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The 11th Kristiansand International Children’s Film Festival, by David O Mahony, Ireland

The 11th Kristiansand International Children’s Film Festival this year played host to an eclectic mix of nearly 70 films aimed at younger audiences, including feature films, documentaries, and short films, as well as providing an interesting programme of film workshops and seminars.

Taking place in the picturesque coastal town of Kristiansand in southern Norway, between Tuesday 22nd and Sunday 27th April 2008, the Festival saw roughly 12,500 young people and adults attend screenings, a slightly lower figure than the 13,000 recorded at the 2007 Festival. Some 420 industry professionals and representatives from various films on the programme were also in attendance at the weeklong event.

The Festival’s opening screening was Fighter, a Danish production dealing with themes of individuality and empowerment as kung fu student Aicha attempts to convince her Turkish parents that attending medical school is not the path she wishes to choose in life. Defying her family and its traditional value system, Aicha starts secretly training at a professional fighting club.

Fighter’s themes of cultural identity, immigration and traditional vs. new values were to prove indicative of the Festival as many other films, especially in the Youth Programme, explored similar territory.

The festival’s broad remit this year encompassed a seminar on ‘Media Literacy in Film Festivals and Film Distribution’. Topics such as how festivals and distributors could attract more schools to film screenings were raised.

Four awards were handed out at the closing ceremony; from the Main Programme Danish animation feature A Tale of Two Mozzies received the Audience Award, worth 100,000 Norwegian Kroner (about EUR 12000).

Swiss animated feature Max & Co, which was also from the main Programme, received the Film&Kino award.

Icelandic feature No Network received the CIFEJ jury award.

The Don Quixote prize for Best Film in the Youth section went to Australian feature The Black Balloon. This subtle yet honest film explores the relationship between two brothers, Thomas and Charlie (played by Rhys Wakefield and Luke Ford, respectively). Charlie is autistic and in need of constant supervision; his condition impacts on Thomas’s burgeoning relationship with Jaki (Gemma Ward) in ways that force Thomas to revaluate his position as his brother’s carer. This brave feature from director Elissa Down was a deserving winner in this category.

Ireland was represented in the Youth Programme by the inclusion of Marian Quinn’s 32A which focuses on 13 year old Maeve’s journey towards womanhood in the Dublin of 1979. Although the film captured the confusion of adolescence, it was ultimately a slight and over-familiar tale.

The Festival closed with a screening of a short film made by a team of young children over the course of the week.

Further details on this year’s festival can be found at www.kicff.no
Report by David O Mahony who attended the festival as part of the IFFS/ FICC jury.