The Next-Gen program, a suite of scheduled films that tackle cultural and social issues in a way that is accessible to a younger audience, is as strong as ever this year, and the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has just unveiled the full lineup.
It is an ambitious program with sensible goals to enlighten and educate youth (from primary to senior secondary age) about film and its contexts, but do not be deterred; there is plenty here for adults to enjoy.
In total there are 13 events in the program that range from documentary to Japanese road-trip drama to wonderful animation. Here are my top picks from the diverse list, which can be found here
The stirring documentary Valentine Road is about 14 year old Brandon McInerney from Oxnard, California, who shot and killed his cross-dressing classmate, Lawrence King. Serving a 21 year sentence for second degree murder, Brandon has been cast as both monster and victim, but the truth of the matter is far more complex - and uncomfortable.
Touch of Light, presented by Wong Kar-wai, is the story of two young artists in modern Taiwan (including vision-impaired pianist Huang Yu-siang playing himself) who develop an unlikely friendship.
Capturing Dad, a study in family dynamics, where two Japanese sisters discover their estranged father is dying. Filled with moments of poignancy and surprising black humour, the film explores the relationships between sisters, mothers and daughters.
Directed by Laurent Cantet (winner of the Palme d'Or in 2008 for The Class) is Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang. Set in 1950s upstate New York, and based on Joyce Carol Oates' novel of the same name, it's the story of an unassuming teenager exposed to a new and exciting proto-feminist world through her involvement with a girl gang.
The tender romantic drama A Werewolf Boy, where a young Korean girl develops an affectionate relationship with a bedraggled feral boy she finds living in her farmhouse.
Screening to great acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival, I Declare War sees pre-teen and military tactician expert PK Sullivan gathers his friends for their usual game of Capture the Flag. Although the kids are only playing with sticks, the story unfolds through their eyes and depicts them with real guns, grenades and live ammo - it's Lord of the Flies meets Where the Wild Things Are.
The Melbourne International Film Festival runs 25 July -11 August 2013.
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