4 films worth watching at the Reel 2 Real International Film Festival for Youth

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      Along with its impressive shorts packages and all the extracurricular activities—including the Sunday Fun Day (April 10) and the Behind the Scenes Expo (April 14)—there are 10 acclaimed features playing at this year’s R2R International Film Festival for Youth. Here are some choice picks. More info is at www.r2rfestival.org/.


      Birds of Passage

      We’re not gonna lie: parents will wince occasionally at this tale of two 10-year-old girls, one of them disabled, who disappear into the Belgian countryside to teach a baby duck how to swim. (Why do they have a baby duck? Hippie dad, basically.) Kids, meanwhile, might stress at the sight of this tiny, fluffy thing (are there livestock Oscars?) facing frequent moments of peril. Tension aside, Birds of Passage is a lovely opening-night film, and impossible to dislike. Recommended.
      Vancity Theatre, April 8 (6:30 p.m.), 9 (2 p.m.), and 12 (12 p.m.)


      Phantom Boy

      Another winner in a strong slate of animated films. Audrey Tautou is among the stars of Phantom Boy, in which a chronically sick 11-year-old boy learns to astral-travel while he undergoes chemotherapy. As such, he’s the perfect partner to an injured cop and a brave journalist trying to stop a disfigured supervillain from destroying New York. The beauty of Phantom Boy lies partly in its assumption that children can handle the concept of death without a lot of manipulative fanfare, while the artfulness of its hand-drawn technique instantly imbues the film with a human spirit that no superprocessor will ever match.
      Vancity, April 9 (4 p.m.)


      Monkey King: Hero Is Back

      The Chinese legend of the Monkey King has been told and retold, perhaps most memorably in a Japanese TV series from the late ’70s. Here’s an opulently CG–animated take that’s more influenced by blockbuster Hollywood than any of its native elements. As such, it maybe lacks the sweeter emotional payload of some of R2R’s other features, but Monkey King is an impressive crowd-pleaser nonetheless.
      Vancity, April 9 (10 a.m.) and 10 (12 p.m.)


      The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

      Patchy but charming, this is the one for the weird kid in your family. A satellite falls to Earth and assumes the shape of a girl, hooking up with a lovelorn boy who’s been transformed into a cow. Both are pursued by a giant, insatiable furnace. Committed to their protection is brave Merlin the Wizard, taking the form of a roll of toilet paper (arriving on the scene at one point while a character sits on the can and earnestly asking, “Do you need my help?”). This South Korean effort owes a debt to Japanese anime, but its pleasing absurdism and warmth make it a deadpan cousin to Adventure Time.
      Rio Theatre, April 10 (2 p.m.)

      The Reel 2 Real International Film Festival for Youth takes place from Friday (April 8) to April 15 in Vancouver. For more information, visit the website.