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

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Chicago International Children's Film Festival


The Chicago International Children's Film Festival, now in its 20th year, continues Friday through Sunday, October 31 through November 2, at City North 14; Facets Cinematheque; and the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble. Tickets are $6 for children and adults, $4.50 for Facets members; various discounts are available for ten 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 an * are highly recommended.


Life Lessons

Two short films: from Canada, Penguins Behind Bars (2003), and from Iran, A Lesson for Tomorrow (2002). 73 min. (Facets Cinematheque, 9:45 am)

Micaela, una pelicula magica

This slovenly, incoherent Argentinean feature (2002) combines live action, 2-D animation, and CGI for its story of a mad scientist who's ridding the world of color. The denizens of Fantasy World (a dimension of charmless, slapdash animation) arbitrarily select a young girl named Micaela (Micaela Casotto) to lead the battle against monochromatic evil, pull her into their world, and inundate her with platitudes about believing in herself, never giving up on her dreams, etc. Armed with some magic pencils, she returns to the live-action world and handily restores the missing hues. Children's entertainment doesn't get much more dispiriting than this. Rosanna Manfredi directed. In Spanish with subtitles. 88 min. (Cliff Doerksen) (City North 14, 9:45 am)

School Days

Short films from Canada, Germany, Australia, and the U.S. 74 min. (Vittum Theater, 9:45 am)

Bibi Blocksberg

Based on a series of children's books by Austrian writer Elfie Donnelly, this German feature (2002) sometimes plays like a made-for-TV Harry Potter adventure, at other times like a prolonged episode of Bewitched. The title teen (Sidonie von Krosigk) and her mother both practice witchcraft, much to dad's consternation, and after Bibi angers an evil witch in their coven (Corinna Harfouch), things begin to go mysteriously wrong for the father at work. This slick celebration of kid power and paganism is fairly digestible, but whoever came up with Bibi's electropop dance routine in a graveyard should be burned at the stake. Hermine Huntgeburth directed. In German with subtitles. 106 min. (J.R. Jones) (City North 14, 10:15 am)

* Science Fiction

Ten-year-old Andreas is used to being the new kid in school, because his parents are top-level microbiologists whose work takes them around the globe. At least that's what they've been telling him--when a new friend talks Andreas into eavesdropping on his folks with a baby monitor, the kids overhear strange conversations suggesting that mom and dad are extraterrestrials bent on world domination. This 2002 Belgian feature is like a family-friendly variation on Bob Balaban's 1989 cult classic Parents; though director Danny Deprez works the premise for thrills, he never allows the paranoia to grow overwhelming. The clever script, by Jean Claude van Rijckeghem and Chris Craps, includes in-joke references to Philip K. Dick, the dean of paranoiac sci-fi. In Flemish with subtitles. 92 min. (Cliff Doerksen) (City North 14, 10:45 am)

* Whale Rider

Adapted from a novel by Witi Ihimaera, this magic-realist film from New Zealand updates an ancient Maori legend about a coastal village whose founder arrived on the back of a whale. The current village chieftain is worried because he has no male successor: his son has emigrated to Germany and his grandson has died at birth. His granddaughter is a clear leader, but he won't even consider her. The miraculous outcome is predictable, yet this 2002 film, written and confidently directed by Niki Caro, is otherwise fresh and beguiling. It's anchored by the natural performances of novice Keisha Castle-Hughes, who's quietly expressive as the spunky girl, and veteran Rawiri Paratene, playing the gruff chieftain who loves his family but refuses to show it. Leon Narbey's cinematography captures both the beauty and squalor of the Maori hamlet. In English and subtitled Maori. 101 min. (Ted Shen) (City North 14, 11:15 am)

Around the World in 80 Minutes

Short films from Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Wales, Singapore, Cameroon, England, South Africa, and Australia. 80 min. (Vittum Theater, 11:45 am)

French Lessons

Short films from France and Belgium. 86 min. (Facets Cinematheque, 11:45 am)


Bibi Blocksberg

See listing for Friday, October 31. (Facets Cinematheque, 11:00 am)

Monster Mash

Short films from England, Germany, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the U.S. 70 min. (Vittum Theater, 11:00 am)

* Someone Like Hodder

Sweet little Hodder doesn't fit in at school, but he tries to keep up a brave front--your heart breaks a little for him when he explains in voice-over, "It's not that I mind the other kids. I just prefer walking home alone." When a fairy appears to him one night to tell him he's been chosen to save the world, Hodder sets out to realize his special destiny, and to fix his widowed dad up with a date along the way. Henrik Ruben Genz's delicate, moving portrait of the daydream world of childhood (2003) is a must-see for older kids and their parents; the relationship between Hodder and his dad is especially touching. In Danish with subtitles. 78 min. (Hank Sartin) (Facets Cinematheque, 1:00)

Thinking Caps

Short films from Canada, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Portugal, England, the Netherlands, and the U.S. 70 min. (Vittum Theater, 1:00)

The Envelope, Please...

Six award-winning films from previous editions of the festival: from Russia and the U.S., Here Comes the Cat (1993); from Canada, A Bunch of Munsch: Pigs and David's Father (1993); from New Zealand, The Orchard (1996); from the U.S., Chrysanthemum (1999); from the Netherlands, Stokebird, Part 4: The Invention (2002); and from Japan, Bavel's Book (1998). 71 min. (Vittum Theater, 3:00)

Extreme Kids!

Short films from Australia, Cameroon, Denmark, Norway, the UK, and the U.S. 109 min. (Facets Cinematheque, 3:00)

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire) stars in this adaptation of Kimberly Willis Holt's book about a despondent Texas kid who befriends "the world's fattest boy" in a traveling sideshow. 87 min. Lipnicki will attend the screening. (Biograph, 3:00)

And the Winner Is...

Eight shorts from previous editions of the festival: from Canada, Dinner for Two (1997); from the U.S., Strangeness in the Night (1994); from Denmark, Teis and Nico (1999); from Canada, An Artist (1995) and Bully Dance (2001); from the UK, Humdrum (1998); from Belgium, Homard, Champagne, Ravioli (1993); and from Brazil, A Soccer Story (1999). 83 min. (Vittum Theater, 5:00)


Kids and Their Cameras II

Eighteen short videos by kids, some of them group efforts. Oak City (2003) mixes live action (an old tree) and animation (a grid showing the different bugs that reside there) to convey wonder at the variety of life a single tree can support. The stylized black-and-white drawings in Johnnie Semerad's one-minute Josh W.: Flashlight (2002) effectively explore the creative uses of a flashlight (shadow puppets, etc); Ujwal Nair's animated The Flame Who Loved to Dance (2002) does much the same for a candle. Some of the others reflect either heavy-handed assistance from adults or great historical savvy on the part of the kids: the charming birthday video The Cake (2002) mimics the form of a black-and-white silent movie, intertitles and all. 72 min. (Fred Camper) (Vittum Theater, 11:00 am)

* 'Toons for Tots (and Tall People, Too)

Sixteen animations from 12 different countries. In Sheldon Cohen's fetching I Want a Dog (2002), a girl's desire for a pet is such that she imagines her classmates as dogs; doo-wop music adds to the film's quirky appeal. The boy in Zoia Trofimova's Pipsqueak Prince (2002) tries to clean a blot off the sun; the surprise ending showing the stain's origin makes a neat point about sewage disposal. In one of the loveliest shorts, Rachel Everitt's Lunar Jig (2001), forest animals dancing by moonlight are threatened by a giant, multi-eyed insect; the transparent textures of objects and creatures creates a gentle, dreamy mood. The best, Andre Kogan Breitman and Andres Lieban's Fade Away (2003), illustrates a song about the power of drawing to stimulate the imagination (sketching a boat and traveling the world in it) while acknowledging the fragility of fantasy. 96 min. (Fred Camper) (Facets Cinematheque, 11:00 am)

The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Bear

After a polar bear gives birth to a stillborn cub, her mate steals an Aleut newborn for her to raise in its place. The human child's father vows to get him back, but by the time he does, the boy has decided he'd rather be a bear, a dream ultimately realized with the help of arctic animals and elemental spirits. The drawings in Jannik Hastrup's 2002 Danish feature are pleasant enough (a bit like Maurice Sendak's), but the animation is pretty static and the tone oddly somber. Younger kids might be disturbed by the notion of the mother bear clothing her human child in the skin of her dead cub--I'm not sure I wasn't. In Danish with subtitles. 75 min. (Cliff Doerksen) (Facets Cinematheque, 1:00)

Awards Ceremony

Hosted by child actor Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire) and director Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day), this program closes with a screening of prizewinning shorts. Tickets are $25. (Vittum Theater, 4:30)

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