Following the announcement of its all-animation Opening, Centerpiece and Closing program highlights, the Oscar-qualifying New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF) has announced its complete feature film slate for 2022, heralding its 25th Anniversary celebration as North America’s largest and most prestigious film festival for young audiences. NYICFF is thrilled to be welcoming audiences back to the cinema with in-person events, kicking off Friday, March 4 at SVA Theatre and running weekends through March 19.
For its 25th edition, NYICFF’s thematic focus is on the power of science and art through films that demonstrate creativity and inclusivity as being at the core of the next generation’s superpowers, regardless of discipline. Whether dreaming of space on an intergalactic scale — or within a film camera’s frame — the motion pictures featured in this year’s slate conjure new and powerful worlds for young people to break free of the rules and troubles of our earthbound existence.
Let us dive in to the animation highlights…
From accomplished filmmaker Richard Linklater’s return to his space-age childhood dreams thanks to the magic of rotoscoping in Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood, to Oscar-nominated Ari Folman’s imaginative and thoughtful interpretation of a true-to-life tale using exquisite animation in Where Is Anne Frank, to Mascha Halberstad’s colorful stop-motion animation Oink, this carefully curated selection of acclaimed films come to the NYICFF on the heels of screenings at Cannes, Berlinale, and SXSW, reinforcing the idea that young audiences are ready for and well-deserving of the most sophisticated, thoughtful film fare.
There are plenty of films in this year’s NYICFF slate that convey their meaningful messages with a sense of fun, whimsy, and humor including the aforementioned Oink, and the episodic premieres of Swop and the ever-beloved Moominvalley. Also represented in this year’s program is a diverse range of impressive female filmmakers from all over the world who have helmed compelling features such as Turning Red, Oink and The Ape Star.
Exploring the craft of both filmmaking and film-going is a selection of movies that revel in high-energy, infectious fun and the power of cinematic storytelling, including Pompo the Cinephile. Additionally, the Festival will showcase a number of highly accomplished animated features from across the Asian continent with engaging stories from a variety of gifted filmmakers including Pompo, To the Bright Side, I Am What I Am and Poupelle of Chimney Town. Audiences will also have the opportunity to experience a selection of thoughtful films based on real stories, re-interpreted and reimagined through artful animation in the case of Where Is Anne Frank and Charlotte. Finally, explorations of space and science are paired with equally rich examinations of social justice, family, community, inclusivity and the value of childlike wonder in Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood.
Newly added animated features at NYICFF 2022:
The Ape Star
Norway, Sweden, Denmark
Though Jonna’s home is filled with wonderful kids and a caring guardian, she can’t help but pin her hopes on one day being adopted. When that long-awaited day finally arrives, she learns that love comes in all shapes, sizes and, er, creatures … like the enormous ape with the equally enormous heart who wants to take Jonna home. Director Linda Hämback (NYICFF 2019’s Gordon and Paddy) uses her own experience as an adoptee to share this hilarious and moving story through a powerful, nuanced lens. A warm, fuzzy, feel-good tale of love over greed, the joy in the things that make us different, and the life-changing magic of sometimes letting things get a little messy, The Ape Star is sure to win hearts.
Best Birthday Ever (New York Premiere)
Germany, Netherlands, Sweden
Little Charlie is a small rabbit who lives with his loving family and pets in a house at the edge of town. Like many five-year-olds, he goes to a kindergarten and plays with his friends in the neighborhood, basking in the delight of his parents’ complete attention. But all of that changes with the arrival of his baby sister, Clara. When the chance for adventure with his best friend, Monica, arises, Little Charlie — eager to make his own mark and maybe a little jealous — hops to it.
Charlotte (New York Premiere)
Tahir Rana & Eric Warin
Canada, France, Belgium
Charlotte is a testament to the power of art to endure, affront and thrive, even in the face of impossible circumstances. This beautifully animated saga is based on the life of Charlotte Salomon, an aspiring painter living in Germany during the Nazi rise to power. As hard as it is to gain acceptance to the art academy as a girl, Charlotte’s Jewish background makes achieving her dream even harder, and soon her entire community’s existence is threatened. Eventually she is forced into exile with her difficult, emotionally distant grandparents before finding safe, loving harbor in the South of France. Charlotte’s new host wholeheartedly encourages her artmaking. The result is a decades-spanning, boldly ambitious visual autobiography that confronts the perils of war, a family legacy of mental illness, and dashed dreams. Featuring the voice of Keira Knightly, Charlotte paints the legacy of a little-known artist whose impact lasts long beyond her brief life.
I Am What I Am (New York Premiere)
Prepare yourself for the hallmarks of all the classic genres: I Am What I Am is a buddy film, a road movie, an underdog heartstring-puller and even a little bit of a rom-com. Our hero Gyun is a hard working kid with even harder working parents. While his parents toil away in the big city of Guangzhou, Gyun is left to his own devices in his small village, where he stumbles upon the transfixing Lion Dance Competition. Beneath the extraordinary costume is a powerful girl who gifts him with her stunning headdress and encourages him to pursue his newfound aspirations. Soon, Gyun and his buddies are traversing the enormity of the vast Chinese countryside as their own ragtag troupe. With hard work, athleticism and reluctant dance-champ-turned-fishmonger Sifu to coach them, they begin to outwit their competitors by harnessing their perceived weaknesses. The eye-poppingly bold and realistic CG animation that breathes fierce light into this rags to riches story will have you bouncing to the beat of the Lion’s drum.
Moominvalley (North American Premiere)
Tove Jansson’s delightful universe is back, premiering exclusively at NYICFF with all the Moomincapers you could ever wish for in three new episodes. It’s a battle to decide who’s in charge in Brisk and Breezywhen camper and notorious mischief-maker Little My runs Mr. Brisk through a series of tests to prove his mettle. Next, leave it to Moomintroll to get into a muddle inadvertently following valley rogue Stinky down a foul path to thievery, only getting into more rot when trying to make things right. Finally, the Moominfamily must postpone their winter hibernation while Moominmomma (voiced by Rosamund Pike) keeps something under wraps in Winter Secrets.
Pompo the Cinephile (English-Language World Premiere)
If you’re reading this, chances are you like movies. You’ll feel right at home with Pompo, the talented and gutsy producer whose love of cinema is unflinching and unapologetic. One day, Pompo turns her uncanny eye for talent to her movie-loving but apprehensive assistant Gene, selecting him to make his directorial debut with her latest script. But Gene has his work cut out for him with a young starlet looking for her first big break and a legendary, aging, Brando-like superstar in front of the camera. It’s not an action movie, but Pompo’s breakneck pace combined with the high stakes of creative fulfillment pack in as much excitement as standard superhero fare. Add to that a slew of insider movie references and countless winks and nods to the filmmaking process, this hilarious and heartfelt dramedy has what it takes to fulfill even your wildest celluloid dreams.
Our wide-eyed, top-hatted, scruffily charming young protagonist Lubbichi — such a big name for a little boy — has a very big job to do: serving as a busy chimney sweep in his enormous and gritty post-industrial town. With all the factory soot in the air, Lubbichi and the townspeople haven’t seen the sky in years, but that won’t stop this plucky boy from dreaming of the stars. His dreams get even closer to reach when he befriends Poupelle, a gentle giant robot made of trash whose heart beats as true as any human one. Based on the beloved Japanese manga and filled with amazingly detailed CG worlds of complex, inventive devices and fantastical landscapes, this ragtag buddy movie brushes, clanks, and sweeps its way through the debris to dazzle eyes, hearts and minds. Chim, chim, cher-ee, indeed.
Swop (World Premiere)
Job, Joris & Marieke
Based on the beloved, Emmy and NYICFF award-winning short Heads Together, this new series follows three wacky friends Sef, Wesley and Marjory. One day, they discover an abandoned washing machine with mysterious powers: it lets you swap heads with someone else! This presents the three BFFs with a range of amazing possibilities … and side-splitting challenges. As they take turns trying on each other’s heads, they literally see the world through new eyes. Will their new perspectives help them discover a whole new world of possibilities, or get them into a mess? Well, the sayings tell us there are many sides to every story and two heads are better than one. Run, don’t walk (but please hold onto your head) to the slapstick silliness of Swop.
To the Bright Side (North American Premiere)
Xiya Lan, Nianze Li, Yi Zhao, Kun Yu, Gaoxiang Liu, Maoning Liu, & Chen Chen
Hop on this delightful omnibus of a film, composed of seven stunningly animated short films, and you’ll travel to China past and present, urban and rural, in realistic contemporary settings or fantastic mythical realms. Though the protagonists range from a family of rabbits, a boy doing his homework at his parents’ restaurant, or a child and his grandmother in the countryside, all tell unique stories of love, challenges and maturing to the beat of your own drum. The distinctive styles of each short captivate equally; beautifully hand-illustrated in rich colors, ink painting, paper-cutting, watercolor, collages and more to create affectionate interpretations of life, love and growth as seen through these gifted Chinese filmmakers’ viewpoints.
Member tickets are now on sale for NYICFF, public tickets will be available to purchase on Feb. 17. Visit nyicff.org for more information.