The 13th children’s film festival in Hamburg ran parallel to the main festival, Oct 2-10. There were 14 films including a combination of short films for children four years and older. Other films were designated for 6-9 year olds, and for 12-14 year-olds. There were special showings for whole school classes, as well as workshops for creative writing, acting, script-writing, and filming. Children dressed in blue festival t-shirts “managed” the festival quite professionally, introducing films and participants, translating, blogging (under www.michelmoviekids.de), interviewing, writing journalistic reports, and serving on the juries.
Winner of best film was Kleine Gangster (Little Gangster), by Arne Tjoonen from the Netherlands. Rik Boskamp (Thor Braun) is happy to change schools after his father takes on a new job in a new city. Rik suffered mobbing, with no support from his single father, who is a true wimp. Determined to make a new start, Rik arrives at the new school in a leather jacket and jeans and a swept-back hair-do. He says his name is Rikky Boskampi and his father is an important member of the Italian Mafia. “Rikky” takes no lip from anyone, and establishes himself from the first day as the tough son of a gangster, who will rough up any arrogant adversary who mistreats his son. His father wonders why the neighbors treat him with such respect. Then the “real” Mafia enters the picture. In the end everyone has grown in different ways, all for the better.
My favorite children’s film was Rettet Raffi!. After three days in the main festival, watching desperation (Dheepan), depression (Our Loved Ones), murder (The Clan), and abuse (James White) and more, I was thrilled to sit back and enjoy a marvelous actor who made me smile while he played soccer, rode a raft on the Elbe River and appeared on television, even if this talented actor was a hamster.
Young Sammy lives with his sister Molly and their mother in Hamburg. Their father has taken time off to “find himself” in Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders. Molly takes this as a sign that the marriage has failed, and, when not hanging out with boyfriend Joachim, feels responsible for finding a new husband for mom, who is also a physician in a hospital. Sammy ignores the difficulties and finds pleasure with his hamster Raffi, which he has taught to play soccer in his cage. But then Raffi grows ill and must undergo an operation (in spite of Molly’s complaint that she could use the money for new clothes). If that weren’t bad enough, during recovery, Raffi escapes. The plot never stops expanding in unexpected directions. There is a hamster show on TV, a search for 450,000 packages of cigarettes in a container ship and a very sweet ending. German director Arend Agthe said that much of the filming occurred at night since hamsters (Retti plus 14 doubles) sleep at night. It was filmed entirely in Hamburg in about one month. Members of actor Nicki von der Recke’s class at school had the opportunity to become involved with supporting roles.
Other good children’s films were Die Krone von Arkus (Franziska Pohlmann, Germany), Die Pfefferkörner (Klaus Wirbitzky, Germany), Mister Twister auf der Bühne (Barbara Breder, The Netherlands), Zwischenstand (Karc Witkowski and Dorothea Kleffner-Witkowski, Germany), and He named me Malala (Davis Guggenheim, USA). Pack up your kids and grandkids and come to the 14th children’s festival next year: September 30-October 8, 2016.