Sunday, March 15, 2015


The last time I was at The New York International Children's Film Festival two weeks ago it was a blizzard or close to one. Today it was raining and close to 50 degrees. What a difference two weeks make,

Today I split my time between the Scholastic Theater in the Scholastic children's book publisher's building and SVA theater.

The line at Scholastic was neat and orderly as we waited in the lobby to go in. Sadly a number of the parents had arrived to the screening early in the hope of going to the Scholastic store, but it was closed for good not that long ago so they had anxious kids to try and keep in line because it was pouring outside.

In the theater, which is in the basement and is always lighted to make you think it's a sunny day, the audience was extremely well behaved. Any of the rowdiness that had plagued the lobby was gone once the kids were seated.

Doing the intro to the movie was not Eric Beckman,who was over at SVA, but the ever lovely Abigail who is I believe the festival  membership coordinator. She was very good at do the intro and most importantly she has a killer arm making the t-shirt toss more interesting as she could hit all over the audience including  hit farther back.

WOLFY, THE INCREDIBLE SECRET is based on a series of books called LouLou. from writer and director Gregoire Solotareff (who also did U which opened the festival in 2007).  Its a dark tale that is perilously close to be a truly great film.

The film has Wolfy, a wolf, who lives with Tom and his rabbit family finding out that he is really the heir to the kingdom of Wolfenberg and that his mother may still be alive(he had thought he was an orphan) . He and Tom head off in a big read sports car and arrive just as a the Carne (as in carnivore) Festival is to take place. This puts Tom in danger since most people in the town see him as lunch.  As secrets are revealed and power plays are tried the friendship between Wolfy and Tom is tested even as the rebels, lead by Wolfy's mom, attempt to retake the kingdom.

Completely unlike any American children's film this is exactly the sort of film that I expect from NYICFF, something daring by American standards and exactly what American audiences would go crazy for if the major studios would dare to release it. Here we have real characters with reasonably real problems and a real sense of danger. Its clear many of the characters want to eat Tom, and even Wolfy's safety isn't assured. Characters get hurt, some are eaten and blood is the drink of choice. Its ghoulish/ but real (I mean what do carnivores eat?) and nothing any American film would do so matter of factly. This is the sort of film that would give Disney fits, and it's a lot of fun.

The script is very well written riffing on classic films such as PRISONER OF ZENDA and other lost heir films, the dialog is witty and on target as we get a sense that the film isn't playing to the lowest common denominator. There is a real visual sense to the film as well as several sequences in the film reminded me of the animated KING AND THE MOCKINGBIRD (also playing this year at NYICFF) and even LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD.

I really liked the film a great deal and I would love to show it to a lot of people of various ages but I suspect the darkness and semi-graphic eating of chicks and other animals may keep this away from getting a mainstream release- which is a shame because this is a very good film.

When the film was done I did the long crawl over to SVA. I say long crawl because the subways were not stopping up town at 23rd street so I had 7 blocks of wet walking to do once I got to 14th and 8th.

Once t the theater I met Bully and Shelly for MOOMINS ON THE RIVIERA which is based on the storied by Tove Jannson.

The story of the film is very episodic. Talking to Bully's pal John after the screening he said that the film was based in part on the Riviera story line in the comics, but also incorporated other elements from other stories (such as pirates and a duel).

The plot of the film has the Moomins going to the Riviera on a sea voyage.Once there they interact with the rich and famous who think they are also rich and extremely eccentric. Eventually they head home.

A gorgeously animated film that is an absolute visual delight this is as near as I can tell the comic/books come gloriously to life. The animation is wonderfully 2D and hand drawn, with one sequence involving pirates searching the Moomin home being so visually complex (so much is going on) that you really can't believe that anyone was crazy enough to attempt  it.

To be honest I would love to regale you with a detailed explanation of the film but to do so wouldn't do it justice You need to see this film and see how something so deceptively simple is actually incredibly complex. The film is juggling so many themes and ideas with the greatest of ease that you'd never know they were there if you didn't look. This is easily one of the best films of the festival and quite possibly of the year as well. (I keep finding things I missed when I saw it as I think back on it)

After the film there was a Q&A with the director and producer which was relatively brief. Sadly my camera misbehaved and photos of it are terrible,as is my recollection of the talk.

On the way out we got an unexpected treat as we were gifted with a MOOMINS ON THE RIVERIA  swag bag which had a coaster and guide to the characters in it. It is way cool and a real delight.

After the film I bid my friends goodbye and headed home.Time is precious and over the next few weeks I'm going to have very little with more NYICFF films next weekend and then other festivals after that.

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