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12th Kristiansand International Children’s Film Festival, 28 April – 3 May 2009 report by Réka Szalkai, Hungary

Home of the festival: Föniks cinema in Kristiansand, Norway

The FICC jury in Kristiansand 2009: Line Pedersen, leader of Gamlebyen Children’s Film Club in Oslo, Hauke Lange-Fuchs, from the Nordic Children Film Days in Lübeck and Réka Szalkai from Hungary

Festival director Danckert Monrad-krohn

The festival which took place in South Norway’s mountainous capital has showed 99 films from 22 countries during 6 days. Beside the main program, which included both animation and feature films, there were very strong sections of youth’s films, panorama programme, documentaries, shorts and long shorts. The festival has put special emphasize on the latest Nordic film production, but extremely small film nations or very far and exotic countries, like Bahamas or Eritrea were represented or shown at the film festival as well.

The festival’s closing ceremony was held on the 2 May. French film Stella received FILM&KINO's Children's Film Award (75 000 Norwegian crowns), while two Swedish films; Flickan (The Girl) and I taket lyser stjärnorna (Glowing Stars) received the international CIFEJ Prize and the Don Quijote Award, this latter for the best youth’s film was given by us: the jury which represented the International Federation of Film Societies (FICC), members: Line Pedersen, leader of Gamlebyen Children’s Film Club in Oslo, Hauke Lange-Fuchs, from the Nordic Children Film Day sin Lübeck and me) The audience award, voted by the festival visitors, went to the Dutch movie, Frogs & Toads, and two of the very young actors received the award on behalf of director Simone van Dusseldorp.
While the main programme included 13 films, the youth programme consisted of 12 movies. Because of the urgency of making a decision already by 2 May noon, and also as a result of the relatively few evening screenings, our jury had three very busy days with seeing movies, and could barely watch films from the other sections (most of the „extra films” I saw I watched in the very well equipped video-bar, Saturday afternoon, just after handing our final decision and jury statement to the festival director, Danckert Monrad-Krohn.).
The youth programme tended to be pretty international, however, most of the films came from Western European countries, while there weren’t at all neither South nor North American movies in the section. The only country that had 2 films in this programme, maybe surprisingly enough, was Estonia (Klass (The class) and Mina olin siin (I Was Here)). Ilmar Raag, who was involved in both films (as director or script writer) was one of the main guests of the festival.

However, the youth programme was very strong, and our jury had very hard time when making a decision. We finally decided to give a special mention to the British movie Somers Town (2008, directed by Shane Meadows), which is a beautiful black and white documentary style drama, a story of two outsider soul mates (a Polish immigrant guy and a parentless country cool-guy lost in the city), with a big dose of good English humour. We specially enjoyed the artistic work of Thomas Turgoose (already known and internationally acknowledged child actor from Meadows’ earlier, prize-winning movie: This is England), who played one of the main characters, Tomo.
But this year’s Don Quijote prize was given by us to the Swedish I taket lyser stjärnorna (Glowing Stars, 2009, directed by Lisa Siwe), which is a story of a young girl who lives with her Mum who is dying of cancer. We liked the movie especially because beside of speaking about a family tragedy, it tells a lot about friendship and universal human values, thereby being a perfect youth’s film, and maybe in this sense the best example for a prize-winner in this section, not mentioning, that it is a really strong and well-made debutfilm for the director Lisa Siwe.

Apart of the movies, the festival has to be praised because of the high and professional level of organization, not only concerning the special programmes for its guests, but also the quality of the screenings and ceremonies, and other arrangements in general. Among the workshops and seminars which were also run within the frameworks of the festival, I would highlight two (where I could also participate in some parts, depending on my screenings’ schedule): the one-day seminar “Girls on film”, discussing the topic given in its title with a special emphasize on children’s and youth’s films, organized by ECFA, (the European Children's Film Association) and the Films on Horizon: two afternoons of Work in Progress meetings with the authors / producers of new Scandinavian film productions in all genres, in a very relaxed and cosy atmosphere (in a coffee bar just beside the festival’s main cinema.) Both of these programmes were held in English, so also the international guests could join them. They were very enriching and interesting for all the participants: in a nutshell, they were such good experiences, as the whole festival in itself.

Réka Szalkai – from Hungary, film journalist, interpreter, translator and MA in Scandinavian philology