Article written by Dayna Gonzalez.
One of my favorite film festivals is hitting New York City theatres with wonderful films from around the world. From February 27 – March 15, 2009, the New York International Children’s Film Festival presents animated, live action and experimental shorts and features from around the world along with retrospectives, filmmaker Q&As, and workshops. A few animated films will have their US premieres here, and it’s a rare and sweet treat to see them on the big screen. A number of NY based animators are often featured at this festival and a few have gone on to win awards.
The audience is full of very excited children and parents, who get a chance not only to enjoy not-often seen films, but also to participate in the voting process. At each of the short film screenings, audience members are handed voting ballots and tiny yellow pencils, and asked to rate each film. You’ll often hear little children yelling out “I loved it!” “Eh, that was so-so”, “Oh I hated that one! It was so short!” Their exclamations are really hilarious to hear. Of course, a few tantrums and crying fits are always thrown in for good measure. This Sunday, I saw the Shorts for Tots program, which featured a few of NY’s finest. 7 Days of the Week by Animator Sean McBride and Illustrator David Cowles, and Hedgehug, by Animator Dan Pinto.
The festival opened with the US premiere of Mia and the Migoo, from French animator Jacques-Remy Girerd, followed by an audience Q & A. This beautiful masterpiece was entirely hand-drawn, set against lush watercolor backgrounds of forests and open fields. It is a sight to behold, and quite breath-taking. We follow young heroine Mia as she sets off on a journey across continents in search of her father, a laborer trapped in a landslide at an accident-prone construction site in the tropics. Along the way, she meets adorable, bumbling forest spirits called Migoo, who protect and guard the ancient Tree of Life. Together they join forces to find Mia’s father and save the tree from being destroyed. If you get a chance to see this film, I highly recommend it.
Jacques introduced the film and asked all 6 years old to stand up in the audience. He then explained that for as long as they had been alive, this film was in production. He laughed and joked that he was taking a chance with this film in the country of 3D, but that he was invited, so it must be ok. I remain hopeful we will not be known as the land of 3D forever. I think there is room for all kinds of animation. Diversity in art is healthy.
It took a bit of coaxing, but a bunch of children lined up at the mike to ask the filmmaker questions. Here is some of the information I gleamed from their probing questions. This film was made up of approximately 500,000 drawings all by hand. About 220 artists worked on the film, and the backgrounds were done in gouache. The seven Migoos were a wink at Walt Disney and his seven Dwarfs. The name Migoo comes from the actual name given to the Abominable Snowman. Artists Matisse, Renoir, and Raul Du Fe were heavy influences on this film, but it was important to Jacques that the film reflect what was inside of himself and who he was.
“Why did you make this movie about nature?” “Because we need nature”, Jacques explained. He went on to talk about how it’s up to artists and filmmakers to save the earth by telling stories, so that maybe the viewer will grow up to do something about it. “How is it like making a film?” He spoke of having the good fortune to work with a team of 30 really good friends, in the South of France. It was an easy experience, and a pleasure seeing them make the film. But he gets the most pleasure from seeing how the film touches the audience. And touch them, it did. The film got tons of applause and much laughter throughout.
If you get a chance to make the festival this year, I highly recommend it. I’ve been going for the last 3 – 4 years, and it’s always chock-full of wonderful films. It’s highly attended, and seems to grow with every passing year. In fact, they do hold year round screenings. It’s kind of a shame I don’t see more animators and artists at this festival. It’s not that expensive to attend and you get to see films not often seen in the US at all. It’s very inspirational and it’s fun to see how children react to the films. To find out more about the festival visit http://www.gkids.com. Not to be missed – Sita Sings the Blues, by Nina Paley, followed by audience Q & A.