The New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF) was created in 1997 based on the idea that children and teens could handle cinematic works with visual, emotional and intellectual complexity, or at least, more than what mainstream media gave them credit for. Held annually, the NYICFF finds and presents pieces from all over the world that cannot be found on television, DVDs and in most theaters. Lined up for the 2010 festival are 12 feature films as well as seven series of shorts. The festival will run from Friday, February 26 to Sunday, March 21. Films will be shown at a variety of venues, including CantorFilmCenter, IFCCenter on West 3rd and Symphony Space on the Upper West Side.
The selection of short films titled Girls’ Point of View (POV) Shorts (recommended ages 10 to adult) will be shown on Saturday, February 27 and Saturday, March 13. The program includes “Post It Love,” directed by Simon Atkinson and Adam Townley of the United Kingdom. In this three minute live action, two office workers express their feelings for each other by the unconventional means of post-it art. There is an underlying playfulness to the exchanges, as seen when the girl reappears from the office storage room with a heap of post-its, with the intent of using all of them for more than purely office purposes. The carefree recorder tune playing in the background highlights the film’s charm. With shots that utilize symmetry and vivid colors, the piece is also aesthetically pleasing.
The longest film, running 34 minutes, in the Girls’ POV Shorts program is “See You,” directed by Jesper Rasmussen of Denmark. In the film, fourteen-year-old Nete is grief stricken after her twin brother dies in a car accident. After enrolling in a new school, she meets a boy with a striking resemblance to her deceased brother. The unoriginal plot would have been forgivable had Rasmussen’s combined usage of slow motion and tear jerking orchestral music as an attempt at creating a drama did not also trivialize the agony that Nete feels. The many superfluous scenes squeezed in to drive the plot made it difficult to appreciate the beauty of each moment, and ultimately, the entirety of the piece.
Directed by Bruno Collet, “Le Petit Dragon” (recommended ages 12 to adult), will be shown on Saturday, February 27 and Saturday, March 13, as part of the more comical Flicker Lounge series. The short follows a Bruce Lee action figure (complete with the iconic yellow-and-black tracksuit) that comes to life to kick major butt in this eight-minute kung-fu parody. The Lee action figure’s memorable moments include standing on a miniature version of Lee’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and also having his head stuck inside a toilet—with a picture of a topless woman at the base. The action-packed film is an extremely light-hearted kung-fu parody.
Later on in the Flicker Lounge program is “Screen Test,” directed by German Steffen Schaeffler, in which a zealous, recently immigrated amateur auditions for a role in a costume drama. The hand drawn animation is enchanting and refreshing. The film, running three and a half minutes long, still retains humor and could be the opening sequence of a Disney movie from a decade ago.
For fans of the strange and freaky, the Heebie Jeebies series (80 minutes, recommended ages 10 to adult) will be shown on Saturday, February 27 and Saturday, March 13. “Fard,” featured in the Heebie Jeebies set and directed by Luis Briceno and David Alapont of France, is a thought-provoking piece reminiscent of the dystopias created by authors like George Orwell in “1984.” In a futuristic society that appears to be perfectly functioning, a typical member of the work force is given the opportunity to see the underlining reality. Using a combination of live-action and animation, the short questions how willing people are to accept the truth.
Another harrowing piece in the series is Denis Villenueve’s “Next Floor,” a 12-minute piece that was the winner of Best Short at the Cannes Film Festival. In this vegetarian’s nightmare, 11 indulgent individuals partake in a lavish feast with meat from every possible animal. The piece is beautifully stylized, with little movement and minimal narrative, and the attention Villenueve gives to detail is impeccable.
The NYICFF understands that redefining “films for kids” is a matter of extending style as well as subject matter. Kids do not necessarily need to be grappling with profound questions of life. Entertainment for children does not need to start with baby-talk and end with a happy sing-along song. The NYICFF shows that works presented as children’s film can be appreciated by older audiences too.
The complete list of films and venue locations can be found on NYICFF’s homepage, www.gkids.com. The programs mentioned are screened at one of the following venues:
36 East 8 Street (at University Place)
323 6 Avenue (at West 3 Street)
2537 Broadway (at 95 Street)