International Treasures

in 20th International Film Festival for Children and Young Audience, Chemnitz

by Gabriela Grunwald

This year’s festival was the perfect opportunity for children and young adults to see 132 films from all over the world: films which might not otherwise be screened in Saxony or even in Germany. The focus this year was on the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Some of the films achieved a very high standard of entertainment. An outstanding example was the Spanish production “Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang” (Zipi y Zape y el club de la canica), designed for children around nine. The story concerns twins Zip and Zap who are sent to a summer school where strict military rules apply. The boys don’t like this. They end up founding a group called the Marble Gang and misbehave to annoy the mean headmaster. The film is professionally executed and highly entertaining.

Other films were more valuable for depicting young people’s realities, past or present. “Secrets of War” (Oorlogsgeheimen, suitable for children aged 12 and older) was one of these films. This co-production gives an insight into the daily life of a Dutch village in 1943, where German soldiers are hated and feared by the villagers. The friendship between two boys breaks down when one of the boys discovers that his family is active in a resistance and the other boy tells him that his father is collaborating with the Germans. Director Dennis James Bots tackles difficult subjects such as collaboration, resistance and solidarity through a sensitive and powerful story and beautiful images.

“Sickos” (Kankerlijers) is another impressive film for young adults from the Netherlands. Four boys live in a cancer ward, but they don’t want to surrender to this evil disease. Therefore they fight with power and courage. Director Lodewijk Crijns is able tell this story in a tone exactly suited to young people.

The Chinese production “The Nightingale” (Ye ying) by French filmmaker Philippe Muyl shows a man and his granddaughter on a journey through China. The story starts in the big city of Beijing and ends in a very small, poor village in the countryside. The grandfather and the little girl don’t know each other at the beginning, but they forge a deep relationship during the trip. The film has beautiful images. It is very poetic, but it also shows the impact of the new capitalism on children in China. When parents work hard and have little time to share, the kids feel very lonely, even with all their iPhones and other accessories.

It is a pity that these outstanding films from around the world are seldom or never shown in German cinemas. The only chance for young viewers to discover these treasures is at film festivals like SCHLINGEL.

Edited by Lesley Chow