SPROCKETS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FOR CHILDREN April 21-30. See listings, this page, for details. 416-968-FILM, www.bell.ca/sprockets Rating: NN
Lassie (Charles Sturridge). 99 minutes. Friday (April 21), 7 pm, at the Ryerson Theatre, and April 29, 12:30 pm, at Canada Square. Rating: NN
Forget about a beloved dog rescuing someone from a well. This version of Lassie covers class culture, unemployment, pre-second-world-war issues (in Yorkshire, England), brutality to animals, abandonment and death. It's ideal for Sprockets , which encourages opportunities for educated discussion and familial bonding.
But note: this is not a movie parents could see with their kids; it's a film they must see with their kids, or those little ones might be traumatized for life. Samantha Morton essentially frets through the film, worrying about her son ( Jonathan Mason ), who's been despondent since they sold his dog after hubby John Lynch lost his job. Peter O'Toole chews the scenery as the rich old bird who buys Lassie for his neglected daughter ( Hester Odgers , a real kid, not spooky Dakota Fanning).
Along the way, Lassie performs more crazy stunts than in a Mission Impossible film, and there's a hyper-manipulative musical score. A near-Loch Ness monster sighting in a bizarrely satirical and unnecessarily violent "family" film is especially confounding.
Move Your World (Lalita Krishna). 56 minutes. April 27, 10:15 am and 12:45 pm, at Sheppard Grande, and April 29, 3 pm, at Canada Square. Rating: NNN
Reality TV is so common, it's no wonder director Lalita Krishna feels the need for so much razzle-dazzley music-video-style camera work in Move Your World . Too bad. She should trust in the beautiful messages behind her moving documentary about Canadian teens Maria, Kourosh and Chaminda, who win a contest to visit Africa. The movie follows their journey as the teens team up with Tanzanian teens to visit to orphanages, go on safari and see first-hand how kids and adults are being laid low by AIDS.
Since they're not actors, but real kids, we get honest reactions, and their shock, fear and desire to help are palpable.
Equally meaningful is the way the Tanazanian teens respond, elated that their new friends have been roused to go home and share their insights with their peers.
Hopeful and inspiring.
Emmanuel's Gift (Lisa Lax, Nancy Stern). 80 minutes. Some subtitles. April 27, 9:45 am, at Canada Square, and April 28, 7 pm, Theatre D Digital. Rating: NNNNN
Today's youth looking for more admirable role models than criminals-turned-rappers and Paris Hilton couldn't do better than Ghanaian Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah . Though born with a severely deformed leg, Yeboah has spent his life proving that limitations are mental, not physical. He began by refusing to beg for handouts (instead shining shoes for $2 a day) and continued his mission to show the world what disabled people could do, racing first by bike, then by foot with a new prosthesis. He was helped by the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an organization that's itself worthy of a film.
Narrated by Oprah Winfrey , this near-flawless documentary focuses on Yeboah's unmatched selflessness. He uses his notoriety, scholarship winnings and heart to encourage other disabled Ghanians to think bigger, and tries to establish new laws to protect and help them. If that's not enough, he starts a basketball wheelchair league to compete in the next Paralympics.
There are layers of meaning in Lax and Stern's title, but our introduction to this incredible man is their real gift to us.