Although it’s meant for kids, the Children’s Film Festival Seattle has plenty to offer adults, too. While this year’s programming doesn’t include any feature length narratives by or about Asians or APA’s, several shorts from Asian countries are worth watching.
Among them is Sprout, a live-action film directed by Ga-eun Yoon of South Korea. In this perfectly acted 20-minute tale, Kim Soo-an plays Bory, a precocious girl whose family is preparing to honor her late grandfather with an ancestral ceremony. The opening captures the scene from a child’s height to better understand Bory’s point of view. Surrounded by several female relatives discussing the planned menu, Bory looks as if she’s grasping at their conversation the way children often do around adults. When the women discover they’ve forgotten to purchase bean sprouts, it’s mentioned that Bory should go to the market and buy some. But they soon nix their own idea after considering Bory’s young age. Shooed away to go play in her room, Bory, instead, grabs her kiddie purse and heads out to the streets. Along the way, she encounters a myriad of delightful adventures in her cozy neighborhood.
Sweet in a non-sticky way, Bory is a pleasure to watch as she bows politely to the adults on her route in search for the elusive bean sprouts. With a child’s curiosity, she also displays a grown-up’s sensibility most of the time—except when she accidentally gets drunk. It’s probably the best scene in the film as Bory shows off her gift for bringing others together. A captivating story with English subtitles, Sprout is heartwarming.
The Song for Rain is a lovely animation from China. During a downpour, a boy with an umbrella spots a fox trying to collect rainwater with a leaky plastic bag. As the rain continues its inundation, the fox doesn’t even notice why his bag never completely fills. But, the boy comes up with an idea to help him. Drawn in pastels or chalk, the illustrations are charming with details like faded posters on city building walls and a blinking traffic light. Additionally, the mood of desolation followed by joy, are expressed eloquently through the music composed by Min He. It urges the story along so there’s no need for words, which filmmaker Yawen Zheng does without. She also dedicates this piece, her grad student project, fittingly to “Mother Nature.”
Decorations is a magical stop-motion film where everything is made of scrumptious looking cakes, colorful candies, crispy cookies, crumbly cupcakes and oodles of frothy frosting. In a crowded kitchen overlooking the city, a mother—who’s actually a cake-decorating bag filled with colorful icing—creates a profusion of delicious treats. Suddenly, a baby girl appears from one of her concoctions. As the mother squirts out more sweet fluff to add to her daughter, the toddler grows from childhood to a rebellious rocking teen and, finally, to a young adult. The mesmerizing storytelling style is complimented by dazzling music, thus rendering voices (which are nonexistent) unnecessary. Tokyo University of the Arts student Mari Miyazawa has been making what she calls “Bento Theater” for some time. The director definitely has a way of creating art with food, although this sugary tale is surprisingly bittersweet.
In Cherish Garden, another unique filmmaking style is employed using animated knitted objects. Japanese director Miho Yata features a girl who cares for a garden and everything in it: birds, bunnies, and butterflies—all of them knitted. There’s even a scene where threads knit themselves into flowers. As a rabbit with a flute performs inside a gazebo, adorable animals on park benches listen. Irish harpist Yasuko Naka fuses a European melody with Japanese lyrics, but no subtitles are needed to interpret the imaginative showcase.
It’s a special day for Dear November Boy, and the toddler can’t wait for it to begin. Awakening, he tries to rouse his unseen sleeping parent before climbing to the window for a snowy surprise. Other than music, the child’s gibberish, and birds tweeting some very familiar lyrics, this movie directed by Takeshi Yashiro has no words—just feelings.
Where’s the Fish? also begins with a character waking up. Dodo is a beautiful teal colored bear that discovers his cookies have been stolen. When he learns the culprit was a fish, he goes on a hunt for it. Directed by Enson Huang from Taiwan, the film includes colorful drawings of lovable lamas and Mandarin with English subtitles.
Also at this year’s festival are films from India, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan and Singapore. If you have kids, take them to the movies. Otherwise, bring your inner child.
The Children’s Film Festival Seattle runs from January 22 to February 7 at the Northwest Film Forum. For schedule and show times, visit www.childrensfilmfestivalseattle.org.