Reel 2 Real International Film Festival for Youth tackles tough stuff

Whether it’s been news reports about teen suicides, debates about antihomophobia policies in schools, or the documentary Bully, the subject of bullying has certainly been a topical one in the media.

It’s one this year’s Reel 2 Real International Film Festival for Youth (April 13 to 20, will tackle, directly and indirectly, with a number of global selections.

A prime example is Colorful, which broaches not only bullying and suicide, but also issues such as parental infidelity and teen prostitution. In the Japanese anime, a recently deceased soul is sent back to Earth to inhabit the troubled life of 14-year-old Makoto, who endured school bullying and familial problems and just committed suicide.

“The perspective on suicide is different from what you would see in other films,” festival director Venay Felton said by phone. “The film is about the young boy realizing the impact his suicide has on others….The task is really to discover the mistake he made in his past life.”

Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. representatives will be present to answer any questions audiences may have.

An underlying theme of Colorful—finding friends—is shared by other festival offerings. In Germany’s Here Comes Lola, a nine-year-old girl moves with her family to a new city. But finding a best friend becomes a challenge for Lola, who develops tensions with her strange-smelling classmate Flo—until she learns to overlook differences to find true friendship.

Differences due to racial and cultural identities are central to other selections. The NFB animated short “The Basketball Game” tells the true Canadian story of how a basketball game brought together Jewish kids and rural youth raised with anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, the Danish feature Lost in Africa focuses on an African boy, adopted by Danish parents, who gets lost in his country of birth, Kenya, while chasing after a soccer ball. Felton called it “quite a remarkable film on many levels”; she pointed out that it’s “indirectly about a loss of culture” while the boy finds his own identity.

The Colombian film Colors of the Mountain also features young boys chasing after a soccer ball, but in this case, it’s in a minefield.

“It’s from the child’s point of view, about living during war,” Felton said, “and how war challenges peoples’ loyalties and causes them to do things they might not do otherwise…[and] being bullied into going along with one side or another.”

Other films will address subjects ranging from being deaf and having Tourette’s syndrome to living in poverty. Workshops, panel discussions, an awards presentation, and even an all-you-can-eat bagels-and-bannock brunch round out the program.

But Felton pointed out that the experience doesn’t end after the show is over.

“The main idea of the festival is to show films and continue the discussion beyond the film….It’s not that they have to be discussed but it’s just that they inspire discussion because they’re topics that I think that the audience is interested in.”