With its Indigenous Spotlight and program titles like It’s a Girl’s Life, the Reel 2 Real International Film Festival for Youth yet again stuffs its schedule with a selection of excellent shorts. But if it’s the big flicks you’re looking for, here are three that shouldn’t be missed.
Mia and the White Lion
With no special effects to comfort us, behold a full-grown lion rearing up to tackle a barely adolescent girl and the way she folds beneath it like a wet tissue. Mercifully, the lion, a.k.a. Charlie, is just being playful. Opening R2R this year with a gala screening, Mia and the White Lion is loaded with such unforgettable moments, constituting perhaps the cat video to end all cat videos. The film takes place in a South African reserve and was shot over five years, so we watch a cast that includes Inglourious Basterds’ Mélanie Laurent age in real time, and we also get to meet rare white lion Charlie, initially as a weeks-old cub. He bonds with Mia, who’s pissed at being relocated from London to the family farm. Her desire to protect Charlie leads to a wild climax and a sermon about canned hunting, the sincerity of which has been met with skepticism from some wildlife groups. That aside, this is almost as crazy as the legendary Roar!
Vancity Theatre, April 7 (4:30 p.m.), 9 (10 a.m.), and 12 (10 a.m.)
It’s inconceivable that an American film would include a scene in which a pubescent boy and his father compare their balls. (“They’re disgusting,” is Dad’s take on his own junk.) It’s no more likely that a Steven Spielberg would ever produce the subtle riff on time, entropy, or the more ineffable mysteries of life seen here, in a Japanese film that otherwise is about an ET. In this case, she’s the very pretty daughter of a woman working for 11-year-old Satoshi’s mother, although Makuko makes no effort to conceal that she and “Mom” are both off-planet visitors, of a species that can never die, or change. Thus, young Satoshi’s existential trauma over aging, wet dreams, and the general frailty of the human condition becomes wonderfully confabulated with a first love who craves the experience of those very things. (Okay, maybe not the wet dreams.) This is a beautiful film: modest, warm, and unflashy in all ways, not counting its sometimes startling photography.
Vancity Theatre, April 12 (noon) and 13 (1:45 p.m.)
A brilliantly simple idea that must have invited some complex logistics, Rosa Russo’s doc follows four 13-year-old girls as they go about their day in four very different parts of the world. In contrast to South Sudanese Sunday, Romanian Mariana, and Palestinian Noura, Finnish teen Oona is staring at a phone when we’re introduced to her. Still, her daily routine at the family farm hardly looks so privileged, although it’s a lot more pristine and automated than Mariana’s barn, where she squeezes milk into an old bucket. While the obvious economic differences are already striking, Sunday’s curriculum includes lessons on how to spot land mines after a war that has already cost her a father, while Noura treks across hard, barren ground to a makeshift school with a clear view on the horizon of a Jerusalem she’s not allowed to visit. At one point, she declares: “Life is beautiful here,” easily providing one of the most bracing jolts of human joy and resilience you’ll receive this year.
Vancity Theatre, April 9 (12:30 p.m.) and 13 (11:45 a.m.)