There’s more to movies than su­per­hero se­quels

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CULTURE HK -

Sum­mer is here and with it the an­nual on­slaught of su­per­hero block­busters and an­i­mated fea­tures aimed at fam­i­lies. Like the su­per­hero fare, all-ages an­i­mated fare has been on a down­ward spi­ral for the last few years, with numb­ing se­quels and cutesy overkill. Let’s face it, we don’t need De­spi­ca­ble Me’s Min­ions hog­ging the sec­ond and third films. So it is with great re­lief that the in­au­gu­ral Hong Kong Kids In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (KIFF) has ar­rived. It’s a mod­est event to be sure, but if it works, par­ents can at least make a guilt-free deal with lit­tle ones: one Cars 3 for one The Red Tur­tle.

KIFF’s 22 screen­ings span­ning two weeks have clas­sics worth shar­ing with the next gen­er­a­tions as well as thought­ful, il­lu­mi­nat­ing, and in­deed chal­leng­ing new films from around the world. Each film will be fol­lowed by a short Q&A with a lo­cal in­dus­try pro­fes­sional to help ex­plain what the chil­dren have just seen. It’s a way to cul­ti­vate a film cul­ture, im­bue an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for film as an art form and break down any com­plex mes­sages.

Among the high­lights are Mel Stuart’s 1971 Willy Wonka and the Choco­late Fac­tory, the vaguely sub­ver­sive adap­ta­tion of the Roald Dahl book that puts Tim Bur­ton and Johnny Depp’s dumbed down pre­tender to shame. Gene Wilder’s cranky Willy and the four hor­ri­ble chil­dren Char­lie has to con­tend with are the kind of com­plex char­ac­ters that re­main worth watch­ing 40 years later.

On the lo­cal front, Toe Yuen’s McDull, Prince de la Bun does an un­der­stated job of fo­cus­ing on the fears and hopes of Hong Kong kids and fam­i­lies, and has a far deeper un­der­stand­ing of the city and its quirks than the sim­ple an­i­ma­tion would sug­gest. Jean-Pierre Je­unet’s The Young and Prodi­gious TS Spivet is an old-fash­ioned com­ing-of-age story about a 10-year-old sci­ence prodigy with a painful past and the cross-coun­try trip that heals his bro­ken fam­ily. It’s un­abashedly sen­ti­men­tal and the kind of sweet sto­ry­telling you don’t want to like, but prob­a­bly will.

But if KIFF has any stand­outs, they would be March of the Pen­guins 2: The Call, Blanka, and The Red Tur­tle. Open­ing the fes­ti­val, Luc Jac­quet’s fol­lowup to his 2006 Os­car-win­ning doc­u­men­tary, March of the Pen­guins, The Call was shot in Antarc­tica over two months in gor­geous 4K and with some stel­lar un­der­wa­ter se­quences. If The Call has any flaws, it’s the lack of ac­knowl­edge­ment of cli­mate change and its im­pact on these birds’ frag­ile ex­is­tence.

From the Philip­pines, Kohki Ha­sei’s Blanka is a slice of life drama about a home­less girl, Blanka (Cy­del Gabutero), sur­viv­ing on the streets of Manila, try­ing to “buy” her­self a mother. Fail­ing at that, she strikes up a friend­ship with Peter, a blind street mu­si­cian, with whom she even­tu­ally part­ners as a mu­si­cal act. It’s about a child whose life is worlds away from that of the kids in this city — even though it’s ge­o­graph­i­cally close.

Fi­nally, the gor­geously il­lus­trated The Red Tur­tle by Dutch an­i­ma­tor Michael Du­dok de Wit is a pow­er­ful, silent fa­ble about hu­man­ity’s re­la­tion­ship with na­ture. Ev­ery time a cast­away on a de­serted is­land at­tempts to leave, a gi­ant red tur­tle stops him. Co-pro­duced by Ja­pan’s renowned Stu­dio Ghi­bli (its first in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion), Tur­tle is el­e­gant in its sim­plic­ity and grandiose in its af­fir­ma­tion of life, and it is like no other car­toon the kids are likely to see this year. If they only get to see one, make it this one. Here’s hop­ing for a sec­ond KIFF in 2018.

Toe Yuen’s an­i­ma­tion film about the adventures of McDull the pig, is an al­le­gory of the fears and hopes of a typ­i­cal Hong Kong kid.

TheRedTur­tle by Dutch an­i­ma­tor Michael Du­dok de Wit is a pow­er­ful, silent fa­ble about hu­man­ity’s re­la­tion­ship with na­ture.

Bride’s Pool by Kong Kai-ming cap­tures gor­geous na­ture with pho­to­graphic pre­ci­sion.

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