22nd International Film Festival for Children and Young Audiences, Chemnitz
Germany, September 24 - October 2 2016
Dinu-Ioan Nicula (Romania), Marina Kostova (Macedonia), Rolf Rüdiger Hamacher (Germany)
The Eagle Huntress by
(USA, 2016, 87 mins)
The past (Karl Marx’s huge statue), the present (a multiplex with several cinema halls) and the future (pupils coming each morning to the screenings) are joined in order to make Schlingel probably the most interesting film festival in Germany focused explicitly on a young audience. The experience gained in the 20 years of its existence (some of the first spectators of 1996 now have their own children!) was transformed (dialectically!) into a quality organization that is visible on every layer: the guest reception (coordinator Jeannette Süss), relations with press and juries, kindness of the volunteers, good projections, a competently edited catalogue and various publications etc. On the other side, we must not forget the main target – children, many of them in the first grade of school – so the German translation must be done via microphone into the auditorium.
The opening ceremony of the 2016 edition (with a new record of 21,000 spectators for 181 films from 54 countries) was held at the splendid Opera House of Chemnitz (near the festival’s main venue) where, during the week, some visitors may have seen Rossini’s classical masterpiece dedicated to children – La Cenerentola – with an ingenious stage direction that kept the attention of the young public throughout.
It was a tough test for film fans to follow as many movies as possible, from those for children aged 5 to those for teenagers (…and maybe few titles over this age category). So it was also the mission of several juries, especially those consisting of adult members, to bear in mind that the tools for evaluating children’s films are, in a way, different from those used for other genres.
The main prize (European Children’s Film Award of the Saxon State Minister for Culture) was awarded by an international children’s jury to a film that tried to follow the principles of the well-known Czech tradition in the field of film children: Crown Prince (2015) by Karel Janák.
In the increasing age categories, Buffalo Rider (US/Thailand 2015, directed by Joel Soisson) and My Name is Emily (Ireland 2015, directed by Simon Fitzmaurice) scored victories in the Junior Film Competition.
A very important jury was that of the European Children’s Film Association (ECFA), which crowned The Children of Chance (Les Enfants de la Chance, France 2016, directed by Malik Chibane), a dramatic episode from the Holocaust in Paris, and which gave an Honorable Mention to the bitter comedy That Trip We Took With Dad (Die Reise mit Vater, Germany/ Romania/ Hungary/ Sweden 2016, directed by Anca Miruna Lazarescu).
As always, the Prize of the FIPRESCI Jury has a special weight, and it was awarded to The Eagle Huntress (US 2016, directed by Otto Bell and filmed in Mongolia), “for the documentaristic and, in the meantime, full of imagination approach to the dedication of a charismatic young girl to overcome the taboos of gender, specific to an ancestral culture, in order to spread her wings to an ideal of life”.
Other films have impressed the public and the juries, too: Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass (Tôi thay hoa vàng trên co xanh, Vietnam 2015, directed by Victor Vu), which received the Best Child Actor award for Thinh Vinh Tran and the Main Award the Professional jury; Hunt for the Wilderpeople (New Zealand 2016, directed by Taika Waititi), which took the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury; and Long Way North (Tout en haut du monde, France/ Denmark 2015, directed by Rémi Chayé), which got the Animation Jury Prize.
Since 2006, the Festival has awarded the “Schlingel of Honour” to a filmmaker who has shown exceptional commitment to the field of children and youth films. This year’s award went to the German scriptwriter and filmmaker Herrmann Zschoche, aged 82, who directed many DEFA feature films for children and adolescents.
The closing ceremony was hosted in the beautiful hall of Chemnitz’s Mayor’s Office; it’s a pity that it was not as full as the festival deserved, but it has given an opportunity to the winners to receive applause on stage, and for the festival’s director, Michael Harbauer, to publicly rehearse his management programme, with a promise for further attractive editions. (Dinu-Ioan Nicula, edited by Birgit Beumers)