The movies are pure magic through a child's eyes. Think back to your first theater experience. The intoxicating whiff of popcorn and warm butter in the lobby. Sitting in the plush, velvety seats, your legs not long enough to touch the ground, the darkness giving way to bright, mesmerizing images that transport you to another world. Typically a kid's first feature-length film is an animated confection liberally sprinkled with jokes that sail over his or her head, perhaps a Disney movie that has a matching ride at the theme park. This weekend you can broaden your children's horizons far beyond the Magic Kingdom. At the Next Gen International Film Festival, it actually is a small world after all.
The fest features films from a variety of countries, neatly separated into age-related categories. If your children are between nine and eleven years old, take them to First Screens. These films feature young protagonists dealing with real-life issues while having marvelous adventures. Il Magico Natale di Rupert is an Italian movie about a boy who is addicted to television and junk food. When he has to spend Christmas at his grandmother's house, he discovers a mysterious box in her attic that leads to the best gift of all. The Swedish film Misa Mi reveals a remarkable relationship between a wild she-wolf and a ten-year-old girl who is grieving over her mother's recent death.
Twelve- to fourteen-year-olds have the Free to Fly category, which includes movies that capture the confusion of preteen years in a straightforward way. Die Blindganger is a German film that tells the story of Marie and Inga, two blind teenagers who are talented musicians. Their sheltered life is irrevocably changed when they meet a boy who is a refugee. The Argentinean Kamchatka is about a ten-year-old boy whose family is being chased by an oppressive government regime.
The Y-Gen category speaks directly to fifteen- to nineteen-year-olds and tackles gritty subjects with an unflinching lens. The Japanese movie Winning Pass shows the transition of a seventeen-year-old basketball player when he suffers a life-altering accident. In The Wooden Camera, a beautiful South African film, two teenage boys stumble across a corpse that bears two possessions: a gun and a video camera. The boys relieve the body of its possessions and their lives take entirely different paths, influenced by their newly discovered, dangerous treasures. All of these fascinating films feature English subtitles, so your little ones can get some reading in with their international celluloid adventures. After this weekend's festival, your children don't have to miss out on foreign, family-friendly films. The Next Gen Film Club presents year-round screenings in theaters and public schools through film-related programs, and with artistic allies like the Miami International Film Festival, the Global Film Initiative, and the Jewish Film Festival. -- Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik