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The Chicago International Children's Film Festival

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The Chicago International Children's Film Festival, now in its 16th year, runs Friday through Thursday, October 15 through 21, at Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton; Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln; and Burnham Plaza, 826 S. Wabash. 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 773-281-2166. Programs marked with a 4 are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15

4 Animation Explosion, Part I

Short video animations from around the world, the majority of them about animals. In Oi! Get off Our Train from the UK, a young boy dreams of taking a train around the world and picking up animals whose habitats have been wrecked through human exploitation; director Jimmy T. Murakami does a good job of using varied textures to depict different landscapes. In Banjo Frogs, an Australian video by Nick Hilligoss, a frog is taken by truck to a dump where he tries to make music; the video implicitly compares his underappreciated performance to disregarded sites such as dumps. In Chris Elliott and Gerald Conn's UK video Samba Paloma, street musicians are upstaged by pigeons who set up their own street band. The public-service spot Put to Sleep asks viewers to save pets through adoption; its powerful claymation, created by 15-year-old Ryan McCulloch, makes use of shadows that suggest film noir. The Japanese video A Small Persimmon Tree: "Mokkii" features spare and expressive black-and-white drawings, but its main character, a tree that wanders about with a face on its trunk, is both anthropomorphized and irritatingly cute. In Joe Fournier's Polar Lust polar bears dream of playing cool jazz in the big city, as if that were a higher aspiration than living in the wild, yet the video's dark blues blend well with the slow jazz--also by Fournier--on the sound track. In the French video Pictopolis, by Guillaume Lenel, a human icon departs from a street sign and drifts into a chaotic, collagelike city of building facades and abstract forms. (FC) On the same program, videos from Thailand, Hong Kong, Canada, Slovakia, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45)

Upsidedown Mountain

In this Polish feature, a giant and various spirits try to free children from a fortress on the title mountain. On the same program, short films from France and Latvia. (Burnham Plaza, 9:45)

Voices and Visions From Africa to the Americas, Part I

A program of shorts by and about Africans and African-Americans. Jim Fleigner's From the Top of the Key is an awkwardly earnest account of an underprivileged boy who's reluctant to accept a piano scholarship to one of LA's top prep schools. Rod Gailes's Twin Cousins, about the blooming camaraderie between two female cousins, has the amateurish feel of an agenda-driven film-school project, though it includes some warm scenes of family togetherness reminiscent of Soul Food. In Take Your Bags, Camille Billops makes a home-movie attempt to continue the oral storytelling tradition, as a woman tells her grandson the tale of a slave ship's journey. (TS) On the same program, Kay Mastenbroek's Dutch-Nigerian film Fishing for School. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45)

In a Class of His Own

Lou Diamond Phillips stars in this made-for-cable drama about a popular high school janitor who's forced to pass an equivalency test to reclaim his job. Hallmark Cards produced the film, and Robert Munic's screenplay includes plenty of contrived heartwarming moments as the janitor's young friends rally around him, plus a few tutorials in multiculturalism and learning disabilities. Phillips rescues the film with a solid performance, supplying the range of emotion missing from the script. Directed by Munic; with Joan Chen. (TS) Phillips will attend the screening. (Burnham Plaza, 10:15)

The First of May

This adventure yarn has its heart in the right place: what young boy and his grandmotherly friend wouldn't want to run away from their dreadfully ordinary lives and join the circus? Foster child Cory (Dan Byrd) and Carlotta (Julie Harris), the well-to-do resident of a nursing home, travel from town to town hamming it up in playful disguises. Paul Sirmons's film, which also deals gently with rejection and death, has the subdued look and amiable feel of a cable project. Harris has a jolly good time playing the grande dame; with cameos from Mickey Rooney, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Joe DiMaggio. (TS) (Burnham Plaza, 10:45)

Nutty Boy II: The Adventure

Another sign of Hollywood's global reach, this Brazilian feature about a rambunctious boy and his friends hunting a fire sprite to ignite fireworks for their town's centennial could have been made by the Spielberg machine. The kids are all cute towheads, the town looks like Latino Disneyland, and the adults are either eccentrics or bumbling idiots. Directors Fernando Meirelles and Fabrizia Pinto seem to have modeled the plot after The Goonies while drawing visual inspiration from TV's Tales From the Crypt. (TS) On the same program, A Loose Tooth, a short from the U.S. (Burnham Plaza, 11:15)

Brave Hearts

Short films from Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, and Israel. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45)

4 The Smart Zone, Part I

The centerpiece of this video program is It Takes a Child, Judy Jackson's 56-minute Canadian video about child-labor activist Craig Kielburger. A passionate voice, Kielburger got involved in the issue at age 12 and helped found the organization "Free the Children," but what makes the video work is Jackson's juxtapositions: we see Kielburger as a baby in a home video and Kielburger in India; we hear Kielburger at 15 narrating images of his crusade at 12, acknowledging that he can never fully understand the plight of third world children who work in virtual slavery. He meets with world leaders, but more impressive are his quieter moments--playing tin-can soccer with a lone street kid. Guan Leiming's Two Boys contrasts with surprising directness the lives of 12-year-old boys from Szechwan and Beijing: the former lives in a home with no running water and walks six miles to school, while the latter has a phone and computer in his bedroom. Lower Orders, a claymation video by Australian Nick Hilligoss, fancifully extends these egalitarian sentiments to the insect world, as the garbage can behind a restaurant becomes a take-out joint for Hilligoss's lovingly created vermin. The most gorgeous piece is Jung Hwa Kim's Korean animation, Rain, a story of a young child finding its mother in the rain, the lushly poetic images beautifully rendering the misty atmosphere. (FC) On the same program, films from France, Taiwan, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45)

Green Screen, Part I

Short videos with ecological themes, from Mozambique, Japan, and the UK. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

Lucky and Zorba

A cat and a seagull try to save their neighborhood from marauding rats in this 1998 Italian animated feature. On the same program, short films from Germany, Finland, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16

Kudos for Kids Flix, Part I

Videos made by children, most of them from the U.S. and UK. The longest, Jared Martin's Khmer Street, concerns a Cambodian teenager in Philadelphia whose girlfriend's father criticizes his affiliation with a gang. The video, which endorses traditional Cambodian culture and opposes violence, uses too many technical tricks, but the handheld camera and individual images are often powerful. Preston Burger directed and narrates Tap: The Migration of a People and Their Dance, an intelligent study of tap dance and its African-American roots that also touches on the history of African-American dance and of slavery, the latter illustrated with clips from commercial films. In Looking 4 God, ten-year-old video maker and protagonist Chaille Stovall is upset by a televangelist's threats of hell and embarks on a multireligious inquiry leading him to the ecumenical conclusion that "God is everywhere"--a profound insight for a child. Twelve-year-old Ian Tobin directed and appears in Winged Attack, in which he demonstrates his knowledge of and love for birds of prey. Some of the other animations are charming; Don't Drink and Drive makes an especially effective use of stark black-and-white lines to convey its message. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 10:00)

Toons for Tots, Part I

Animated shorts for young children, from Germany, Croatia, the Netherlands, and the UK. (Facets Multimedia Center, 10:00)

Babar: King of the Elephants

Raymond Jafelice directed this Canadian animated feature adapted from the children's books by French writer Jean de Brunhoff. On the same program, short films from the Netherlands and the U.S. (Biograph, 11:00)

Bewitching Legends and Magical Lore

Short videos from Mongolia, Thailand, Finland, Korea, Australia, Slovakia, the UK, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, noon)

The Devil's Arithmetic

A Jewish girl who's uninterested in her heritage (Kirsten Dunst) is transported back in time to a Nazi death camp, where she must help a group of children survive. Donna Deitch directed. (Biograph, noon)

The First of May

See listing for Friday, October 15. (Facets Multimedia Center, noon)

Goblins and Good Luck

"Star-crossed lovers . . . team up with a pair of goblins to fight the forces that try to keep them apart" in this feature from the Czech Republic. (Biograph, 1:00)

4 Grandma and Her Ghosts

A spoiled brat, fond of mischief but fearful of abandonment, pays a visit to his grandmother, a straight-talking, gap-toothed medium who commands and placates ghosts. This Taiwanese animated feature is mostly a ghost-busting romp, but director Shaudi Wang also captures the earthy humor and ancestor worship that pervade Taiwan's village culture. The animation neatly conveys subtle facial expressions as well as the creepy atmosphere that connects the living with the dead--particularly frightful is a house cat possessed by the devil and transformed into an enormous ogre. (TS) On the same program, The Last Show, a short from New Zealand. (Facets Multimedia Center, 2:00)

4 The Smart Zone, Part I

See listing for Friday, October 15. (Facets Multimedia Center, 2:00)

Catch Me If You Can

Short videos from Canada, Spain, Sweden, Japan, the UK, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

Tom's Midnight Garden

A teenage boy staying with his aunt and uncle shortly after World War II discovers that when their clock strikes 13 a lush Victorian garden appears, beckoning him back to the 1890s. The mechanism of his nocturnal visits takes a lot of explaining, but it serves to connect an elegant 19th century to a far more practical 20th century for a lesson about what we choose to remember. Willard Carroll wrote and directed this skillful British feature; it's the sort of wholesome, quasi-sci-fi material that calls for the childlike ingenuity of a Spielberg, yet Carroll is too earnest, a trait echoed by Debbie Wiseman's bombastic score. With Anthony Way, Greta Scacchi, James Wilby, and Joan Plowright, waxing marvelously nostalgic as the aunt and uncle's landlady. (TS) (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 17

Home-town Heroes

In a way, the lack of technical sophistication in these short videos by Chicago children enhances their sincerity: the jumps, breaks, and rough edges reveal how the films were made and invite the viewer to participate in their playful spirit. In Fool's Night Out, enacted by young kids with improvised sets, a disruptive opera patron tries to sing along with the performance and eventually gets booted out; the kids' version of opera singing is itself pretty hilarious. Fitting in is a common subject: in The Picky Person at the Potluck Party, made by seven- to ten-year-olds, a latecomer's disgust at the food (such as "monkey brains") changes after she tastes them. In Streets of Chicago--From Southside to Downtown, the video makers compare their neighborhoods to downtown, aware that the city takes more pride in its monuments than in their decrepit streets, yet the project is marred by weak organization and a reliance on purposeless video effects. Several works argue against discrimination: in the animated Apple Mania, an absurd war between red and yellow dragons is ended by a two-colored dragon king, while in The Renaissance of Color the father of blue cats wishes for cats of other colors. In Push Me Pull Me Lane Beckstrom longs to be the two-headed beast from the Dr. Doolittle stories so that he can talk while eating; his simple, barely representational line drawings exemplify the creativity of young children. (FC) Six other shorts round out the program. (Facets Multimedia Center, 10:00)

Lucky and Zorba

See listing for Friday, October 15. (Facets Multimedia Center, 10:00)

Animation Explosion, Part II

Short films from France, Italy, Croatia, Norway, Latvia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Hungary, the U.S., and the UK. (Facets Multimedia Center, noon)

Girlz Rule

Seven videos, mostly centered on young women. The half-hour Growing Up: Episode II, directed by Guan Leiming, follows a 14-year-old Chinese-American girl who leaves the U.S. to spend a few weeks in a Beijing boarding school. Leiming's intercutting of neatly uniformed Chinese students with kids at the girl's U.S. school makes China seem attractive, yet the Beijing school is apparently quite elite, with some kids' parents sporting new cars and cell phones. The surprisingly effective Silence, by Orly Yadin and Sylvie Bringas, illustrates a Holocaust survivor's story through a mix of styles: black-and-white period footage mixes with harsh woodcutlike drawings, eliding photographic reality with horror. Joan Mandell's One Million Postcards documents two young sisters' campaign to halt U.S. sanctions against Iraq--complete with their own Web site--and encourages kids to campaign for issues they care about. Soren Tomas's animated fable Sallie's Stories: The Girl Who Remembered Everything has the authenticity of a child's fantasy, as a city's adults forget what they're supposed to do every day until a girl "remembers" that they're to drink soda and draw on walls. Driven Crazy: Wake Up to Yourself is a trite, warm-and-fuzzy episode of an Australian TV show in which a girl tells her younger brother a complicated story that becomes an allegory of his own birth. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, noon)

A Monkey's Tale

Two feuding bands of monkeys are united in this feature from the UK. On the same program, Alfred's New Dog, a short film from Canada. (Facets Multimedia Center, 2:00)

Radical Critters

Short videos from Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Slovakia, the U.S., and the UK. (Facets Multimedia Center, 2:00)

Best Buds

Short films about kids who help one another through predicaments. Kay Mastenbroek's Fishing for School, a Dutch-Nigerian coproduction, is an accomplished and emotionally involving tale about a young village girl determined to get an education over the objections of her elders. Mastenbroek presents the girl's situation with clarity and empathy, offering glimpses of colonial social strata that stifle even the most modest ambitions. In Theis & Nico, by Denmark's Henrik Ruben Genz, a seven-year-old prods his older brother into his first kiss, with an immigrant girl from a neighboring apartment tower. Echoes of The Joy Luck Club pervade Elizabeth Sung's uneven The Water Ghost, in which a high school girl copes with the death of her mother, aided by the ghost of a woman who committed suicide after being rejected by her lover. Looks Like Rain is a whimsical German cartoon about a mateless dinosaur who tries to sneak onto Noah's Ark. In Ernie's Big Day, a cutout animation by kindergarten pupils from the Scottish Highlands, a boy gets a chance to meet Queen Victoria. (TS) (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

Keepin' It Real

The best of these videos about teens and preteens tend to be the ones made by the kids themselves: they may lack professional slickness, but they're more sincere, and their stylistic rough edges can be as quirky as handwriting. Inspired by well-known poems and stories, small groups of Chicago kids present short skits and dances in Responses, and the results are expressive even when they're awkward. In the half-hour Just Here: 4 Stories by 4 Teenagers in the Projects, residents of a Troy, New York, housing project make short videos about their lives, and their visual metaphors are powerfully direct: Jose Torres uses the broken glass over a family portrait and his quick repair of it to symbolize a broken home's redemption, while Monyette Clark suggests his transition to boarding school by a passage through a huge, light-filled doorway. I.D. compiles nine very short animations by kids who, not surprisingly, see identity as fluid: in Lauren Cipollo's, a girl morphs into a meowing animal; in Kenneth Brown's, the skin drops from a kid's face to reveal his skull; and in Shi Wah Wong's, line drawings of machines produce a robot. In All the Right Stuff, a bland documentary from the National Film Board of Canada, director Connie Littlefield passively follows young Brendan around the mall as he spends $200 in birthday money; he and the other teens interviewed know they're being exploited--"The TV told me I needed it," one says with barely a trace of irony--but they let it happen anyway for the sake of being "cool." The Dutch video Butterflies in Your Stomach: Pina & Josse presents two children "in love," but it's irritatingly static; the skateboarding boy seems far freer than the camera. (FC) Three more videos round out the program. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 18

The Adventures of Aligermaa

Closer to a National Geographic documentary than a drama, this hour-long 1998 feature by Danish filmmaker Andra Lasmanis shows the nomadic life of a Mongolian family as seen through the eyes of an eight-year-old girl, Aligermaa. There's little dialogue among the characters, but the scenery is truly spectacular, the camera recording the daily routine of a small community marching through the vast steppes. Aligermaa narrates the story of her love for a wild white stallion and how she prepares for a horse race, and while her voice seems genuine, it's too monotone to communicate her emotional life--this is National Velvet on Prozac. (TS) On the same program, short films from Denmark, Canada, the UK, and the Czech Republic. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45)

Gringuito

Ivan, a young boy from New York, returns with his parents to their hometown of Santiago; jealous at the idea of his mother's pregnancy, he traverses the Chilean capital on foot, his various guides--a dumpy produce vendor, a bunch of street kids--taking him to lively corners and bars that few tourists see. The dangers Ivan faces aren't all that scary, but director Sergio M. Castilla does sneak in a few reminders of the country's repressive past and authoritarian present. Ultimately, however, this is a film about the blessings of parental love, its message delivered didactically though with great feeling. (TS) (Burnham Plaza, 9:45)

Magic Mailmen and Talking Tugboats

Short videos for young children. In my favorite, David Culp's Box Head Man, a dreaming boy meets a cast of bizarre characters with funny heads, while one narrow-minded figure blames everything that's gone wrong on "them." In Xue Linfeng's Chinese video Open a Door: Haini a little girl follows her dog outside, the dog follows her to school, and her father takes her on his bicycle: lacking an overarching narrative, the film eschews adult causal thinking for the disconnected way young children list events. In Poems for Children, a Brazilian video directed by Celia Catunda, 14 short animations bring to life poems on the sound track, most concerning lessons such as how an echo is produced. (FC) On the same program, videos from France, Canada, Taiwan, and the UK. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45)

The Devil's Arithmetic

See listing for Saturday, October 16. (Burnham Plaza, 10:15)

Babar: King of the Elephants

See listing for Saturday, October 16. (Burnham Plaza, 10:45)

Son of Maryam

An Iranian feature about a young boy whose mother died while giving birth to him and who helps an ailing priest. On the same program, Mac, a short film from Scotland. (Burnham Plaza, 11:15)

Green Screen, Part II

Short films with ecological themes, from Sweden, India, Norway, Japan, the U.S., and the UK. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45)

Voices and Visions From Africa to the Americas, Part II

The Mozambican videos on this program about Africans and African-Americans are better than the TV-slick, Western-made costume dramas; they avoid stylistic cliches, their unblinking cameras giving the subjects an authentic feel. The best one, Don't Push!, examines transportation problems in the country's capital, showing overcrowded commuter vehicles and people walking or riding bicycles; child director Milton G. Januario begins and ends the video by singing songs, a framing device that not only injects a note of optimism but provides a whimsical reminder that even a serious video is also a "show." Carlitos Baloi's animated Famine and Joy tells the story of a poor village in beautiful drawings with strikingly elongated faces and powerful earthy colors, ending with wishful imagery of new homes. Rui Luis Machai's powerful Jackson, Jackson is a portrait of a boy who was kidnapped and forced to kill by the Mozambican rebel group Renamo. From the U.S. and Canada comes Helaine Head's Dear America: A Picture of Freedom, centered on a slave girl who's secretly taught herself to read (an infraction punishable by death); despite the edifying narrative, the video's handsome production design and smooth-as-silk camera movement efface the brutality of slavery. The same problem afflicts Rob van de Meeberg's Kofi and Cocoa, about two African boys who turn an abandoned slave fort into a museum, though this story is gripping as well. From the beginning it's clear that one boy is a ghost, sold into slavery centuries ago; the conceit symbolizes the power of history and our responsibility to the past. (FC) On the same program, Dancers and Tap: The Migration of a People and Their Dance. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45)

Raluy: A Night in the Circus

In this Spanish feature, a ten-year-old girl leaves her TV-dominated home, finds the world's last circus company, and battles an evil television executive. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

Girlz Rule

See listing for Sunday, October 17. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19

Animation Explosion, Part III

Short films from the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Croatia, Hungary, France, Switzerland, Latvia, Slovakia, the U.S., and the UK. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45)

A Monkey's Tale

See listing for Sunday, October 17. (Burnham Plaza, 9:45)

The Smart Zone, Part II

Short videos from Canada, Uruguay, Slovakia, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45)

Tom's Midnight Garden

See listing for Saturday, October 16. (Burnham Plaza, 10:15)

4 Grandma and Her Ghosts

See listing for Saturday, October 16. (Burnham Plaza, 10:45)

The Basket

Peter Coyote and Karen Allen star in this feature about a community in the Pacific Northwest during World War I. (Burnham Plaza, 11:15)

Bewitching Legends and Magical Lore

See listing for Saturday, October 16. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45)

Daring Ducks and Frazzled Frogs

Animated short films for young children, from Sweden, the U.S., the UK, and the Czech Republic. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45)

Count Me Out

A feature from Iceland about a young girl who tracks down her father and discovers that he has a new family. On the same program, short films from Germany and the UK. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

Kids' Quest, Part I

Short videos from France, Canada, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 20

Granny Lala and Her Children

An Iranian film about an old woman who's locked out of her house just as a long-awaited phone call comes, and the neighborhood children's attempts to solve her predicament. On the same program, the Italian short The Ceiling. (Burnham Plaza, 9:45)

Ollie Alexander Tiddly-om-Pom-Pom

"Norway's version of Dennis the Menace" wreaks havoc in this feature. On the same program, With Grandma, a short from Canada. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45)

Restless Spirits

Katie, a cynical 12-year-old staying with her grandmother in Newfoundland, meets the ghosts of two French aviators who vanished in 1927 while trying to beat Lindbergh across the Atlantic. Only she and her little brother can see the ghosts, though apparently the children's father, a test pilot who died four years earlier, met the ghosts as a little boy and decided to take up flying. The aviators crashed in a fog, and on every foggy night they're doomed to repeat the disaster, so Katie and a young friend help them salvage the plane's physical wreckage so they can resume their flight and find peace--these are healing rather than haunting ghosts, standing for the curative power of children's imagination, and Katie's time with them helps her recover from the loss of her father. Unfortunately Newfoundland is only a name here: its unique dialects, topography, trees, and buildings are absent from the suburban production design and David Wellington's competent but anonymous direction. (FC) (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45)

Gringuito

See listing for Monday, October 18. (Burnham Plaza, 10:15)

Two in a Boat

Cornelia Grunberg directed this German feature about a grandfather who takes three children on a boat trip and the calamities that befall them. On the same program, short films from Canada and the Czech Republic. (Burnham Plaza, 10:45)

Raluy: A Night in the Circus

See listing for Monday, October 18. (Burnham Plaza, 11:15)

Global Village Express

Short films from Germany, France, Burkina Faso, Latvia, India, Denmark, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45)

Kids' Quest, Part II

In an episode from a Uruguayan TV series, Enlightenment Adventure, children calling themselves "bio-reporters" assert a "right to silence" and call on everyone to take responsibility for reducing excessive noise. Children of the Fishing Boats, directed by Cao Ning for Chinese television, depicts the children who live on boats on Hongze Lake; its bland documentary style proves rather stultifying--similar to the song they all sing about their love of work and study--but the video still gives a good picture of an unusual culture. The traditional native legends in Stories From the Seventh Fire are both interesting and eco-friendly, but they fail to survive this Canadian short's obnoxiously cliched devices and, even worse, a smirking tone that disprespects the legends. At least Dave Thomas's A Dog Cartoon doesn't pretend to be anything but, and it's lively enough to occasionally recall Chuck Jones's great Road Runner series. (FC) On the same program, the Dutch short Kofi and Cocoa. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45)

Linking Generations

Short films from Israel, Germany, Canada, Italy, Australia, the U.S., and the UK. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

Off and Running

Short videos, many of them dealing with disabilities and other differences, but none of them especially strong. In the Spanish animation Adventure on Wheels, directed by Raquel Benitez Rojas and Carmen Llanos Acero, a handicapped boy whose mother can't drive him to school instead goes alone in his wheelchair, a trip that ends in a scary downhill ride and lands him right in the middle of his class picture. In the animated I Am Poem: Blubber Island, an overweight boy imagines a world in which everyone is fat. The interview documentary Kids Tell Kids What It's Like When Their Brother or Sister Has Cancer was filmed at a camp for young cancer victims and their siblings. In Hilary Jones-Farrow's half-hour drama Smudge a girl with Down's syndrome finds a puppy in the garbage but has to relinquish it because the group home where she lives can't allow pets; while not quite as sappy as it sounds, it's manipulative nonetheless. In the Finnish fantasy The Faqir a ten-year-old, angry with his mother and spiteful toward her new lover, meets a fakir with magical powers; the video's curiously melancholy tone, pace, and palette reminded me of 19th-century Finnish painting. The Japanese Moki the Shocker: Mr. Huge Head and Moki the Shocker: Homemade Pancake are short, playful animations: in the former, a guy with a swelled head blasts through walls rather than doors, and in the latter another guy finds his face stuck to a pancake. (FC) Two more shorts round out the program. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21

Kudos for Kids Flix, Part II

An international program of videos, most of them made by groups of schoolchildren as class projects. Running 43 minutes, When the Water Is Sick, the World Is Sick compiles engaging animations that link the local with the global: kids serve as cleanup crews for rivers, smoke is sucked back into a smokestack, fish morph into planets, and the earth becomes a crying face. In the British animation Billy the Seal, puppets, drawings, and silhouettes dramatize the sound track's reminiscences of a beloved zoo seal who died in 1939. In Why? African-American schoolchildren from Chicago dramatize the arbitrariness of racism by dressing in either red or blue; the "blues" have to sit in the back of the bus. The Mozambican film Dancers gives equal time to traditional dances and people in a disco. There are also some public-service spots: in the animated Strangled by Painful Words a father's critical words encircle and choke his daughter; in Smoked Salmon a bear catches a salmon and, rather than eating it, helps it kick an addiction to cigarettes. But Splash, an ad for a fictional soft drink, mimics the consumerism of the mainstream media, as thirsty kids are rescued by soft-drink cans that magically enter from offscreen. (FC) On the same program, short films from Korea, the UK, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45)

Summer's End

James Earl Jones stars as a doctor befriended by a boy who's lost his father in this 1998 drama. Helen Shaver directed. (Burnham Plaza, 9:45)

Toons for Tots, Part II

Short animated films for young children, from the UK, Germany, Croatia, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:45)

The White Pony

A young girl meets a leprechaun and a magical pony in this Irish film by Brian Kelly. (Burnham Plaza, 10:15)

Star Sisters

Three girls, all born the same night and all named Johanna, meet when they're eight years old and try to find a lost dog. Tobias Falk directed this 1998 Swedish film. On the same program, the Brazilian short Clandestine Joy. (Burnham Plaza, 10:45)

Scratches in the Table

A young girl travels to a small village to visit her curmudgeonly grandfather, whose wife has just died, and combs over the couple's summer cabin for clues that might explain how her grandmother changed from a lively free spirit into a strict, reclusive housewife. Dutch director Ineke Houtman does a credible job maintaining the suspense--though stretching it too thin for the final payoff--while showing the girl's efforts to restore harmony in the family. Despite a deliberately upbeat ending, the film adroitly soft-pedals the consequences of nonconformity and feminism. (TS) (Burnham Plaza, 11:15)

Keepin' It Real

See listing for Sunday, October 17. (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45)

4 Only Clouds Move the Stars

Maria's younger brother has died of cancer, her father is despondent, and her mother has slipped into a prolonged depression, but while visiting her aunt she meets a young boy who helps her reenergize her family. Norwegian director Torun Lian handles this potentially maudlin material with craft and intelligence, delving into the adults' emotional withdrawal and the daughter's craving for solace and affection. Svein Krovel's elegant cinematography constantly probes the facade of calm composure embodied by the family's sterile modernist home. (TS) (Facets Multimedia Center, 11:45)

Fright Fest

Short videos from Latvia, the Netherlands, the U.S., and the UK. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

Pork Pie

A puckish ten-year-old drives his parents crazy in this Welsh film. On the same program, short films from Scotland and Ireland. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

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