At the New York International Children’s Film Festival, pt.3

Pt.3 from Keisha L. Wilkerson-Gammage, Cataloging technician at the library and SVA alumna:
My co-workers say that I practically live at the school. Well, ever since the festival has picked us as a venue, camping out at the SVA Theater from 11am-9pm, sure feels that way. Surprisingly there was plenty of “free” food being passed around. Whole Foods, Stonyfield, Organic Valley and Ms. Meyers were some of festival’s sponsors who attended passing out an endless supply of goodies. To quote the flyer:

“Get your snack on with FREE TASTY TREATS to keep you from talking during the movie! All day at SVA Theater.”

Talk about making a kid’s day. Made my day – it’s not everyday you get yogurt pouches pushed on you by hunky guys. Nothing but organic snack foods for the whole day. For the cow bean-bag toss I thought they had to play for chocolate milk. I found out that the cow toss was just to get kids active. The raffle was for $50 worth of free Organic Valley products. After the milk was gone, in came the string cheese.

Topping off this weekend were three special film entries.

“It’s not nice to mess with Aunt Hilda”:
aunthilda1

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Known in it’s native France as “Tante Hilda!“, the film was produced by studio Folimage, and directed by Jacques-Remy Girerd (A Cat in Paris, Mia and the Migoo – click the links to see the SVA Library’s copy information) and Benoit Cheiux. Aunt Hilda! tells tale of a woman named Hilda who lives as a botanist far away from the world of polluted cities, dust cropping fields and GNO (OGNs). She’s a “flower child”, literally. Her life is at peace with nature. However that peace becomes short lived when a genetic experiment, headed by the corporate conglomerate DOLO, goes awry. The end result gives life to the ultimate Frankenplant that could very well destroy Earth’s eco system. It’s up to Hilda to save the day. The animation style of this feature harkens back to what they called the “flower power” classics. The retro 70’s animation style of rough lines and color can clearly be seen in this film. Considering this film was made in the 2000s. Despite it’s small use of CGI, this film could still be displayed alongside a animated film from the 70’s and feel right at home. The one thing I found interesting about this film is that it has a more complex narrative than previous films by Girerd, as it deals with touchy subjects, like GMOs, corporate greed and politics. Like Mia and the Migoo, both films deal with issues of preserving nature and the dangers of what happens when man treads too far, disrupting the natural order of things. All and all it’s a wonderful film to see and a grand piece of work. The families that attended seemed to enjoy the film as well. The Frankenplant had quite a few children on the edge of their seats. This film definitely deserves a DVD release here. Mia and Migoo and A Cat in Paris are available at the SVA Library. So come check them out. I highly recommend them.

Jacque-Remy Girerd was not available for this screening but was available the previous weekend for the film’s debut. Sadly I could not attend due to a clash in the scheduling.

This film also contains the 7 deadly sins, massive honey consumption and attack bees. “Go Bees!!”

“Are you afraid of falling to the ground or falling into the sky?”

patema

This weekend, crowds got to see the North American premier of the anime feature ‘Patema Inverted’ (Sakasama Patema), directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura. This is possibly the 5th work by the director and screenwriter. Yoshiura is best known for his sci-fi work; ‘Time of Eve’ (Ebu no Jikan) series which was screened back in 2010 as part of the festival’s “adult” segment. Like ‘Time of Eve’, ‘Patema Inverted’ was originally produced as a four part ONA (Online Net Animation), which streamed online in Japan back in 2012 under the title Patema Inverted: Beginning of the Day. In 2013 it was compressed into a full length feature film.

The story follows a girl named Patema, who lives in a underground civilization. Or is it? Due to her curiosity of trying to explore and find other worlds, she accidentally finds herself falling into another world where she’s upside down and they’re right side up. Or are they? She meets a young boy her age, named Age. The world in which he lives, is controlled by totalitarian society the likes of George Orwell’s, 1984. Where the freedom to think and dream are to be cast out and accept what you’re told. People who have fled the surface due to the great past catastrophe are known as the “inverted” or “sinners”. But which is the “real” world? Yoshiura’s take on using perspective to tell the tale is somewhat original and a different take on another beloved Ghibli classic film Castle in the Sky, by Hayao Miyazaki. It’s like taking a classic work and re-creating it in different way, but the similarities are almost uncanny. Some years ago director, producer and screenwriter, Makoto Shinkai, creator of Voices from a Distant Star, did a feature titled ‘Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below, which was screened back in 2012 (which is now available on DVD). This film while different in it’s plot held many influences from Castle in the Sky. However Patema Inverted’s plot shares a much stronger connection with visuals and pacing that is right on the same level as Castle in the Sky. The only thing missing is the “blue” stone. It’s still an excellent film. In a way I’d say it pays homage to past Ghibli works. The reaction from the crowd pretty much summed it up. I sat between two mothers who’s daughters held different reactions. The one on my left had her knees up to her chin with her eyes covered, while the girl on my right, who was a little older, held onto her mother for dear life. Yet it was her mother who felt the movie was so intense. Did she enjoy it? I did. Hopefully this title will see a release here.

Time of Eve, is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and has since been available on DVD.

“One part history, one part fiction, connecting the beauty of Ghibli and Kenji Miyazawa.”
gio-island

The last entry was the North American premier of the anime feature ‘Giovanni’s Island’ (Gionvania no Shima), directed by Nishikubo Mizuho.

Released in theaters in Japan on February of this year this film came as an unexpected but highly welcomed entry to the festival. This was a very heartfelt film. I tell you there was not a dry eye in that theater. Screenwriter Yoshiki Sakurai (see photos below), was available for the debut, and did Q&A after the film. Sakurai is best known for his work on the Ghost in the Shell series. Produced by studio Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell, Jinroh, A Letter to Momo, Blood the Last Vampire, etc…) Giovanni’s Island tells the story of two young boys Junpei and Kanta, who dub themselves Giovanni and Campanella, characters from the popular classic children’s novel ‘Night of the Galactic Railroad’, by Kenji Miyazawa, published in 1927. Their story takes place on the Japanese island of Shikotan, which became part of the Sakhalin Oblast during the Soviet occupation after WWII. This is a feature that deals with the hardships of war and and an occupied territory. While these elements are part of the plot the main point of the film revolves around the friendships created by the children during those troubling times. The downside is the reality one has to face that your friend is still one with the enemy. Director Nishikubo felt that this was a story that needed to be told. Sakurai during the Q&A, stated that while the film does contain fictional elements, some of which revolve around Kenji Miyazawa, they wanted the film to still be true to telling the history of a past event. Originally, conceived as a live-action film, the producers had to take a different approach due to the restrictions regarding the actual place of events. He stated that only residents born of Shikotan are allowed to return to their homeland. So they decided to make the film into a 2D animated feature allowing them the freedom to produce such a work. Another plus, was finding and speaking to past survivors that could give them historical details on the events on that time. The casting for this film features both Japanese and Russian speakers playing their respective roles giving it an authentic flavor of diversities trying to overcome the language barrier. Giovanni’s Island is a grand piece of work, of an untold story. One woman stood during Q&A, as she addressed Sakurai and her voice cracked as she stated how much she loved this film. She stated that “we need to see more films like this” not only to entertain but used as a way to teach history reaching a wider audience. One man asked if there was any influence with Isao Takahata’s ‘Grave of the Firefiles‘ and Mark Hermans’ ‘Boy with the Striped Pajamas’. Sakurai agreed that there were indeed strong influences to this film, especially Isao Takahata. I feel this film will be elected for an award and a license for a DVD release. Only one more week until the awards ceremony that will decide which films will receive an Academy Award, and possibly a North American releases.

President and co-founder of the NYICFF, Eric Beckman, is ever-present, as always:
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Screenwriter Yoshiki Sakurai:
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Beckman & Sakurai:
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Pictures attached of the event. President and co-founder Eric Beckman, of the NYICFF is ever present as always. Shaking hands and speaking with parents who have either been with the festival in the past or are first timers.

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