Post colonialism, ethnic partition, racial strife and religious fundamentalism are all heavy issues examined in movies featured at the Children’s Film Festival Seattle. Perhaps it’s because kids tend to be innocent of prejudice, a learned behavior, that they seem to handle differences more gracefully than adults; or, at least in they do in these films.
In “Harun Arun,” a boy and his grandfather journey from Pakistan to their hometown of Lakhpat India. But in the desert border of Kutch in Gujarat, they’re forced to separate and travel in secret. The boy is given the prized medal his Muslim grandfather won in a race with an old Hindu friend and instructed to find the man.
After being discovered asleep in the bushes by three children, the boy is hidden in a storage area. But once their mother finds out, she actually welcomes him as her fourth child. That is, until she uncovers his secret. Is the boy’s name the Islamic version Harun or the Hindi, Arun?
Constantly barraged by adults demanding to know why he speaks so strangely, the boy in his innocence makes them look like the strange ones. With a passion for singing, he often bursts into song and there’s a clever near Bollywood scene towards the film’s end.
In another Indian offering, The Road Home (part of a shorts series called Yes I Can: Kids Come of Age), another boy also experiences prejudice. But his is self-inflicted as he refuses to acknowledge his Indian heritage. Running away from his international boarding school in the Himalayas, the proper-speaking Pico flags a taxi and demands to be taken to New Delhi. Knowing only English limits his conversation with the driver, allowing him to deflect the cabbie’s earnest pleas to accept his Indian roots. There’s a comical scene where Pico is offered Indian food by a foreign tourist with disastrous results.
Also included in the shorts series is an intriguing documentary, Azza, about a 12-year old girl plotting the best way to ask her father about permanently removing her headscarf. Required to cover her hair because of her Muslim faith, the precocious Azza is a lively subject with an infectious sense of humor. While she loves her religion, Azza yearns to jog in gym class with her hair billowing behind her. As she lists reasons for wanting to forego her headscarf, other more traditional girls state their cases for continuing to wear theirs.
The opening night film, Tales of the Night, is a 3D animated masterpiece of black silhouette figures against blazing neon backgrounds. In one of six vignettes called The Boy Who Never Lied, a Tibetan man must choose between his talking horse and a strange but beautiful woman. Tragically, he is duped by two kings wagering on his ability to tell the truth.
Check out the website below for more films from Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam.
If you can’t make it to the Children’s Festival, but still want to get your ‘kid’ on, the anime Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos could satisfy the child in you–although it’s quite violent with a complex plot.
Based on a popular Japanese manga, this episode features brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric on a quest for the “Philosopher’s Stone” that could return their bodies to them. Although Ed has an arm made of metal, called an “automail,” poor Al has been reduced to a soul living inside full body armor because a human transmutation went wrong while attempting to reunite with their dead mother.
While hunting for an escaped prisoner in Table City, Ed, who’s a professional State Alchemist, and brother Al encounter snarling chimera wolves standing on hind legs and flying human bats with weapons. When Ed rescues another alchemist, Julia Chricton, the brothers learn that the Milosians who raised her had their holy land stolen before being relegated to a slum in the valley perched between two enemies. Soon, the action is on with evil military commanders, shape-shifting fighters and blood spewing everywhere.
Children’s Film Festival Seattle runs Jan. 26 – Feb. 5, Northwest Film Forum. For more information, please visit: www.nwfilmforum.org. Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, opens Jan. 20 at the Grand Illusion Cinema.