

Videos about assertive young women, from Wales, Germany, Canada, and Slovakia. 70 min. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45 am)

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