Showing posts from April, 2014

"Nature Break" featuring Squirrel and Owl

Monday April 21, 2014 I really enjoyed going to the TIFF Kids International Film Festival, but after more than a week straight spent inside dark theaters watching movies or inside bright theaters watching panel discussions, it was time to spend some time outside. One of the first things I saw on today's nature jaunt was a red squirrel. I've seen them before in the park, but not very often and not for a long time, so this made for a great start. Then there were many of the usual suspects for this time of year. A grackle took time to pose on a rock for me, I pestered a robin while he/she was in the bath, and the red-winged black birds were out in force: I also saw Northern flickers, a night heron, plenty of tree swallows, a brown creeper, lots of ducks and geese and sparrows, and heard a woodpecker. It had been a very nice walk and I was ready to go home when a passing young couple noticed my camera and I heard the woman say "Tell her about the owl

2014 TIFF Kids Feature: "Regret! (Spijt!)"

Sunday April 20, 2014 I was surprised yesterday when I heard that the Dutch film Regret! won the TIFF Kids Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film. I saw Regret! on the first weekend of TIFF Kids 2014, and it immediately became the first film I would name when people asked if I'd seen anything good. It's an incredibly well-made movie about bullying gone too far, with a nicely balanced script (adapted from a novel) and effortless performances from a cast of talented young actors. The Story David (Robin Boissevain) knows it isn't right that his mild and out-of-shape classmate Jochem (Stefan Collier) is the constant target of pranks and ridicule. But Sanne (Charlotte Bakker) and her small group of followers are unrelenting, even when David makes feeble attempts to intervene. David's crush Vera (Dorus Witte) does a better job of standing up for Jochem, but she becomes a target because of her friendship. With no help coming from a teacher (Dave Mantel) wh

2014 TIFF Kids Feature: "Felix"

Sunday April 20, 2014 This is another place-holder post to recommend "Felix" from South Africa, which  won the TIFF Kids Festival Jury Award Ages 8-10   and so will get an additional screening tomorrow (Monday April 21) !  Of course I also recommend both of the other feature-length award winners that screen again on Monday, "Regret!" and " Side by Side ". Take your pick - you can't lose! Felix lives with his widowed mother and his two younger siblings in a lower-income community in South Africa. He dreams of being a jazz musician like his father, and his acceptance-with-scholarship to a private school seems set to offer new musical opportunities along with academic ones. But after losing her husband due to his hard-living musician's lifestyle, Felix's mother is distraught by her eldest son's dreams and makes Felix choose between exploring his talent and remaining part of the family. Felix  is a lively, energetic and colour

2014 TIFF Kids Feature: "Side by Side"

Sunday April 20, 2014 This is a place-holder post, as I'm heading out to do family Easter things shortly, but I want to recommend "Side by Side" from the UK, which  won the TIFF Kids Festival Jury Award Ages 11-13   and so will get an additional screening tomorrow (Monday April 21) !  That said, I also recommend both of the other feature-length award winners which will screen on Monday, "Regret!" and "Felix". Take your pick - they're all great! "Side by Side" is about a brother and sister whose lives are in upheaval and set out on a quest together across the Scottish countryside. Unlike many sibling relationships in kids movies (which are often either antagonistic or buddy-buddy/ying-yang/perfect-partner-crime-solving-duo), "Side by Side" offers a fun and realistic look at siblings who can at once love and hate each other. They are both baffled by the choices their sibling makes, and yet offer each other the best c

Video: Peggy's Easter Song

Saturday April 19, 2014 Yes, I realize the Easter weekend has already started, but Peggy had a last-minute idea for a " When I'm Gone (Cups) " parody, and she wouldn't take no for an answer. So Steve and I helped her put this together late last night: The Lyrics "You've got your chocolate and your jelly beans Your basket's filled with plastic straw But before you eat your sweet Easter treats Why don't you grab a chicken egg and start to draw? Easter song, Easter song I'm gonna sing my Easter song That silly bunny has to wait 'Cause we've got eggs to decorate. I'm gonna sing my Easter song. Gather your family and hard-boil eggs Then draw the wax design you please You dunk it down in coloured dye You let it soak then let it dry You can buy gifts but you can't buy more memories. Easter song, Easter song... Can chickens sing an Easter song? Can I sing or will I cluck? Can I sing or just BUH-GUCK? Well

2014 TIFF Kids Feature: "Giraffada"

Thursday April 10, 2014 The 2013 film  Giraffada  is the story of a giraffe-obsessed boy and his veterinarian father, who spend their days caring for plants, animals, and each other while living in the occupied West Bank. Young Ziad (Ahmad Bayatra) doesn't fit in with other children, but he's lucky enough to have close contact with Rita and Brownie, the giraffes who live at the Qalqilya Zoo where his father Yacine (Saleh Bakri) is on staff. Yacine struggles to do what's best for his animal charges, constantly butting heads against a zoo manager who saves money by painting a donkey to look like a zebra, expecting bears to survive on carrots, and providing his vet with out-of-date medications. When a nearby attack leads to tragedy inside the zoo, Yacine has to promise Ziad a miracle that he's not sure he can deliver. With the help of a French photo-journalist and an Israeli zoo vet, they challenge checkpoints and risk everything to give Rita a reason to live.

TIFF Kids 2014 Feature Documentary: "School of Babel"

Tuesday April 08, 2014 Directed by Julie Bertuccelli , School of Babel  ( La Cour de Babel ) is a 2013 observational documentary from France. It focuses on one year in teacher Brigitte Cervoni's "reception class" (" une classe d’accueil ") at La Grange-aux-Belles school in Paris. From The reception class serves as a landing ground and safe haven for students who have arrived in France with a limited (or completely absent) understanding of the language. The students are anywhere from 11 to 15 years old, but far more striking than the age range are the differences in their lives before they arrived in their new home. They come from all over the world - Northern Ireland, England, Chile, Brazil, Mauritania, China, Serbia, the Ukraine, and elsewhere. There are refugees and asylum seekers, a boy whose family moved for economic reasons and a girl who was sent away by her mother to escape oppression and abuse from her father's side of

It's the TIFF Kids Time of Year

Monday April 07, 2014 Assuming I don't sleepily smash my alarm clock to little bits, I'll be out the door nice and early tomorrow to get to the TIFF Bell Lightbox for the first morning of the 2014 TIFF Kids International Film Festival. Formerly known as Sprockets, TIFF Kids offers screenings and events for children and young teens, plus industry events for the people who work, study, or are trying to break into the world of kids media. I attended the festival for the first time last year and was blown away by both the films and the sessions I attended - unfortunately my decision to register came at the last minute, so I didn't set aside time to prepare beforehand or blog after the fact . But this year my notebook and I are ready*, so expect a lot of posts about kids movies from around the world over the next two weeks. Got kids? Got a whole class of kids? Just like movies that are made for kids? Check out for this year&#

A Too Long 3-Day Novel Wrap-Up, 6 Months Later

Tuesday April 1, 2014 (This blog post is epic, and probably only of interest to my mom. If you just want my  3-Day Novel Contest  take-away tips for writers, you can  skip down to the "Suggestions" section .) Well, the  shortlist for the 2013 3-Day Novel Contest is out and I'm not on it, which is what I was expecting. Caution: Reading this will make you reconsider how you spend   your long weekends. I really like the story I started that weekend, but having  read many of the winning 3-Day Novels over the past few years, I knew mine didn't have a chance of winning. It was too short, too scattered, and simply felt incomplete. If you haven't read any of those books, you should - it's astonishing what people have created in three days.* (I recommend  In the Garden of Men . Or Socket . Or Struck . Or Snowmen, Heidegger Stairwell, The Convictions of Leonard of McKinley ...).  I held out a small hope for an Honourable Mention/shortlisting (because