Haydenfilms News & Events

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Are children’s films just for children? Think again.

By Jessica Walsh
HFI Correspondent

Youth and kids-at-heart packed the theater for the 6th annual REDCAT International Children’s Film Festival. Screenings were held at the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex, CalArts Theater, in Los Angeles from March 26 through April 17. Inside the theater anxious whispers came from kids of all ages in anticipation of the screening. House Manager, Marcus Kuiland-Nazario introduced the series, and an energetic round of applause started the show off.

A wide range of programs and special events made the festival unique.

Mach 27 was Nick Family Fun Day, showing screenings of popular shows like, Spongebob Squarepants, and Dora the Explorer. Kids were enthralled by the meet and greets with popular cartoon characters during this fun, interactive day perfect for families. This was a great way to kick-off the festival, sponsored in part by Nickelodeon.

On April 9, Joe Chang and Friends series displayed new animation from award-winning director, animator and artist Joe Chang as well as other Chinese filmmakers. Chang is a Dean and professor at the School of Art of Zhejiang University of Technology.

Throughout the festival there were different screening categories, some running multiple weekends; notably, Into the Woods and Under the Sea, Family Matters and Legends Come Alive. These short film programs showcased a wide variety of talent from filmmakers worldwide.

Length is one consideration made when planning a film festival geared toward children. Most programs had around 10 shorts and a runtime of approximately 60 to 70 minutes. All screenings were held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

I attended two screenings on April 3. The first series was titled, Into the Woods and Under the Sea, and showcased films with environmental themes. “The Earth’s Diary” by, Diogo Viegas, (Brazil) is a social commentary about protecting our planet for future generations. It is a cartoon hand drawn style like a coloring book. The pages turned after each point, and the book closed at the end. A lot of the films had lighter subjects like, “The Toad Chorus” by Udo Steinmetz (Germany), a cartoon about friendship that runs on German Television.

Once Upon an Adventure takes imagination to a new level with films stretching minds everywhere. A mix of live action and cartoon shorts encompassed this series. “Guri Gursjen & Gursjan Gru” by Eirik Aure and Johanne Anda (Norway) has animation similar to South Park but the sets are built at the start of the scene during the action. The characters speak gibberish allowing the scenes and actions to drive the story.

Some of the short films have great lessons for children. “Crema Suprema“ by Ellenora Ventura (Canada) is a claymation short about two chefs in a cake baking contest. It teaches kids that working together provides better results than fighting.

“Once Upon a Tide” by Drew Takahashi and Gesine Kratzner ( USA) mixes mediums by using live action and animation. The story focuses on understanding the importance of maintaining the ocean from a young girl’s perspective.

I spoke with House Manager, Marcus Kuiland-Nazario who said, “A lot of films that run in this festival are award-winning.” Indeed, “Color by Number” by Marshall Rimmer won best picture at the 2009 Columbia University National Undergraduate Film Festival.

“The Fight” by, Keio and Dag Åstein (Norway) was selected at the Sundance film festival in 2010. It’s a live action, ironic story about the complexities of boyhood.

Many of the short films’ talent are children. “Peer Pressure” is a live action film about a boy winning the science fair. The story is comical and displays a lesson that all audiences can learn from. The spectacular acting from the young talent stood out most. I spoke with director, Eric Stolze, a recent graduate of Columbia College of Chicago. When working with children he said, “you can’t be condescending or talk over their head; you have to establish trust.”

When making films geared for a young audience the same principles apply. Most of the films that I saw were speaking to the younger audience while very entertaining. The festival displayed a great mix of stories for any age. With content from all over the world REDCAT children’s film festival was a nice way to spend an afternoon. It showed a younger audience that we all have similar life experiences, anywhere in the world. More information can be found at http://www.redcat.org/event/childrens-film-festival.