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Michel Kinder und Jugend Filmfest Hamburg and Lucas International Children’s Festival
by Becky Tan

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, 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.