© Warner Bros. Entertainment GmbH

Jim Knopf und die Wilde 13 (Jim Button and the Wild 13)
Germany 2020

Opening 1 Oct 2020

Directed by: Dennis Gansel
Writing credits: Dirk Ahner, Michael Ende
Principal actors: Solomon Gordon, Henning Baum, Leighanne Esperanzate, Annette Frier, Eden Gough

The children’s film Jim Knopf und die Wilde 13 is based on the book of the same title by Michael Ende (1929-1995). It came out in 1962, two years after his first book: Jim Knopf und der Lokomotivführer. Both stories have been performed as puppet shows by the famous Augsburger Puppenkiste as well as by a marionette theater in Düsseldorf, all of which one could see live and then also on film. Naturally, there was a Jim Knopf TV series. Now, 60 years later, Jim Knopf is still immensely popular.

As a baby, Jim (Solomon Gordon) arrived in a package delivered by the mailman by boat to the island of Lummerland, which has two small mountains and two houses. He was raised by the few residents: Lukas the train engineer (Henning Baum), King Alfons (Uwe Ochsenknecht), Herr Ärmal (Christoph Maris Herbst) who thinks he needs a job, and Frau Waas (Maria Herbst), who runs the small shop and cooks. Jim and Lucas leave the island to encounter The Wild 13, who are pirates on a ship with red sails. Along the way they visit the golden dragon Frau Mahlzahn and the Chinese town of Mandela to see Princess LiSi (Leighanne Esperanzate). Their two locomotives, Emma and Molly play a part. There is Nepumuk, a half dragon and half hippopotamus, which the dragons reject. A mermaid is looking for a magic crystal. Jim hopes to solve a personal problem: Where did he come from? What are his origins?

There has been some discussion lately, whether the film is racist, considering that Jim is a Black boy. There is no racism of any kind in this production. It’s multi-cultural: white Lukas, Black Jim, Asian LiSi. The word “black” is said one time referring to the three kings who visited baby Jesus in the manger. This film version is excellent, entertaining, and exciting, in part because it is not animation or puppets, but live actors. One of my favorites was the pirate captain played by Rick Kavanian. Filmed in Berlin/Potsdam and Cape Town, South Africa, by a huge team of special effects experts, it is a true classic with much appeal, even today, for anyone eight years or older. If you didn’t grow up with Jim Knopf, now is your chance to make his acquaintance. (Becky Tan)

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