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New York Int’l Children’s Film Festival Announces Complete 2017 Slate

2017 program highlights include opening night screenings of ‘My Life as a Zucchini’ and ‘Revolting Rhymes,’ spotlight screening of Makoto Shinkai’s ‘Your Name,’ and closing day film ‘Ancien and the Magic Tablet.’

NEW YORK – Oscar qualifying New York Int’l Children’s Film Festival has announced the complete lineup for its 2017 event, a special celebration of its 20th year, which runs February 24 through March 19 at theaters throughout New York: DGA Theater, IFC Center, Scandinavia House, SVA Theatre, Cinépolis Chelsea. The Festival is also proudly expanding to Brooklyn with one weekend of screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse. Established in 1997, the acclaimed Festival is the nation’s largest for children and teens and will present new animated, live action, documentary and experimental shorts and features from approximately 30 countries. Tickets go on sale January 18th for members and January 25th for the general public at www.nyicff.org.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the 2017 Festival presents four weeks of groundbreaking, thought-provoking and lively new feature and short film programs carefully curated for a new generation of filmgoers ages 3 to 18. Feature film highlights include the East Coast premieres of the English-language version of My Life as a Zucchini (Switzerland) – the critically acclaimed 2017 Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film from Switzerland as well as Best Animated Feature contender, and Best Animated Feature Oscar entry and highest grossing anime film of all time, Your Name (Japan).

North American premieres include the films Revolting Rhymes (UK), Ancien and the Magic Tablet (Japan), Zip & Zap and the Captain’s Island (Spain), Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess: Four Enchanting Tales (France), Swallows and Amazons (UK), and additional titles including the US premiere of The Day My Father Became a Bush (Netherlands/Belgium/Croatia). Also highlighted is special Centerpiece Screening preview of the new Disneynature film Born in China.

The Festival will culminate with the Closing Night Celebration, which will include the announcement of the 2017 award winners and a special program of the Best of the Fest short films. As an Oscar-qualifying festival, NYICFF jury winners qualify for consideration for the 2018 Academy Awards in the Live Action and Animated Short Film categories. This year’s esteemed jury includes Sofia Coppola, Geena Davis, James Schamus, Christine Vachon, Gus Van Sant, Taika Waititi, Jeffrey Wright, Matthew Modine and more.

OPENING NIGHT FILMS:

My Life as a Zucchini – dir. Claude Barras (Switzerland/France) – East Coast premiere, Animation, 66 minutes, in English

“Zucchini” may sound like a weird name, but after the accidental death of his mother, the nickname is all the nine-year-old has left of her. The kids at his new group home seem to understand and, though hesitant at first, Zucchini soon finds himself part of their close-knit, makeshift family. So upon the arrival of latest newcomer Camille, he is quick to offer his own warm welcome. But when Camille’s greedy aunt tries to take her away, Zucchini and his newfound friends must find a way to stay together. With its beautifully expressive stop-motion style, My Life as a Zucchini tackles sometimes heavy subject matter with a light touch, conveying the children’s perseverance through precarious circumstances through the matter-of-fact lens of childhood. Recommended ages 11+

Revolting Rhymes – dir. Jakob Schuh & Jan Lachauer (UK) – North American premiere, Animation, 58 minutes, in English

Forget everything you thought you knew about Little Red Riding Hood. And Cinderella. And the Three Little Pigs... In “Revolting Rhymes,” Roald Dahl reimagined six classic fairy tales with his characteristically sardonic wit. Now his twisted tales come to life in two wondrously animated featurettes. These new stories have slightly rougher edges: a greedy pig banker pilfering Red Riding Hood’s hard-earned savings, a Cinderella less than thrilled with her post-ball prospects, and a Snow White who hightails it into the big city. And yet, compassion somehow miraculously holds on. Gallows humor, guffaws, knowing laughs, and sighs of relief all have their turn in this wicked and visually sumptuous tale, delicious enough to become a classic in its own right. Recommended ages 6+

OPENING SPOTLIGHT:

Your Name – dir. Makoto Shinkai (Japan) – East Coast premiere, Animation, 106 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles

The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. Total strangers Mitsuha and Taki live their teenage lives in separate cities until suddenly, for reasons unknown, they switch bodies. Beyond all of the physical awkwardness of their strange, new bodies, they must learn to navigate each other’s social realms and habits as they continue to swap back and forth unexpectedly. Incredibly, they adapt and form an intense bond by leaving each other messages. But can they manipulate fate and the destructive forces of the heavens to meet in person? Written, directed, and animated by anime master Makoto Shinkai (NYICFF 2008’s 5 Centimeters Per Second) in his stunningly detailed signature style, and the top-grossing anime production of all time, the film’s world is one where teenagers are full of sensitivity in the best sense: open to every experience and exchange, and eager to truly know one another. Recommended ages 10+

CLOSING DAY FILM:

Ancien and the Magic Tablet – dir. Kenji Kamiyama (Japan) – North American Premiere, Animation, 115 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles

This fender and genre-bending film takes us into the not-too-distant machine-driven future. Kokone should be diligently studying for her university entrance exams, but she just can’t seem to stay awake. Aside from stealing precious study time, her napping is even more distracting, as it brings on strange dreams with warring machines that hint at family secrets that have been dormant for years. She can’t ask her father, a hipster mechanic more talented and artful than his job requires, as he’s always busy modifying motorcycles and cars in flights of fancy. What are these visions that lead Kokone at once closer to and farther away from her family? Like all the best anime, the film revels in multilayered fantasy to show how sometimes opposites—waking and dreaming, the past and the future—are far more intertwined than they appear. Recommended ages: 9+

CENTERPIECE SCREENING:

Born in China – dir. Lu Chuan (China/USA) – Special Preview Screening, Live Action Documentary, 79 minutes, in English

The visual splendor of the natural world and its extraordinary creatures is captured on a grand scale in Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure film Born in China. Follow the stories of three animal families—a doting panda bear mother and her growing baby; a jealous golden monkey and his new baby sister; and the elusive snow leopard and her two cubs —that populate various corners of China’s vast terrain. From the lush green thickets of the panda’s bamboo forest to the white-capped mountain lairs of the snow leopard, Born in China offers a remarkably intimate look at the challenges and charms of raising a family never before captured on film. Rated G

NYICFF 2017 FEATURE FILMS (ALPHABETICAL):

The Day My Father Became a Bush – dir. Nicole van Kilsdonk (Netherlands/Belgium/Croatia) – US Premiere, Live Action, 90 minutes, in Dutch with English subtitles

Ten-year-old Toda lives an idyllic life with her baker father, concocting sweet confections to the delight of their town. But when her father is drafted to join the war between the “Ones” and the “Others,” their tranquil existence is upended. With her father gone and war dangerously encroaching on their town, Toda must make the secret trek to her mother’s home across the border. Along the way, she meets corrupt officials, narrow-minded neighbors, sketchy smugglers, and—luckily—friend and fellow refugee, “Stickie.” Together, they are bolstered by camaraderie and bravery. With strikingly earnest performances from the young actors and without allusions to any specific nationalities, The Day My Father Became a Bush provides a wistfully universal story about the power of resilience and empathy over fear and bigotry. Recommended ages: 8+

Fanny’s Journey – dir. Lola Doillon (France/Belgium) – New York Premiere, Live Action, 94 minutes, in French with English subtitles

Based on a memoir by Fanny Ben-Ami, Fanny’s Journey is an incredible tale of survival and friendship in the face of the adversity of World War II. Fanny has been sent with her siblings to a foster home in Italy for safety. But when the threat of Nazi persecution expands, the quick-witted 11-year-old must lead a group of children across the Swiss border. Negotiating false names, alternately trustworthy and treacherous adults, and life-threatening situations, Fanny remains determined in her role. With awe-inspiring shots of the European countryside as a backdrop, the film delicately shows the hardship of history through the eyes of children, reminding us that everyday joys and tight bonds can help overcome the most difficult obstacles. Recommended ages: 12+

Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess: Four Enchanting Tales dir. Michel Ocelot (France) - North American Premiere, Animation, 57 minutes, in French with English subtitles

Renowned animator Michel Ocelot (Kirikou and the Sorceress) originally conceived of this enchanting collection of fairy tales in his signature silhouette style of animation as a series related to past Festival feature Tales of the Night (NYICFF 2012). A master projectionist and his two assistants bring life to four magical tales. Stories of a shape-shifting princess, a cat whose natural ability seems supernatural to some, a girl who learns to harness—not hide from—her fears to fight the most daunting of beasts, and a boy tempted by the promises of a sorcerer are full of rich imagery, plot twists, and charming characters. As always, Ocelot’s illustrations provide a stunning platform to explore the very art of storytelling. Recommended ages: 7+

Little Mountain Boy – dir. Xavier Koller (Switzerland) – New York Premiere, Live Action, 104 minutes, in Swiss with English subtitles

When an accident leaves Ursli and his family without their annual harvest, they must strike a deal with a wealthy merchant in order to survive including giving up Ursli’s beloved goat, Zila. At least there’s Chalandamarz, the end-of-winter festival, to look forward to. Ursli is sure he’ll receive the best of the traditional bells given to all the local boys. When this, too, is taken by the merchant and his equally greedy son, it takes Seraina, a brave girl, to help him stand up for himself and set things right. Adapted from the iconic Swiss novel “A Bell for Ursli,” this fable is a serenade to a just, natural world filmed amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Alps. Recommended ages: 7+

Mr. Frogdir. Anna van der Heide (Netherlands) – New York Premiere, Live Action, 85 minutes, in Dutch with English subtitles

Sita wants nothing more than a little quality time with her mother, who is often busy tending to the (literally) ruffled feathers of her patients at the local veterinary clinic. Yet it’s her mother’s expertise that instills in Sita a love and understanding of the animal kingdom that she’s eager to share in her upcoming school report on amphibians. Curiously, whenever she utters the word “frog” in the classroom, her teacher goes a bit green at the gills and disappears—a problem considering the unconventional educator is being monitored closely by the strict principal. Based on a story by best-selling author Paul van Loon, this charmingly quirky tale infuses its rustic setting with subtle fantasy to portray a group of students who stand steadfast by their beloved teacher no matter where—or in what form—he hops. Recommended ages: 7+

Panda, Go Panda!dir. Isao Takahata (Japan) – Fest Flashback, Animation, 72 minutes, in English

We’re flashing back to a Festival classic that our youngest audiences may have missed! From the legendary team that formed Studio Ghibli (with original concepts and character designs by Hayao Miyazaki) comes two deliriously delightful animated featurettes. Seven-year-old Mimiko has somehow persuaded her grandmother to take off by train and leave her home alone. She’s quite capable of handling all duties of home and hearth, but gets more than she bargains for when Papa Panda and baby Panny turn up at her door. Their round bodies, wide grins, and off-kilter clowning offer the first glints of another charming neighbor to come. Infused equally with the amazing and the absurd, this seriously fun Totoro precursor is sure to win over new audiences and seasoned Ghibli fans alike. Panda, Go Panda, indeed! Recommended all ages

Rudolf the Black Catdir. Kunihiko Yuyama & Monotori Sakakibara (Japan) – North American Premiere, Animation, 89 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles

Rudolf enjoys a life of comfort and care in Gifu, Japan. Yet true to the adage, curiosity gets the best of the kitten, and he decides to explore beyond the four walls of his home. When he’s inadvertently whisked into the back of a cargo truck and lands in Tokyo, he befriends Gottalot, a seasoned street cat who possesses a crucial and unusual skill that will help him find his way home: the ability to read the human language. Rudolf’s journey is rich with Japanese culture, and his story celebrates the wonder of discovery—that magical moment when you realize you have the key to unlock the world. Recommended ages: 7+

Swallows and Amazonsdir. Philippa Lowthorpe (UK) – North American Premiere, Live Action, 97 minutes, in English

Lake District, England. 1935. The four Walker children have finally convinced their parents to let them set off on their own for a sailing adventure during summer vacation. Their summer of freedom quickly turns into a fierce turf war when they learn their island camp has been claimed by the boisterous Amazons, and find themselves caught in the midst of some nefarious international intrigue that’s landed in their sleepy byways. Based on the beloved English novels by Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons is filled with dramas big and small—from a capsized picnic basket to a Russian spy campaign—that come together to create a fluidly captivating story of bravery set against the languorous beauty of the English countryside. Recommended ages: 6+

Window Horsesdir. Ann Marie Fleming (Canada) – New York Premiere, Animation, 85 minutes, in English

Rosie Ming wants nothing more than to live the life of a Parisian poet. Instead, the only child of a Chinese mother and Iranian father lives in Canada with her over-protective grandparents. She’s overjoyed to receive an unexpected invitation to a poetry festival, but has some misgivings upon realizing that it’s not in Paris, but in Iran. Culture shock upon arrival soon gives way to total fascination as she (and the audience) discovers the area’s rich artistry and storytelling. With the help of new friends, Rosie uncovers her connection to Iran, her inspiration, and her own artistic voice. Anne Marie Fleming’s adaptation of her own graphic novel beautifully mixes animation styles to create a testament to the value of identity and the power of art to bridge languages, cultures and generations. Recommended ages: 9+

The World of Usdir. Gae-eun Yoon (South Korea) – New York Premiere, Live Action, 95 minutes, in Korean with English subtitles

Bright-faced and modest, Sun is a devoted daughter and big sister, but she can’t seem to connect with her classmates. When new girl Jia moves to town over summer break, Sun’s luck begins to change. The two form a fast bond, spending their days trading friendship bracelets, stories, and recipes (you’ll leave craving kimchi). Yet when school starts again, Jia quickly sees Sun as the rest of the class does: as an outcast on the other side of the social class line. But Sun still holds out hope for friendship with Jia, who despite her popularity, has problems of her own. With intimate shots and a lingering camera, The World of Us presents a quiet but poignant story of the complexities—and, ultimately, the joys—of female friendship, cultural values, and family life that ring true no matter what the setting. Recommended ages: 9+

Zip & Zap and the Captain’s Islanddir. Oskar Santos (Spain) – North American Premiere, Live Action, 100 minutes, in Spanish with English subtitles

A follow up to NYICFF 2013 audience favorite Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang, no familiarity with the original is necessary to jump right into this boisterous and stylized Spanish caper. As a punishment for accidentally setting a toy store on fire, Zip and Zap’s parents forgo their traditional Christmas holiday and drag the boys along on a work trip. Something is amiss when a sinister storm lands them at the grand, cliff-side mansion of Miss Pam, a children’s literature-loving headmistress for a freewheeling home for children separated from their parents. With sweeping views of the dramatic Basque coast and settings that evoke fantastical stories from J.M. Barrie to Jules Verne, the latest chapter in the Zip and Zap saga is equal parts comic book antics and mysterious adventure. Recommended ages: 8+

NYICFF’S SHORT FILM PROGRAMS

The Festival’s wildly popular short film programs showcase the best short films from around the world, selected from over 1,500 entries. Jury-selected winners will be eligible for Oscar consideration in animated and live action short film categories.

  • Shorts For Tots (Ages 3 to 6)
  • Short Films One (Ages 5 to 10)
  • Short Films Two (Ages 8 to 14)
  • Short Films Three (Ages 12 to adult)
  • Heebie Jeebies: Spooky, Freaky & Bizarre (Ages 10 to adult)
  • Girls’ POV (Ages 10 to adult) - Each film in the Girls’ POV program features a strong female lead, or an issue faced by girls around the world.
  • Birthday Shorts: (All ages) - A special celebration with a selection of new and classic festival shorts filled with stories of growth, change and transformation in honor of the festival’s 20th birthday
  • Friends and Neighbors: Canada (Ages 7+) - Our neighbors to the north from TIFF Kids International Film Festival, the people behind the Toronto International Film Festival, have compiled a special program of past favorites in celebration of their own 20th birthday.

2017 FESTIVAL JURY:

  • John Canemaker – Academy Award-winning animator (The Moon and the Son)
  • Sofia Coppola – Academy Award-winning director, writer, and producer (Lost In Translation, Somewhere, Marie Antoinette)
  • Geena Davis – Academy Award-winning actor and Founder, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
  • Lynne McVeigh – Associate Professor of Children’s Media at NYU Tisch School of the Arts
  • Matthew Modine – Award-winning actor (Full Metal Jacket, The Dark Knight Rises)
  • Richard Peña – Director Emeritus New York Film Festival, Columbia University Professor of Film Studies
  • James Schamus – Award-winning filmmaker (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm)
  • Christine Vachon – Award-winning producer (Boys Don’t Cry, Mildred Pierce)
  • Gus Van Sant – Award-winning director (Good Will Hunting, Milk)
  • Taika Waititi – Academy Award-nominated writer/director (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Two Cars One Night)
  • Jeffrey Wright – Award-winning actor (Basquiat, The Hunger Games)

Source: New York International Children’s Film Festival

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.

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