by Thom Ernst Monday April 9, 2012

The TIFF Kids International Film Festival is a new film festival for young movie goers designed, structured and programmed by TIFF (The Toronto International Film Festival) and partnered with TVOKids.  The collaboration between TIFF and TVOKids has been a while coming but now that it's here we can be assured of a standard of programming that goes beyond the mainstream Hollywood fare. 

I plan on taking my daughter.  It will be our first film festival together.

My daughter and I are likely to be somewhat distracted by the various events and activities, (there are dance parties, exhibits, live music, face-face visits with the TVOKids and Gisele) but after meeting Gisele, Drew, Kara and Dalmar, it's the films we are most interested in.  Happily, my five year-old daughter's seems to share my keen love and appreciation of movies.  Perhaps I read  more into her interaction with film than there is, but it strikes me that her enjoyment goes beyond leisurely engagement .  She is in fact able to be discerning, even critical of what she sees.  It makes a poppa proud.   

But as it is between all film lovers, my daughter and I don't always agree.  After 20 minutes of sitting attentively and quietly through Mary Poppins, a film I touted as being one of the best children's films of my generation, she coolly announced, "Daddy, I just don't get what you see in this."   And so it is that my little girl and I watch movies and talk about them afterwards.  It's as important to me that when she watches movies she's also willing to discuss them in whatever capacity she is capable. 

It's with this in mind I create the following list of my top eight anticipated films screening at TIFF Next Wave:









1/ Chimpanzee:  This is an easy pick because who doesn't like Chimpanzees?  And to make it even more irresistible, who doesn't like a baby chimpanzee?  This is a narrative documentary (voiced by Tim Allen) about a loveable and playful 3 year-old chimp who gets into a bit of trouble when separated from his band.  It is a dramatic and often comic real life account of an animal in rough terrain, but it is also a great analogy for what it is like to be different and feeling unwanted.  Not only does the film incorporate a passion and understanding for wildlife, but it makes a subtle alignment to our own lives should we find ourselves feeling lost and abandoned.  This film is shown in conjunction with the Opening Night Party as well as an onstage Q&A with the film's photographer, Bill Wallauer who attended The Jane Goodall Institute.  The film is recommended for children 8 and up, but they don't know my daughter. 









2/ The Pirates! Band of Misfits - 3D:  There is no way I'll convince my daughter to see The Pirates! Band of Misfits - 3D.  She LOVES Pirates.  She HATES 3D.  But with it's Wallace and Gromit style, this promises to be a rollicking special event.  Yes, it will be out in theatres soon, but if that's what's stopping you than you really are missing the point of festival fever.  See it at a festival before everyone else and on a Bell Lightbox screen.  Plus, those attending will get to meet director Peter Lord.  (Now I'll just have to find out if they'll let grown-ups in without a kid - either that or beg and pout until my daughter agrees to go with me.)









3/ Alfie, the Little Werewolf:  Don't be afraid the your kids will be put off by the fact that this film comes from The Netherlands and is presented with English subtitles. They'll love the idea of a friendly kid werewolf and proper imagery goes a long way in conveying a story.  A young boy (Alfie is pictured center with the white hair and glasses) starts to notice strange things beginning to happen to him - like turning into a werewolf whenever a full moon rises.  It might be a great parable for puberty if the boy was a bit older than 7.  As it is sounds like an enchanting tale of change, family support, and the occasional to turn the tables on a bully. 

4/Le tableau:  The only thing my daughter might like more than film is art and her ability to speak (limited) French.  This film seems hand made for her.  When an artist abandons his work, the finished drawings from another work take over where the artist left off.  Although French with English subtitles, this one seems worthy of taking a five year-old with limited but a growing understanding of the language.  I would never be too reluctant to take on a foreign film given that often images convey far greater meaning than dialogued.  Between the art, the sophistication and the nuances of language with image, I think this might be the perfect film to stretch a young persons' cinematic boundaries.

5/ Sky Force - 3D - The last film director Tony Tang did was Beach Spike a kind of an American Pie  gone Hong Kong about a team of female beach volleyball players. I'm curious about what Tang will do with this story where the animation appears to be a series of digitized snapshots straight from the toy box.   If I can't convince my daughter to try out the opening night film, The Pirates! Band of Misfits - 3D perhaps I can spend the week convincing her to taking me to the closing night film, Sky Force - 3D.  I might be able to win her over based on the film's theme of adventure and camaraderie among an elite emergency fighting team.  If there's any sense of a super-hero or at least a larger-than-life hero, than she's in.  I just won't tell her it's in 3D.







6/ SnowFlake - The White Gorilla - Normally I would warn against any film dubbed in English and not presented in it's original language, but since the characters in Snowflake - The White Gorilla are mostly computer animated (there is some live action), it really shouldn't matter.  I'm attracted to this film from because one of the characters, is a Buddhist red panda who belives he's been reincarnated from a Black Panther.   It's a tale that makes use of its story to incorporate ideas of animal rights and diversity. 









7/The Blue Tiger:  Environmental issues are important to most everyone in the family.  In my family, it is my wife who leads the way.  Perhaps my daughter might want to treat her mother to this particular film about a botanical garden being threatened with destruction by an insensitive city mayor.  Living in this beautiful Czech garden is a mystical blue tiger.  Combining live action with animation makes this a particularly stunning film about the triumph of environment over commerce.










8/ First Position:  This documentary is recommended for those 9 and up.  Basing the film by reputation and on the blurb that's available in the festival program, it's difficult to judge whether I might risk this inside view of the competitive world of classical dance on my daughter.  On the one hand, it suits my daughter's taste for dance, ballet and dressing like a princess. The film promises to be a honest no-holds bar look at ballet competitions, schools, home life and the sacrifices it takes to succeed.  It might also help my daughter to understand why I answerwed her question "why don't boy's wear tights?" with "Sometimes they do."

Programs and schedules and tickets are available by going to TIFF.NET/KIDS or calling 416.599.8433

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