The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has announced the line-up for their very youth-centric all-ages program dubbed Next-Gen. Running since 2007, this terrific and diverse range of films seek to capture the imagination of young minds and inspire a new generation of film lovers.
Highlights include new anime film Paterma Inverted which was nominated at the Asian Pacific Screen Awards (APSA), French documentary School of Babel and Mexican punk-rock feature We Are Mari Pepa.
This year's diverse program includes the Japanese anime Patema Inverted, the richly inventive new film from newcomer Yasuhiro Yoshiura. The princess of a subterranean community, cheerful and inquisitive Patema loves investigating the maze-like tunnels and caverns of her homeland especially the forbidden 'danger zone'. While out exploring, however, Patema falls headlong into an impossibly deep pit...only to find herself on the surface, mysteriously 'falling' upwards into the sky. Saved by a teen boy named Age, Patema discovers that on this strange surface world, the floor has become her ceiling. An exhilarating tale of star-crossed love, Yoshiura's much-anticipated feature introduces us to the next generation in anime science-fiction.
For younger audiences, Uruguayan animation Anina is a warm, whip-smart film that speaks to both children and adults about bullying, discipline and personal responsibility. The film follows the schoolgirl Anina who is teased at school for having a palindrome for a name.
The final animation in this part of the program is Aunt Hilda! a French hand-drawn animation from the studio behind the Academy Award-nominated A Cat in Paris. This is a rollicking and timely new adventure about an eco-warrior who fights to protect our environment and stand up to corporate greed.
Animal rights is the theme of the Swiss-German live-action feature Clara and the Secret of the Bears, which follows a 13-year-old who lives in the Swiss Alps and discovers her affinity with the wild bears. The film is part ghost story and part ecological tale about learning to co-exist with nature.
Directed by Julie Bertuccelli (The Tree, MIFF 10), the documentary School of Babel introduces us to a multicultural group of students from over the world who are put in a 'reception class' to learn French language and culture so that they can better integrate into their new lifestyle. It's a moving and lucidly revealing capture of the students' struggles and breakthroughs.
Also from France is The Good Life, a film about about sixteen-year-old Sylvain and his older brother Pierre, who live a nomadic, somewhat idyllic life off the grid with their father. This nuanced coming-of-age story offers a tender insight into masculinity, identity and growing up.
The Nightingale is a Chinese/French production about the joys of going offline. It follows the 10-year-old tech-addict Renxing who is forced to accompany her grandfather on a trip through the Chinese countryside to his tiny home-town. Ravishingly shot, French director Philippe Muyl's film reminds us that even in the age of Wikipedia there is plenty that the oldest can teach the youngest - and vice versa.
Finally, the Mexican feature We Are Mari Pepa follows a young Mexcian punk band with grandiose plans that compete with the reality of their lives. This assured drama captures all the crude energy and frequent humiliations of male adolescence - set to a punk/Mexican soundtrack that adds extra oomph.
Through the exploration of cultural and social issues, Next Gen encourages students and teachers to intellectually engage with these films using the help of free study guides. This provides a greater context for students to engage with the themes raised in the films in relation to their curriculum.
This year's Festival will include well over 300 films from around the globe in program sections including International Panorama, Documentaries, Accent on Asia and Backbeat.
The full program will be announced Tuesday 8 July and tickets go on sale Friday 11 July.
The Festival runs 31 July-17 August 2014.
Stay tuned to ScreenAnarchy as more on MIFF develops.
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