When things go horribly wrong due to the shunning of responsibilities by adults, is there anything children can do to ameliorate, if not to correct the situation? Several child-led films at the 4th annual Lola Kenya Screen (August 10-15, 2009) tackle this issue.
KUR PALUDIS ELVIS/Finding Elvis, a 78-minute Latvian fiction film directed by Una Celma, leads the way when five 11- and 12-year-olds decide to do something to find their classmate who has been missing from school for a month while no one does anything about it. As the five investigate and come closer to what could have happened to Elvis, their path is strewn with an awkward series of suspenseful and comedic episodes that may annoy, amuse and scare the viewer, depending on one’s temperament or mood.
UNA VIDA MEJOR/A Better Life, a 13-minute documentary film by Spanish director Luis Fernandez Reneo, is said to be the faithful account of three Mexican children who got lost in the desert while trying to steal their way into the USA for a better life. When the expedition is attacked by a gang of border thieves, Lucia (7), Angela (14) and Fabian (16) run away and get lost in the night. Alone and disoriented, they wander in the Sonoran desert for three days without water or food with the sole support of their vision of life in America; they survive on their own urine. This film educates, entertains, informs, warns, mystifies and inspires.
In THE HAPPY DUCKLING, a Scottish production by Israeli filmmaker Gili Dolev, a young boy and a very un-ordinary duck are about to discover that sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind in this 9-minute animated adventure following the antics of a reluctant boy and the relentlessly happy duck who trails him. It is set in a delightful and surprising pop-up book world where anything can, and does happen. And this unfolds without any dialogue. As it should be, Dolev uses images to tell the story that is likely to appeal to any one who enjoys moving images and stories.
SOTTO IL GIARDINO/Under My Garden, by Italian director Andrea Lodovichetti, tells the story of Marco, a 10-year-old boy who has a passion for insects and who is convinced that his neighbour has killed his wife and has buried her body under his garden, the evidence being a large ant-nest he has been carefully examining for a while. He thus decides to carry out some investigations; he only reveals his thoughts to his little friend, Sara.
EL REGALA DE LA PACHAMAMA/Pachamama, a spiritual tale by US-based Japanese film director Toshifumi Matsushita, is set in Bolivia and starres a 13-year-old boy who lives in the traditional way with his family near the salt lake of Uyuni.
One spring, so goes the story of this 104-minute film, the boy accompanies his father on his first caravan. Strapping blocks of salt to the backs of their Ilamas, they follow the salt trail four months exchanging the precious mineral for both products of the Andes mountains. Along the way through many experiences and encounters, the boy discovers who he is as a young man and a Quechua. As the trip comes to a close he meets a beautiful girl at a festival. Their two young hearts awaken as they share a simple but profound dream: to ride a bicycle together across the salt lake.
Though he likes to play, a 13-year-old Kurdish boy in Iran must work to provide for his family. That is the story of MAN HAM HASTAM/I Exist, a 15-minute film directed by Iranian Afshin Khaledi.
In IZULU LAMI/My Secret Sky of South Africa, director Madoda Ncayiyana throws a 10-year-old girl and her younger brother in the adult world when their mother dies. When the children–Thembi and Khwez–arrive in Durban city they are spotted by a street-wise 12-year-old, Chili-Bite who offers them a place to sleep on the street. It is Thembi’s relationship with Khwezi that sustains her quest to fulfill her mother’s dream. In her time alone she discovers her own dream and her own talent, then is able to reconcile with her new friends from the street. The film runs 100 minutes but I can guarantee any viewer will want to watch it to the end.
Do 10-year-olds fall in love, date and feel the pain of love?
MUSEN/The Mouse, a 13-minute drama by Danish Pil Maria Gunnarsson, appears to say they do. And you are bound to agree with Gunnarsson.
When 10-year-old Liv receives a mouse as a present from Mike, a classmate, they start dating. However, when Liv’s friend”a popular girl”starts flirting with Mike at school, she becomes exceedingly jealous. And, as usually happens with jealous lovers, she does something foolish. Out of anger.
A BEAUTIFUL TRAGEDY/Ballerina: A Beautiful Tragedy is a 58-minute documentary film on jealousy and beauty at a ballet school in Russia. Directed by Norwegian David Kinsella, the film is told through Oxanna, a 16-year-old with the ambition of becoming a prima ballerina. But to achieve her goal there is a price to pay: sacrificing her youth. As despair takes hold of her, she cannot let down her mother. One thing about this film is that it is true to the saying, ‘All that glitters is not gold.’
HAMMERHEAD by British director Sam Donovan and FREDERIKKE by Danish director Heidi Maria Faisst have a similar theme.
While Oddball Boris tries to reunite his parents on a shark spotting trip off the North Yorkshire coast in the former, 9-year-old Frederikke and her dog, Buster, must prepare a surprise for her mother who is lately locking her out of her life because of a new boyfriend she has acquired, in the latter!