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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Michel Festival

by Becky Tan
The 15th children’s film festival (Michel Kinder und Jugend Filmfest) ran October 6-14, 2017, parallel to the Filmfest Hamburg. Here, not only are young people encouraged to go to the movies, they are invited to sit on the jury and to vote on best film. They moderate the introductions, as well as Q&A. They hold interviews, report on TIDE radio and attend workshops. The motto is: We turn over the whole field to the kids. The eight films in competition this year came from Norway, Japan, Canada, Germany, Finland/Denmark, China, Holland, and Tunesia/France. Shown in the original language, a practiced reader speaks the parts in German during the showing. This year, they added subtitles for two of the films for older kids, giving them the chance to practice reading subtitles. Five thousand euros went to the winning film, 1:54, from Canada which featured a 16-year-old athlete who is mobbed by his classmates.

I had a terrific morning in Abaton cinema surrounded by about 200 kids, age three to five in a section called “Minis for Minis” (Reihe für Minis). Whole kindergarten classes came with the teachers to see five short, animated films. Eva-Maria Schneider-Reuter was a fantastic moderator. She prepared the kids for the event, asking, “Who is in the cinema for the first time?” Many hands were raised. She let them “start” the film by saying “lights out, film on” which some experienced kids remembered from the previous year and took on with enthusiasm. The idea is not to be afraid of the dark. She prepared them for each film by asking them to pretend to catch the light or be airplanes, etc. They were encouraged to ask questions (“Did the bird eat the caterpillar?” or “Where did Ronald find his rabbit?”), and comment on each film such as naming favorite animals, etc. These five films were from Hungary, Switzerland, Iran, Holland, and Taiwan and none were hampered by any text, no translation necessary; all were easily understandable. I have great respect for the teachers who had the kids under control, well disciplined, no chance for accidents or losing anyone. I spoke to one group afterwards that had come all the way from Billstedt by public transportation. Later I saw another group in MacDonald’s, having lunch before getting on the train at Dammtor train station. I admire these enthusiastic teachers who take advantage of introducing their young charges to the world of film in the cinema outside of their home TV or iPads.

The last day of the children’s film festival I was waiting for HOTEL THE BIG L to show. Suddenly an exotic creature slithered by in front of the festival tent, someone with long dark hair, a fancy white jacket, glittery silver pants and high heels. It was Jorge Gonzales, a Cuban model and TV entertainer who has found a home in Hamburg. He has appeared as advisor in the television program “Germany’s Next Top Model,” and was a member of the jury for “Let’s Dance” and, later, “Stepping Out.” It turns out that he had a five-minute role in HOTEL THE BIG L as, true to form, a member of a jury to choose the winner of the Miss Beach Contest. After the film he stood on the stage with Dutch director Ineke Houtman and discussed the film with the audience, aged five to twelve.  

RUDOLF, DER SCHWARZE KATER (Rudorufu to ippai attena)
Kunihiko Yuyama/Mikinori Sakakibara, Japan

Rudolf lives with a lovely family in a comfortable home with a little garden but he feels that the grass is greener on the other side. So one day when the little girl forgets to shut the gate door on her way out to a friend, he sees his opportunity to explore the world. From the beginning he gets into trouble and takes the wrong escape route. Rudolf lands inside a giant truck which takes him to the big city of Tokyo where he befriends a pair of stray cats and a dog called Devil who teaches him the important things in life. We all know how smart cats are but now we know what their secrets are. This animated adventure-comedy promotes literacy as well as looking at the theme of a foreigner coming to the community and their acceptance. It is interesting to know that Kunihiko Yuyama is the illustrator for the POKEMON TV series and you can recognize his style in this film. The film is now available on DVD and is suitable for young children. (SRS)
HOTEL THE BIG L
Ineke Hautman, Holland
Kos is 13 and he with his three sisters must take over management of the family hotel when their father has a heart attack and ends up in the hospital. Four siblings who were often exasperated at each other’s sense of need or independence, must suddenly work together to save the family business which is on the brink of bankruptcy. They owe about eight hundred euros for an open grocery bill, several trays full of food are dropped, and the white tablecloths turn pink in the laundry. How about a party to celebrate a beauty pageant? That should earn some cash. (BT)

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