Africa Roars through the Michel Kinder Festival with Much Success
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer
It was exciting to see the audience filled with children having their first taste of an African-style of film and they fully enjoyed it. There were two wonderful African films represented this year: Felix from South Africa and Horizon Beautiful from Ethiopia. Not only that, but Africa paved its way into Hamburg’s Kinder Festival history when the South African film Felix walked away with the Michel prize.
Felix, directed by Roberta Durrant, opens with a sense of joy when we see a group of children playing instruments and dancing in the sand. One boy stands out from the others due to his ability to play the penny whistle and sway to the rhythm. His name Felix (Hlayani Mabasa) means “happily” and he wears it well. At the same time we see his mother (Linda Sokhulu) working hard in order to get him a stipendium at the local private school. The moment he joins the school, he feels uncomfortable as he is faced with racism as well as classism. He is unsure where he stands until two boys jump in, when they realize that Felix is not only a talented person but is also an outsider like them. Felix has also a difficult home situation when he discovers that his father was not only a famous musician but had died of alcohol abuse. His mother wants him to go to school and not follow his father’s path, but Felix’s love of music gives him no other choice. The back drop is Cape Town and Durrant explained that the music particular to the area is called Cape jazz which is a kind of smooth jazz. She also said her film crew was almost all women and none of them had any problems filming in the local townships. The film manages to weave through several difficult issues with a light hand and was enjoyed by all ages.
Horizon Beautiful, directed by Stefan Jäger, was filmed in Ethiopia. A group of boys collects socks, plastic bags and any recyclable material to create a football. It is either that or go to school by the local orphanage, but for Admassu (Henok Tadele), there are no options. He will become a famous football star like Lionel Messi. When he hears that a famous football scout (Stefan Gubser) is coming to town, he does everything he can think of to meet him. Little does he know that this Swiss manager is an arrogant jerk and is not in the least interested in being there or looking for talent. Admassu, whose name means “horizon beautiful,” has to go to extreme measures in order to win his confidence. In real life the main actor was a street kid who now actually attends a local school. Director Jäger was invited by the Swiss Embassy and the Goethe Institute to teach at the Blue Nile Film Academy. He helped the students create this film and did not change their storyline which dives into some of the Ethiopian tales and customs. This film was different from Felix since it showed the chaos and street life of Africa and gave one a sense of the poverty that truly does exist there. Yet among all that chaos the people still find a way to enjoy themselves.
Film review - Mike Says Goodbye! (De Groeten van Mike!)
Director: Maria Peters, The Netherlands
Mike, who is just ten years old, suffers from leukemia and spends months at a time in the hospital for treatment. Finally he is all packed and ready to go home but his mother never comes to pick him up. Celia from the Welfare Protection Office (referred to by Mike as the Poodle due to her hairstyle) insists that he must be placed with a foster family as she thinks his mother is an unreliable alcoholic. Mike stays on a bit longer at the hospital and befriends Vincent. An accident left Vincent paralyzed in both legs and his old friends from school visit once never to return. Mike begins to show Vincent how much fun it can be to play in the hospital, impressing Vincent‘s parents as well with his take charge attitude. Then Mike must go to his new foster home. Even though his new foster parents are really nice and live in a fabulous big house, Mike wants to spend Christmas with his mother back in his own apartment. He decides he must make that happen on his own and cleverly makes it back home. Except his mother is not there. This is a wonderful film for the entire family with lots of laughs for kids and adults alike. It addresses tough issues though: leukemia, paralysis, alcoholism. But most importantly, it is about friendship and love. (MW)
Film review - The Mysterious Boy (Der Rätselhafte Junge)
Director: Dražen Žarkovic, Croatia
This Croatian film is based upon a children‘s novel which was written in the 1950s-‘60s by Ivan Kušan. The sequence of books were very famous for a long time in Croatia and no one had decided to make it into a film until the author’s son, Daniel Kušan, finally started filming the first book of the series. Director Dražen Žarkovic filmed The Mysterious Boy.
This film is a cross between the Famous Five and The Pink Panther. It is a fun-loving, enjoyable family film with lots of humor for all to see. The film opens up with two young lads investigating two bicycle robbers. The police book the two men, and warn the lads about meddling in other people’s business.
Amateur detective Koko and his partner in crime, Tomo, are always up for a new adventure. Their latest investigation involves a new mysterious classmate, named Mirko who seems to be having a lot of problems of his own. His puzzling behavior, especially during class, sends up a warning signal to the two investigators, as they feel there is a new case at hand. Unfortunately, they have to deal with an annoying presence, which is their aggravating classmate, Marijana. But she proves to be a great help to them in the end. During the movie you notice that there is a very special bond between the two lads although they have their ups and downs. Their close friendship causes them to overcome the many obstacles that are thrown their way.
Soccer, which is very popular in Croatia, plays a big part in The Mysterious Boy. Koko and Mirko are head to head over one of their school games; you can feel the animosity between the two lads. This builds up certain suspense with the viewers. At the end, detective Koko solves the two lives that Mirko lived. There are lots of interesting twists, to this film. It will keep the younger audience on their toes.
Even though the books were from the ’50s-’60s, Daniel Kušan who filmed the first part decided to move into a more recent time. Director Dražen Žarkovic agreed to put the film in the ‘80s, hence the special effects with the water and catfish. Also the designers worked on the clothing and hairstyles to put the actors into that space of time. Director Žarkovic, felt that they had to stay within the ‘80s, since this was before the Internet, Google street view, Facebook. Otherwise the film itself would not have had the same effect on the audience. (KK)
Film review – Mister Twister
Director: Barbara Bredero, The Netherlands
Herr Kees, aka Mister Twister, is a young man who substitute teaches in second grade at a local school. He has not even finished his teaching studies, but the school needs him. Definitely not mainstream, he introduces many fun events to the second graders. He brings a dog to school; he decorates the classroom according to the topic of the day; he allows lunch time whenever anyone (especially himself) is hungry. This is perfect for Tobias, who needs attention and challenges and, yes, a little bit of love. Soon Kees is the favorite of everyone except the thin-lipped school director Frau Dreus, and his pupils are able to repay him with a good deed. This was a perfect opening film, which appealed to everyone in the audience. (I know; I asked the kids.) Perhaps some day the Dutch will be translated into German and it will at least show on television. (BT)