My Life As A Courgette
The cast of My Life As A Courgette, screening at TIFF Kids. (Fun fact: "courgette" is what they call zucchini in England!)
TIFF KIDS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL from Friday (April 7) to April 23 at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St West). www.tiff.net/kids/ . Rating: NNNN
The TIFF Kids International Film Festival returns to the Lightbox tomorrow for its 20th edition, celebrating kid-friendly cinema from around the globe. And true to its mission, you can find a little of everything from everywhere over the next three weekends – and also on weekdays, if you’re one of the dozens of school groups coming down for free matinees.
As always, there’s a mixture of studio fare that’ll be released in the coming weeks, imports getting what’s likely to be their only Toronto theatrical screenings, and some timely favourites trotted out of the vault. (For example, there’s a free Saturday marathon of Kevin Sullivan’s 1985 Anne Of Green Gables miniseries on April 22.)
You could stick to the mainstream stuff, like the opening-night gala of Smurfs: The Lost Village (Friday April 7, 7 pm), which is surprisingly okay, according to Radheyan Simonpillai, or catch the new DisneyNature documentary Born In China (Saturday April 8, 2:15 pm) before it opens theatrically later this month. Or you can embrace the opportunity provided by a film festival, and see what kids are watching elsewhere in the world.
There’s a pretty good range of material at TIFF Kids, both in terms of subject matter and level of engagement; the emotional maturity on display in European kids’ films never ceases to impress me.
It would be difficult for an American studio to make something like At Eye Level (Saturday April 8, 1 pm; repeating Sunday April 9, 3:30 pm), a German drama about an 11-year-old boy (Luis Vorback) who discovers that the father he’s never known (Jordan Prentice) is a little person. Writer/directors Joachim Dollhopf and Evi Goldbrunner don’t condescend to the characters or the audience, though it’s a little jarring to see Prentice – a Canadian actor you might recognize from Living In Oblivion and In Bruges – dubbed into German when he’s clearly delivering his lines in English.
Other worthwhile options include My Life As a Courgette (Sunday April 9, 10:45 am; Monday April 17, 3:45 pm), a stop-motion study of children coping with life in a group home from Swiss director Claude Barras. Touching on issues of alcoholism, abuse and sexuality, this one’s definitely for older audiences. But those audiences will appreciate its understated humanism, and the way Barras’s simple puppet designs convey complex emotions.
I was a little less keen on the European drama Cloudboy (April 16, 3 pm; April 20, 10:15 am), about a Belgian kid named Niilas (Daan Roofthooft) having a rough time reconnecting with his mother (Sara Sommerfeld) and her new family at a reindeer ranch in northern Sweden; the writing is a little thin, and the child performers struggle to sell it. That said, the adults are all really strong, especially Geert Van Rampelberg as Niilas’s endlessly patient father.
There are Easter weekend retrospective screenings of Singin’ In The Rain (April 14, 1 pm) and Whale Rider (April 15, 1 pm) and The Dog Who Stopped The War (April 16, 12:45 pm), and free screenings of The Legend Of Sarila at 10:30 am and 12:45 pm and Watermark at 12:15 pm on National Canadian Film Day (April 19).
And the DigiPlaySpace interactive exhibition will be running throughout the festival, because that's what it's there for.