Kids above and beyond. Movies Reviewed: 7 Boxes, Igor and the Cranes’ Journey PLUS Tiff NEXT Wave Film Fest
Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.
Sometimes kids feel they have to be something above normal. Girls are princesses, boys superheroes. It’s reinforced in movies, TV shows, comic books, birthday parties… What’s less common is stories about ordinary kids put into bad situations who behave extraordinarily.
This week I’m looking at two movies, both about kids going above and beyond. One’s a Russian-Israeli film about a kid who follows birds online; the other’s a Paraguayan film about a kid mesmerized by video images.
Dir: Juan Carlos, Maneglia, Tana Schembori
Victor (Celso Franco) is a kid who lives in the hustle and bustle of an outdoor market in Asuncion. He hangs out with a friend, Liz who wanders through the aisles. He pushes a giant wheelbarrow around to make a few dollars moving boxes from here to there. Victor knows every corner and alleyway, and all the merchants, the shoppers, the homeless and the cops who work there. His favourite spot is the closed-circuit TV shop, where he can see his own face on the video screens. (His sister works in the kitchen of a Korean restaurant, and likes the son of the owner.)
Things are looking good. That same day, he gets hired by a shady character in a butcher’s shop for a very important job. He has to transport seven flat wooden crates. But to where? He won’t say. And what’s in them? He won’t say. The butcher gives him half a US 100 dollar bill. He gets the other half once the goods – all seven boxes – are delivered.
There’s something strange about this whole job, but he doesn’t know what it is. Soon enough, a rival wheelbarrow pusher sees the money and decides he should have the money. He hires a gang to hunt Victor down and steal the boxes. Bumbling police inspectors are also looking for the boxes, and are quick to arrest criminals and victims – anyone near the scene of a crime.
And the shady characters behind the unnamed crime run into trouble of their own.
Can Victor keep the boxes safe – without looking to see what’s inside? Will the criminals get their just deserts? And will Victor live to see his reward?
7 Boxes is a great action/thriller, about everyday life for working class kids in a Paraguay market. Most of the movie is not in Spanish but in Guarani, a language spoken only in Paraguay and countries bordering it. (Because of the gun violence this movie is not meant for small kids) I like this movie.
Dir: Evgeny Ruman
Igor’s dad Peter (Tomasz Sobczak) is an ornithologist who studies migration. He’s especially interested in the flight patterns of cranes. They fly from Russia down to the Black Sea, and onward to the Middle East and Africa. His young son, Igor (Itai Shcherback) visits him each year at a nature reserve in Russia.
This year Igor witnesses a baby crane’s birth – he names him Karl. He sets up a website so he and his dad – and any viewers — can watch him grow up and migrate (Karl is tagged with a sensor).
His Polish dad’s projects are sponsored by a rich Russian oligarch who’s mainly out for profit. He treats biology like a circus act: We need bears! Lots of bears! If we follow birds they must be happy and healthy – no birds die on my projects!
The rest of the year Igor lives with his divorced mom in a big city where she’s a music teacher. Mom (Ola Schur Selektar) wants to emigrate to Israel so she can head up a genuine choir. (She later learns it’s not exactly what she expects).
Igor has no desire to move there — it doesn’t even have a great football team like Barcelona. And he’d lose all his best friends. So he asks his dad if he can go live with him and help him follow the cranes. But he’s rejected. So he moves with his mom to a small town in Israel.
Igor has no friends, can’t speak the language and the other kids tease and laugh at him. He spends all day drawing flipbook animation drawings of the cranes in his math book. Only Vered (Clil Arbel) — the girl he sits with and the daughter of the school principal — is nice to him. She likes his pictures and is drawn to Karl’s (the young crane) plight.
So, even while Igor refuses to speak to his dad by telephone or read the letters he sends him, he and Vered still follow Karl’s plight — and listen to his father’s personal messages — on the website.
How can Igor help Karl survive? He comes up with a plan: create a crane sanctuary in a dirty pond near his school. Will the other kids help? Will he ever see his father again? Will he find Karl? … and will he and Vered share their first kiss?
The film varies from straight drama to B&W flip-book style animation, based on Igor’s drawings. Igor and the Cranes’ Journey is a sweet, gentle family drama about a young Russian boy coping with big changes.
7 Boxes opens next Friday in Toronto — check your listings, and Igor and the Cranes’ Journey is playing for one show on Sunday in Vaughan: go to tjff.com for details. And next weekend, the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival, (February 14 – 16) shows films for young adults, partly selected by a group of 12 teens from the Toronto area. Details: tiff.net/nextwave . And The 24-Hour Film Challenge has 20 teams of high school students making a short film in 24 hours including a specific line of dialogue and a prop: a red beret. Winners will be announce next Sunday.
This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com