Anime sci-fi and a Studio Ghibli-inspired effort from China are the Eastern animation highlights at this year’s New York International Children’s Festival, running March 4 to 27 in Manhattan. The acclaimed festival received national attention two years ago when it hosted the premiere of The Secret of Kells, a European fantasy film that was later nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
North America’s largest film festival for children and teens, NYICFF offers an eye-opening selection of the best new animated and live action film from around the world for ages 3 to 18, with gala premieres, filmmaker Q&As, filmmaking workshops, pre-screening giveaways, audience voting, and the NYICFF Awards Ceremony. Its jury this year includes Uma Thurman, Matthew Modine, Susan Sarandon, Gus Van Sant, James Schamus, Christine Vachon, Michel Ocelot, and John Turturro.
This year’s selections from Japan and China are:
The Dreams of Jinsha
Saturday, March 5, 11:30 a.m., Cantor Film Center
Sunday, March 13, 11:00 a.m., IFC Center
Sunday, March 20, 12:00 p.m., Asia Society
China, Chen Deming, 2010, 85 min
Recommended Ages: 8 to Adult (Subtitled)
EAST COAST PREMIERE! Five years in the making, Chen Deming’s Oscar-shortlisted animated feature blends Chinese history and mythology in a time-travel, fantasy adventure – as a young boy from Beijing hurtles back in time 3,000 years to the Jinsha Kingdom and finds himself at the center of an ancient prophecy.
Entering a world of sweeping hand-drawn landscapes filled with serene rivers, spirit-filled forests, and seas of lotus blossoms, the boy Xiao Long meets a young princess riding a white lion, who escorts him to the palace of the Jinsha king. There he discovers that his arrival has been pre-ordained, and that the pendant that hangs around his neck – a gift from his father – has the power to either bring peace or unleash untold devastation upon the Kingdom and its people. Longing to return home, but also enchanted by his surroundings and newfound friends, Xiao Long faces a difficult choice between leaving the past behind, or staying and risking his life to save Jinsha. The animators clearly drew inspiration from the work of Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli fans will note references to Castle in the Sky, Nausicaa, and The Cat Returns) to create this epic but child-friendly fable about friendship, power, and self-sacrifice.
Welcome to the Spaceshow
Sunday, March 6, 5:00 p.m., Scholastic Theater
Saturday, March 12, 10:30 a.m., IFC Center
Saturday, March 12, 1:00 p.m., Symphony Space
Sunday, March 20, 3:00 p.m., Asia Society
Japan, Koji Masunari, 2010, 136 min
Recommended Ages: 7 to Adult (Subtitled)
U.S.PREMIERE! With an intergalactic cast of thousands, Kojo Masunari’s colorfully explosive debut feature sets a new high for visual spectacle and sheer inventiveness of character design – in what has to be one of the most gleefully surreal depictions of alien life forms ever portrayed in cinema.
It seems like just another lazy summer is in store for Amane and her older cousin Natsuki. Lolling about the Japanese countryside, the days are blithe and boundless. But boredom quickly vanishes when they find an injured dog in the woods and bring him back to the cabin – only to discover that he is not a dog at all, but Pochi, an alien botanist sent to Earth to track down a rare and powerful plant called Zughaan (better known to Earthlings as wasabi root). Before long, Pochi has whisked the kids away to a space colony on the dark side of the moon, an interstellar melting pot where we experience a non-stop parade of humorous alien creatures, jellyfish spaceships, dragon trains, and – if that weren’t enough – a theme song from UK pop anomaly Susan Boyle. (Really? Yes, really.) The plot twists come fast and furious, and with such a glorious barrage of color and invention washing across the screen, you just want to hit pause and gawk at the wonder of what you are seeing.
Time of Eve
Saturday, March 12, 4:00 p.m., Symphony Space
Saturday, March 19, 6:00 p.m., Asia Society
Japan, Yasuhiro Yoshiura, 2010, 106 min
Recommended Ages: 11 to Adult (Subtitled)
U.S.PREMIERE! Covering territory explored by Blade Runner and I, Robot, Time of Eve is an exquisitely drawn, sci-fi allegory that probes questions of artificial intelligence and emotions, while flirting with the moral and personal implications of human-robot romance.
It is the future and household androids are becoming common. Completely lifelike and indistinguishable from humans, androids are programmed to serve with devotion – so it is no wonder that highschooler Rikuo begins to have unsettling feelings towards his android Sammy, feelings heightened when he discovers a curious phrase recorded in her activity log, “Are you enjoying the Time of Eve?” Investigating with his buddy Masaki, they discover an enigmatic underground café, a robot safe-zone, where androids and humans interact as equals – in apparent violation of guidelines set by the all-powerful Robot Ethics Committee. Inside the café distinctions between human and android are blurred and both seem to reveal layers of emotional complexity not apparent in the outside world.
Note: Film contains mild sexually suggestive situations.
All New York International Children’s Film Festival tickets are $12. For more information on other films and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.gkids.com/index.php.
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