My Suicide handles subject tastefully.
SPROCKETS TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FOR CHILDREN at Canada Square and Sheppard Centre cinemas, Saturday (April 17) to April 23. For complete details, see Indie & Rep Film. sprockets.ca. Rating: NNNN
In the spring glut of Toronto mini-festivals, there's only one that actively encourages you to bring the kids.
Now in its 13th year, TIFF's Sprockets returns to Canada Square and Sheppard Centre, bringing a passel of shorts, features and the occasional documentary to local audiences starving for youth-oriented fare that's never been sullied by a Jonas or a Cyrus.
First screened in Toronto at last year's Hot Docs, Havana Marking's excellent documentary Afghan Star (Monday at 12:30 pm, repeats April 22, 9:40 am; rating: NNNN) doesn't feel particularly Sprockety. It's a straightforward look at the attempts to mount an Afghan version of Pop Idol in a nation devastated by a decade under the Taliban. But Canadian kids should have no trouble relating to the look at a culture trying to define itself through entertainment and encountering some distressing roadblocks along the way.
The Crocodiles has real bite.
Two of this year's dramatic entries feature characters dealing with disabilities. Iran's A Time To Love (Saturday at 11:20 am, repeats Sunday, 2 pm; rating: NNN), directed with a fairly heavy hand by Ebrahim Forozesh, examines the cultural stigma of a disabled child through the story of a plucky young invalid (Ali Shademan) whose father is ashamed to let him out in the world.
And The Crocodiles (Saturday, 1:30 pm, repeats Sunday, 1:30 pm, Monday, 9:45 am and Tuesday, 9:40 am; rating: NNNN), from Germany's Christian Ditter, follows a wheelchair-bound tween (Fabian Halbig) who helps a group of adventurous pals fight petty crime. It's nice to see that The Goonies still resonates with a new generation of storytellers.
Fine doc Afghan Star deserves its moment in the spotlight.
Decidedly not for younger audiences is David Lee Miller's My Suicide (Saturday at 4:45 pm, repeats April 22, noon; rating: NNNN), a vividly realized high-school drama about a withdrawn student (Gabriel Sunday) who announces he'll be killing himself on camera for a class project.
Relative unknown Sunday makes a fine, sympathetic lead, and he's got a terrific co-star in Infestation's Brooke Nevin as a classmate darkly fascinated by his intentions. The volatile subject matter is handled tastefully and with considerable intelligence, presented through a frenetic, multimedia aesthetic that only appears chaotic. Once you understand the editorial rhythms, it's easy enough to follow.