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A Preview of PCFF 2016

Posted on | January 24, 2016 | Add Comments

PCFF 2016See Films from Around the World at the Providence Children’s Film Festival

 

The Providence Children’s Film Festival is back for its seventh year, with an out-of-this-world lineup of films, workshops, and Q&As. The fest takes place from February 6-21, coinciding during school break, and showcases movies that not only kids but the whole family will enjoy. At the Festival, there are live-action, animated, documentary, short, and feature films from all around the world. This Festival doesn’t show familiar Hollywood kids fare, but more challenging, exciting, entertaining films. This year’s line-up includes documentaries about boxing and body-image, the story of an orchestra made from trash, a Buster Keaton classic, a Dutch sci-fi adventure, and so much more.

PCFF 2016One particular highlight from this year is The Year We Thought About Love, a poignant, personal documentary about a teen LGBTQ acting group from Boston. For 70 minutes, the film gives viewers a look into the lives of a group with their own unique challenges and personalities. Movies like these give us a window into other experiences only film can provide, and the Festival features many films like this. T. Rex is a standout as well, another documentary about overcoming prejudice and dealing with challenging life circumstances by doing what you love, but with a very different subject matter. The movie tracks 17 year-old Claressa “T-Rex” Shields as she boxes her way from a troubled neighborhood in Flint, Michigan to the stages of the 2012 Olympics. Until then, women’s boxing was not held at the Olympics but Shields proves she can fight as hard as anyone.

Not all the movies playing this year are tough, inspirational documentaries. T.I.M. is a fictional futuristic tale of a friendship between a boy and a robot, and an ultimate quest. The Australian Paper Planes is about a young boy who discovers he can make incredible paper airplanes. He uses his skill to get into a paper plane championship, while grieving over his mother’s death and dealing with an emotionally distant father. The Festival is also showing one film that wasn’t released in the last couple years, or even in this century. That would be The General, Buster Keaton’s 1926 comedy about trains, romance, and the Civil War. The film is often ranked as one of the greatest of all time, so don’t miss a chance to see the black-and-white classic on the silver screen.

PCFF 2016The Providence Children’s Film Festival isn’t only about watching movies, though. The festival also has Film Talks and presentations following some movies, which give audiences a chance to hear and discuss the films. There are also workshops for kids who don’t just want to watch but make movies. Instructors teach budding filmmakers stop-motion animation, sound effects, and live action during these classes. Over the past six years, the Festival has become one of the leading children’s film festivals in the nation by bringing a diverse selection of movies to audiences in Rhode Island. Come to the Festival this February, and you’ll be entertained, educated, excited, and surrounded by other film lovers. Most of all, you’ll have a great time at the movies.

For more information about Festival schedule, venues, age guidelines, and how to buy tickets, visit the website: www.pcffri.org

Highlights of TIFF 2015 (Flack’s Report)

Posted on | May 2, 2015 | Add Comments

Operation ArcticTIFF Kids, a Toronto kid’s film festival (one of the world’s largest), is a twelve day spectacular of contemporary children’s cinema, collected from all around the world. Flick and Flack attended for their fourth time this year and managed to see some notable films. Here, Flack writes about three standout movies from his weekend in Canada.

Operation Arctic has one unbelievable, sort of ridiculous, insanely intruiging premise: a teen girl and her two younger twin siblings hide away on a helicopter in an attempt to locate their missing father, then end up stuck in Arctic Norway. With no one else around and a limited supply of canned foods to live off of, the dire situation only gets worse as polar-bear attacks and and harsh weather dampen the hopes of the three siblings. Go along with the over-the-top story of the film and you’ll be delighted by a well-executed, old-fashioned adventure yarn. The frigidly beautiful cinematography and some gripping bear battles are highlights.

Top SpinMany of the best documentaries focus on topics that seem uninteresting and odd, but manage to turn them into riveting and informative films. Top Spin does just that. The doc follows three teen table-tennis players as they compete for a spot at the Olympics, balance school with sports, and discuss the joy and pain of competitive sports. It has all the boiling suspense and riveting action of a great sports movie, but with thoughtful, poignant interviews to add some depth.

LabyrinthusBelgian sci-fi adventure Labyrinthus has it’s flaws, but manages to surprise more often than one would expect of a big-budget family film. The adventure begins when Frikke, an average teen, picks up a mysterious camera left behind by a masked biker. He soon realizes the object holds the keys to a dangerous but compelling video game, inside of which a young girl is trapped. Frikke is the only one capable of saving the girl, and it’s up to him to locate and stop the creator of the game. Labyrinthus is a bit like a digital-age update of Jumanji, though it’s darker in tone than that film. The multi-stranded plot does have some weak stretches, and most attempts at humor fall flat, but this is still a refreshingly imaginative adventure.

Amelia Screens at CineYouth Chicago

Posted on | April 15, 2015 | 2 Comments

AmeliaLast year, we wrote and directed Amelia, a five-minute sci-fi drama. We shot it on location in Rhode Island. Now we’re thrilled to have the film accepted into Chicago’s CineYouth film festival. Amelia will play in the Drama Club shorts collection on May 9. Click here for more details.

PCFF 2015 Day 7: Shorts, Dog vs. Nazis, and Awards

Posted on | February 22, 2015 | Add Comments

The final day of the festival is finally here! That’s right, the festival has come to an end after many snowstorms and much perseverance. I began the final day with Finn which I had heard lots of good things about, prior to viewing the film. The movie follows the titular boy who discovers his family history, musical calling, and mysterious instructor. But everyone is not as they seem and the baffling past will come to be revealed by the end of this film. While it suffers from predictability, Finn is at first glance nothing but an average family drama. But as it continues on, the film becomes increasingly more and more interesting as the plot continues to unravel. Mels van der Hoeven stands out in an impressive cast as Finn whose boyish curiosity leads to conflict and…Watch the film, already!

Finn

Next up was the second Youth Filmmakers Showcase, this time the Multi-Regional edition. They ranged from zombie epics to magic gum to invisible girlfriends. While it may not have been the strongest collection of shorts the festival has showed, it was still fun to see what young filmmakers had to say. One highlight was GIFTS, a surprisingly violent murder-mystery that made you put the pieces together with little help from the filmmakers.

For the closing night screening, Belle & Sebastian was the perfect fit. I had never seen it before myself, so it was a pleasure to see something new. Sebastian, a young boy on the France/Switzerland border, meets Belle, the so-called “beast” who’s really a shaggy dog with large, cute eyes. But the story is more than cute; it’s moving, emotional, and memorable in all the right ways. Asides from some phenomenal performances from all the lead actors notably, like Finn, the young lead. The main standout, however, is the cinematography which is never better than the opening scene. As Sebastian is daringly lowered from a cliff, I clenched my seat in suspense. The breathtaking shots of the landscapes are fantastic, but it never gets better than the opening scene.
Belle and Sebastian

Of course, the highlight of the day had to be the awards. As predicted by both Flack and I, Song of the Sea took home the big prize that was Audience Choice. Thanks to the audience at the final screening, Belle & Sebastian scored the second spot while Finn clocked in at third. Winda thoroughly entertaining short, took home the award for best short and Scrap Wood War was the Jury Choice.

All in all, it was a great festival that will surely rank highly in the pantheon of past fests. From great…Wait a second, the Oscars are on! We’ll see you next year, at the movies.

PCFF 2015 Day 5: Appalachian Music, Composting, and Our Film’s Premiere

Posted on | February 16, 2015 | Add Comments

The festival kicked into gear today, making a swift recovery after the slight dampening of spirit thanks to the storm. Starting off the day was Okee Dokee Brothers Through the Woods: An Appalachian Adventure, a delightfully joyous romp across the 2,180 mile long trail. The two musicians/hikers are Joe and Justin, who aren’t actually brothers but instead close friends. They plan to travel the entire trail and, while doing so, immerse themselves in the history and music of the mountains. The film balances a sense of lighthearted fun along with the rich history of “mountain music”. They play songs with the people they meet along the way, intermixed with music video-esque shots of the band fooling around. With a less skilled filmmaker behind the scene, the film might have easily slipped into an overly goofy spoof. In the hands of director Jed Anderson, it’s a pleasurable romp for nature lovers and music fans alike. Two local musicians jammed with the kids in the audience to create a song similar to the one sung in the film.

The Second Volume of the Middle/High School Edition of Your Shorts are Showin’ featured six shorts. The two highlights were Monocular Man and Zomposting. Both films balance comedy with drama. Zomposting is a hilarious how-to on composting told in a joyously fun way. The subtitles for the zombie’s dialogue add the perfect tongue-in-cheek touch and it’s all tied together with sharp editing and a memorable voiceover.

Monocular Man: My Eye and Saturn V tells the story of a boy who loses his eye after a firecracker-attached-to-a-rocket doesn’t go so well. The film is done in an incredibly unique way; neon drawings are sketched from the ground up to illustrate the entire story. We can see animator Ellen Stedfeld’s hand as she sketches drawing after drawing. The voiceover adds a witty touch and the script is told from the point of view of the boy. It’s funny, it’s tragic, it’s eye-opening. After the films, Mike Bell and Rich Pederson of Zomposting and R. Jim Stahl and Ellen Stedfeld of Monocular Man stepped on stage to talk about the process behind their shorts. (The two other standouts were Be the Tortoise, an inventive take on the classic Tortoise and the Hare lesson, and In The Coat’s Pocket which at first feels like an adventure but ends up being a thoughtful allegory on domestic violence.

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Wrapping up the day Flack and I premiered our own film, Amelia as part of the Regional edition of the Youth Filmmaker Show. It was great to see an audience react to our short and I also loved seeing other young filmmakers’ works. From Spanish film parodies to living sushi, jewelry robbers to philosophizing on the cultural status of fashion, there was a wide range of films on display. Fielding insightful questions during the panel after the film was also lots of fun. After working on the project for months, it was incredibly satisfying to share the story behind the film with the audience.

We look forward to the second weekend of films, but in the meantime you can watch past favorites from the festival at local libraries. I personally can’t wait for Finn and Eskil and Trinidad next weekend, both of which I haven’t seen but have heard great things about. In the meantime rest your bleary eyes up for more movie watching.

PCFF 2015 Day 4: Altered Dimensions, Superpowers, and Singing (in the rain)

Posted on | February 15, 2015 | Add Comments

Patema

Frigid temperatures, heavy accumulation, and a parking ban didn’t stop die-hard festival fans from finding alternative means of transportation (i.e. by foot and bus). It was pretty thrilling to see Providence cinephiles show what they’re made of by braving the harsh weather. Asides from the stormy excitement, the festival managed to continue on minus a few viewers and the RISD Auditorium.

I began the day with the sci-fi flick Patema Inverted. “Woah” is an understatement. Patema, a lively young girl, finds herself in the Danger Zone where gravity is inverted and she is turned upside down…Or is she? That’s only one of the many questions Patema finds herself struggling to answer. After meeting a young boy who has more in common than first meets the eye, Patema sets off on a journey to unite both her world and the next, defying all rules of gravity. The film may at times be a bit confused in terms of pacing and tone, but it’s the awe-some science of it’s world that shines through. Unlike some science fiction films, Patema Inverted takes time in sketching out the rules and limits of it’s world in an enthralling way.

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Next up was Singing in the Rain, my personal favorite of the day. For those who haven’t seen it, well, get yourself on over to the festival next Saturday to watch a seriously classic musical. The film effortlessly combines fun song and dance numbers with a subtle commentary on Hollywood show-biz. At the heart of it all is Gene Kelly whose priceless Don Lockwood is still as superb as ever. Kelly is also behind the camera, not only co-directing with Stanely Donen but also staging and directing the musical numbers. “Good Morning”, “Moses Supposes”, “Make ‘Em Laugh”, and of course the titular song are some of the most iconic musical numbers to grace the silver screen. Donald O’ Conor perfectly steals the show with his deft humor and incredible athleticism.

Following the film, Brian Jones showed off some of his stellar moves. Jones, a veteran tap-dancer, told his inspiring story beginning with childhood inspiration from his english teacher. He interspersed it with some great dancing and even brought some kids onstage to hilariously cute effect. Jones never paused to take a breath, making it obvious that he hasn’t been fooling around for the past forty-three years on stage.Antboy

Sneaking in for one more film, the Danish adventure Antboy spoofs the superhero genre to comedic effect. Young Pelle yearns of getting the girl and being the popular kid…Or at least being noticed at all. After being bit by a radioactive ant, he teams up with superhero geek Wilheim to become Antboy. The film gets by with enough tongue in cheek to keep it grounded in an original way. It’ll hit home with comics fans, kids, and adults. 

Tomorrow: the Okee Dokee brothers, more jury curated shorts and…Our own short Amelia debuting! We’ll see you there.

PCFF 2015 Day 2: A Mixed Bag of Shorts

Posted on | February 13, 2015 | Add Comments

Sure to be the quietest day of the festival, boasting only one screening, today’s lineup included the Elementary edition of the festival’s very popular Your Shorts Are Showin’ (YSAS) compilation. If you’re not familiar with YSAS, it’s where you’ll find the shorts that the festival has juried spilt into Kindergarten, Elementary, and Middle/High School. This year, the Elementary and Middle/High School editions have been split into two Volumes in order to make room for more shorts than ever.

To kick things off, the Elementary Vol. 1 compilation was shown today. The eight short films ranged from nature beauty to animated sci-fi, children of war accounts to ADD documentary. While not all of the shorts were as amazing as the shorts shown in years past, it was still an enthralling mix. Super Girl and Saka Gibi (Fooled) followed young children yearning for excitement in the form of superpowers and turtles, respectively. While both had their moments, their lackluster visuals and clunky acting disappointed. The Looking Planet was a confused tromp through unknown universes with bizarre, blue-colored extraterrestrials.

How the Wolves Changed the Rivers featured beautifully photographed nature landscapes and wintery shots of wolves. With an educational narration, the film set a tone that was both engaging and informative. It was also the shortest of the shorts, which stood out in a compilation where the majority of the shorts could have used another cut in the editing room. In Spin Ritalin documented a young girl with ADD who takes ritalin every day. Yearning to fit in with the other kids, she tries not using the pills for one day. The film is well done and the story is certainly engaging, although it could use some more emotional flare.

In my opinion, Little Questions was undoubtedly the best. It tackled the subject of war from a fresh perspective: that of a young girl. As she asks child survivors about their experiences, director Virginia Abramovich constantly keeps us rooted in the story by grounding it with the simple, innocent thoughts of a child. The film is accessible enough for young kids that it could certainly raise some conversation, while not being violent in any way. It’s through the raw power of the survivor’s words that we get a glimpse into the horror of war in a way few other films manage to do.

Tomorrow, the festival truly kicks into gear with the RISD Museum as well as the Avon Cinema showing shorts and features all day. I’m personally looking forward to re-watching Side by Sidemy personal favorite of the festival so far. Academy Award nominated Song of the Sea is shaping up to be one of the busiest, most anticipated screenings of the entire festival. Snow storms, food trucks, film talks, and more…Flack and I are looking forward to bringing you the highs and lows, surprises and winners of the festival.

What to Watch at Providence Children’s Film Festival 2015

Posted on | February 3, 2015 | Add Comments

The Providence Children’s Film Festival will be getting things started next Thursday. This year marks the six year of the ever-evolving gathering of film geeks, students on vacation, and local families alike. The festival will take place from February 12 to 22. With 18 feature-length films as well as 9 short film compilations, everyone is bound to find something to love in the stellar lineup. To help you navigate through the sometimes overwhelming schedule, we’ve highlighted four films we highly recommend.
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Flack’s Recommendations:

Singin’ in the Rain

Why see the 63-year old musical at the Wheeler School’s Gilder Center when you can easily rent it from the comfort of your own couch? The reasons are countless. There’s the top-notch cast, led by Gene Kelly, with his infectious charm and boundless energy. There’s the story: a movie-about-movies tale from Hollywood’s uneasy transition from silent films to talkies. And then there’s the songs: “Good Morning”, “Moses Supposes”, “Make ’em Laugh”, and the title number. All showstoppers. All deserving of a screen bigger than your television. Post-film tap-dancing only seals the deal.

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The Boy and the World

If the word “animation” brings to mind easily digestible, comfortably conventional, computer-generated junk-food then brace yourself for this bold and beautiful Brazilian film. Without intelligible dialogue and a clear narrative path, director Ale Abreu follows the hand-drawn quest of the titular boy as he journeys deeper and deeper into a fantastical and mysterious world bursting with colorful detours: a vibrant parade, bright nightclubs, and a train that his father travels on. The film is about much more than it’s strikingly gorgeous visuals; there are themes of commercialization, materialism, and global warming. A feast for the eyes and a buffet for the brain.

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Flick’s Recommendations:

Zip & Zap and The Marble Gang

Kicking off the festival on February 12th is this Spanish language adventure starring a pair of two adventurous young brothers. After causing plenty of mischief, the boys find themselves sent a way to an austere summer school ruled with an iron fist by Falconetti, the eye-patched creep making sure no one steps out of line. In order to stand up to the cruel discipline of the headmaster, they form the Marble Gang along with three friends. What follows involves dark secrets, plenty of laughs, lots of adventure, and some serious fun. Adapted from a popular Spanish comic book, the film is 106 minutes of genuine thrills sure to please everyone.
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Side by Side

My personal favorite, Side by Side is a touching film that follows Lauren and Harvey, a brother and sister living with their grandmother. When their grandmother’s illness begins to grow serious, the siblings realize they must be separated. Upset that his sister has reluctantly signed up for a reputable sports program, younger brother Harvey runs away to Scotland searching for the grandfather they’ve never met. Soon enough Lauren chases after her brother and an unforgettable adventure ensues. The entire film is grounded by two sensational performances from Bel Powley and Alfie Field as, respectively, Lauren and Harvey. The film, with it’s grounded humor and brutal honesty, is one that will be sure to stay with you long past the festival’s Awards Ceremony.

TIFF Kids 2014 Day 1: Flack’s Report

Posted on | April 20, 2014 | Add Comments

Felix is musically gifted but can he win over his mom?Comfy chairs, delicious popcorn, fascinating Q&A’s, and, of course, wonderful films… Flick and Flack have arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival Kids! For the next few days, we’ll be reporting on the festival (read our festival preview here). Here’s my take on our first day (April 19) at TIFF…

Felix 4 1/2 Felix, a South African teenager, has phenomenal musical talent and can’t wait to audition for his new private school’s jazz concert. His mother, however, feels that his musical passion will lead him down the path of his late father. As tensions rise, Felix is faced with a question: will he choose his mother or his music? Director Roberta Durrant displays adept filming skill by transforming a often-told theme into a tear-jerking, often witty must-see. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll tap your foot to the beat.

A group of friends discover the mystery of their evil school in Zip & Zap and the Marble GangZip & Zap and the Marble Gang 3 1/2 When brothers Zip and Zap are sent to an evil boarding school, they decide to challenge the cruel dictatorship residing over the school. Along with some new friends, Zip and Zap hunt for treasure, get chased by dogs, and uncover the mysterious past of their school. This amusing adventure is part Harry Potter, part Goonies, and all fun! An often comical and exhilarating roller coaster of a film.

So, that’s it for now… More TIFF Kids reviews coming soon!

A Look Ahead To TIFF Kids 2014

Posted on | April 13, 2014 | Add Comments

We can't wait to see Felix at TIFF Kids 2014For the past two years, Flack and I have taken the long drive up to Toronto, Canada to attend the TIFF Kids film festival to find films for the PCFF. We’ve seen some incredible films, not to mention the pleasure of reclining in the irresistibly comfy theater chairs, perusing the building’s movie bookstore, and just staring in awe at the Bell Lightbox building. This year, we’ll be back again and the lineup of films looks as good as ever. We’ll hopefully be bringing you written updates all throughout next weekend, starting on Friday and going through Sunday. For now, here are the films we’re looking forward to.

Felix

A fourteen-year-old boy wants to become a proffesional musician just as his late father was. His mom, however, isn’t supportive of this dream. Felix will have to win over his mom, face up to school bullies, and find the aid of his dad’s bandmate in order to follow his dreams. This has all the makings of an feel-good family drama.

Antboy

Pelle, a 12-year-old living in a small Danish town, has a boring, average life. But all it takes is a bite from an ant and he’s given superpowers. Pelle must face the villain Flea who is terrorizing his town and in doing so, cope with his new powers and learn the meaning of being different. Enter Antboy. Could be the perfect superhero adventure for younger ones.

Side by Side

The intriguing trailer for this brother-sister runaway film manages to clip together a lot, while still leaving questions unanswered. Equal parts adventure, drama, and coming-of-age story, the film promises to be both exciting and harrowing at the same time.

In addition to these films, we’ll also have access to the “Screening Room”, where we’ll be able to choose from a library of DVD’s (from this year’s festival) to watch on a computer workstation. It’s one of the many privileges of having Industry Passes.

See you in Toronto!

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