Understanding and Compassion

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

by Jan Erik Holst

SCHLINGEL is the international film festival for children and young audiences in Chemnitz, Germany. 136 films from 50 countries were presented, with a focus this year on the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Our FIPRESCI jury, consisting of Madelyn Most (France), Gabriela Grunwald (Germany) and Jan Erik Holst (Norway), was one of seven juries. We were assigned to watch 14 films in different categories: Youth Film Competition, Junior Film Competition, Children’s Film Competition, Focus Germany and Panorama. After our day’s work, we were tired but rewarded with evening screenings of films which were even more powerful and professionally made, dealing with more serious subjects.

The European Children’s Jury, comprising 16 children from eight countries, awarded films that we often liked, although any film with animals generally received gleeful cheers and laughter. Sometimes the films’ soundtracks were drowned out by the German voiceover for the kids, which made plots more challenging to understand, but we accepted this compromise on behalf of the young audience.

This year’s winner, the Finnish film “Ricky Rapper and the Slick Leonard” (Risto Räppääjä ja liukas Lennart) by Timo Koivusalo, is a humorous tale of a ten-year-old boy (Samuel Shipway) searching for a new father. Shipway received a Diamond Award for his acting achievements. A special mention was given to the Russian film “The Land of Good Kids” (Strana choroschich djetotschek), while “Casper & Emma’s Winter Vacation” (Karsten og Petra på vinterferie) was awarded an 11,000 Euro Prize.

The European Children’s Association (ECFA) awarded “Girlhood” (Bande de filles), from France’s Céline Sciamma. The 2014 Honorary SCHLINGEL Award was presented to Germany’s Arend Agthe, who is known for his classic 1983 film “Hen in a Boat” (Flussfahrt mit hühn).

We were impressed by the somewhat brave decision by festival organizers to open the festival early on Monday morning with the film “Secrets of War” (Oorlogsgeheimen), to a packed audience of young German schoolchildren. This film took us into the daily life of a Dutch village in 1943, thrown into turmoil by German occupying troops: soldiers in green uniforms who are hated and feared by the villagers. The film’s skilful and sensitive treatment of difficult themes such as collaboration, resistance, and solidarity made it a powerful reminder of the ravages of war and how it must be avoided at all cost.

Our jury also recognized the important film “Sickos” (Kankerlijers), which brought us into a hospital ward where kids with life-threatening illnesses fight with courage and determination to make every day of their lives meaningful. We also appreciated the poetic and beautiful imagery of “The Nightingale” (Ye Ying/Le promeneur d’oiseau), depicting a man and his granddaughter on a journey through China.

We decided that the FIPRESCI prize should go to “Behavior” (Conducta) from Cuba, directed by Ernesto Daranas Serrano. We awarded the entire ensemble cast of actors for their outstanding performances which made the film’s story ring true, raw, and authentic. We came to know and love the characters through their empathy, understanding and compassion for each other, despite their overwhelming challenges to survive in present-day Havana.

Edited by Lesley Chow