Color in Children's Cinema

in 24th International Film Festival for Children and Young Audiences, Chemnitz

by Roberto Tirapelle

Let’s start with Running to the Sky (Jo Kuluk, Kyrgyzstan 2019) by Mirlan Abdykalykov, first assistant and then self-made director since 2010. Set in a picturesque village in the Kyrgystan mountains within many sheep, chickens and some lynx, the film returns to us the colors of local children’s clothes, the rural life and heights and with them also the soul of Jekshen, the child interpreter, tormented by the divorce of his parents. Jekshen is passionate about running and with the support of his teacher and grandparents will be able to win races, photographed in a simple style, but measured by slow motion. In general, a dazzling effect and photography that shows us the ancient history of the Asian region, despite the simplicity of the narrative mechanism.

Spread Your Wings (Donne moi des ailes, France 2019), by Nicolas Vanier, who specializes in documentaries since 1985. Compared to the other films I have taken into consideration, Spread Your Wings uses a scale of colors familiar in nature, because the three motives of the film must be aligned. It is an interesting trick, in fact the work focuses on the possibility of teaching animals a certain model of survival in different seasons, beyond the natural order. In short, humans aspire to approach the nature that surrounding them, but climbing is difficult. And the way the film is shot shows that the director is both, a talented documentary filmmaker and also a photographer.

Another example of a film more inclined to emphasize feelings, the desires to protect nature and family affections we find it in Phantom Owl Forest (Eia joulud Tondikakul, Estonia 2018), the work of Estonian Anu Aun, who has been working on documentaries and films since 2001. Thanks to powerful photography by Heiko Sikka, the wonders of the forest inhabited by animals of extraordinary beauty emerge, but the range of colors is also enhanced on the clothes of the protagonists, considering that the film is set in a very cold area, with similar interiors. When the film comes around to Christmas and the New Year, it takes on the colors of real fireworks. The beauty of the fable, which faces very modern themes, is looked at through the eye of a legendary owl. 

Another film in which colors are the protagonists is Kings of Mulberry Street (South Africa 2019) by Judy Naidoo, a South African who traveled around the Anglo-Saxon and American world extensively to study film and television production. The story is set in Durban, a village in South Africa, where the lives of two completely different young people intertwine: one the wild passionate hero of Bollywood films, the second an introverted, polite person. Together they will face an evil gangster. From the beginning, the colors (photography by Greg Heimann) take over and during the journey, they will acquire greater connotations in the clothes worn, in the cars used, in the feast that is a prelude to the final clash, to that dose of colorful humor that is stratified in cinema, between film and Bollywood.

Another film of extraordinary color is My Life as Lotta – Bingo Flamingo (Mein Lotta-Leben, Germany 2019) by the Neele Leana Vollmar, a filmmaker since 2002. Two eleven-year-olds, Lotta and Cheyenne, were not invited to a big party attended by all their classmates. But they are determined to participate and do what they can to achieve this goal. Daniel Gottschalk has staged a photography focused on pastel colors that embellishes clothes, extravagant and wonderful objects, toys, balloons, interiors and exteriors. A feast for the eyes.

Finally, a noteworthy cartoon in the field of colors has been The Elfkins – Baking a Difference (Die Heinzels – Rückkehr der Heinzelmännchen, Germany 2019) by Ute von Munchow-Pohl, a German director who started with animation in 2001. Despite this being a cartoon, which is normally always very colorful, I was struck by the liveliness of the colors that make it even more fascinating, especially when the setting focuses on pastry and desserts, because Elfkins will help the owner to recover from the shop closure. The whole cartoon, aided by drawing and animation, is touched by a refined aura of colored light that recalls some classics of the genre.

Roberto Tirapelle
Edited by Karsten Kastelan