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The Michel Children's Filmfest
by the KinoCritics

Nine films from eight countries showed at the children’s festival. As in the past, it ran parallel to the regular Filmfest Hamburg, which this year opened during the city’s fall school holidays. Children who stayed in town could enjoy the festival.

The Michel Award of Euro 5000 went to
Ewiges Leben (Eternal Life) by Gustavo Ron,
Spain/Great Britain

The jury of young volunteers said, “It gives children and adults courage to be strong in a difficult situation.” Sam, who has leukemia, is home-schooled along with Felix who also suffers from cancer. For homework they are supposed to think about eternal life, even if it is just as the main protagonist in a diary. The jury praised the way leukemia, a topic normally not discussed, was well explained for kids. People accepted the disease and still were able to laugh; not all was sad. (BT)

The Year Dolly Parton was My Mom
Though set in Canada in the mid-70s, The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom is a spirited coming-of-age film for today’s pre-adolescent girls. The heroine, eleven year-old Elizabeth (Julia Stone), begins the film innocently musing with her best friend Bella about finally becoming a “woman”. Life takes a dramatic turn the following day when Elizabeth accidentally discovers that she has been adopted. Her impeccably groomed housewife mother (Macha Grenon) and her respectable breadwinner father (Gil Bellows) had never told her the secret of her origin. Shattered by the discovery Elizabeth makes a plan to find her birth mother. She ransacks her closet and changes from her Pollyanna pleated skirt to a mini-mini pink net ballet skirt, undoes her braids and teases her hair high, and then adds a lot of make-up.  She is now the image of her idol, country singer Dolly Parton. Why?  She has convinced herself that Dolly must be her real mother. Dressed as Dolly and calling herself Ruby, she furtively takes off on her banana-seat bicycle riding over the Manitoba prairie to cross the border to get to Minneapolis where Dolly Parton is performing in a concert. Surely once there Dolly will recognize her and claim her as her daughter. The sound track of this road-trip-to-music-movie fortunately includes both Dolly Parton singing her own songs along with Nelly Furtado and other Canadian artists covering some of Dolly’s classics. It’s just good fun. (Pat Fricke)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The opening film of the Eighth Annual Michel Children’s Film Festival was the well-known Mark Twain classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, adapted by Sascha Arango and directed by Hermine Huntgeburth. The result is a German film in true American West style with traditional costumes of the 19th century. The orphan Tom Sawyer (Louis Hofmann) and his younger brother Sid (Andreas Warmbrunn) live together with Aunt Polly (Heike Makatsch) in her cottage on the hill. Whenever she gives him a task to do he tries to disappear, meeting with his friend Huckleberry Finn (Leon Seidel). They are best friends and always up to mischief. During their ramblings through the harbour they watch the criminal and wicked Indian Joe (Benno Fürmann), hear of secret plans and a hidden treasure trove. Real trouble awaits the two boys when roaming about the graveyard. By chance they witness Joe murdering Doc Robinson (Sylvester Groth) during a fight and blaming the harmless drunkard Muff Potter (Joachim Król). Fearing for their lives and Joe’s fury they take to their heels and flee through the night.
More than once Aunt Polly is worried about Tom’s whereabouts. One night the situation comes to a head when Tom and the daughter of Judge Thatcher (Peter Lohmeyer) are missing. He is showing pretty Becky (Magali Greif) a secret cave. She is duly impressed until they are hopelessly lost. It gets even worse as Joe stumbles upon them while looking for his treasure trove. How will they ever get out of the cave alive? Tension runs high and the younger audience will surely be glued to the screen or nervously biting their nails.

The children’s acting is a pleasure to watch; particularly Luis Hofmann and Leon Seidel are a great team of tomboys. Benno Fürmann makes a convincingly malicious and fearsome Joe. An adventure film for the eight to twelve year olds - and their parents too. (Birgit Schrumpf)