So you know right away, the bears in the title have nothing to do with cuddly, saccharine, anthropomorphic animations. The Swiss Alps provide the backdrop for this intriguing tale that reaches across centuries to unite two girls in a shared quest. Clara, a 13-year-old with an affinity for nature, discovers an ability to see through time when touching certain objects around the farm. She senses the peril of another young girl 200 years before. In working to lift an ages-old curse, Clara bravely attempts to repair both the past and the present.
This fascinating documentary charts the adventure of Laura Dekker, a 14-year-old Dutch sailor, who set out alone on a two-year voyage to fulfill her dream of becoming the youngest person ever to sail around the world. The journey was not without controversy, but “Maidentrip” is pleasantly free from the hysteria that surrounded Laura for more than a year. It presents her trip in a judgment-free manner. It neither suggests (as it understandably could) that 14 is an alarmingly young age to traverse the mightily unforgiving Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, nor takes a blindly positive “Ra! Ra! Go Laura!” position (as would be tempting, given that Laura proves herself an admirable rebel in many ways).
Laura is portrayed as an independent outsider, at once open-hearted, enviably confident and a bit prickly, sick of what she sees as daily life in Holland—which she sums up succinctly: “Get money, get a house, get a husband, get a baby, then die.” She pines for a truly outsized adventure. While other young record-holding sailors completed the round-world trip without lengthy stops at ports, Laura gives herself two years for the excursion, so that she can soak in the land-bound culture of the different climes where she alights (among them French Polynesia, Australia, the Galapagos Islands and South Africa). Low-key yet lyrical, “Maidentrip” illustrates in vivid colors the mundane as well as the magnificent moments at sea and underscores the courage of one young woman, battling the elements—and the courts—and enjoying every minute of it.
Set against the backdrop of the wolf reintroduction program in Yellowstone National Park, “Druid Peak” is a coming of age story about a troubled teenage boy who finds a home tracking wolves in the wildlands of Wyoming.
Sixteen-year-old Owen isn’t just rebellious—he’s a bully with a mean streak. Growing up in coal country West Virginia, he struggles against the claustrophobia of small town life, lashing out against school and family. But when his actions lead to the death of a friend, Owen is sent to live with his estranged father, Everett, a biologist on Yellowstone’s wolf reintroduction program.
At first, Owen wants no part of this new life. Then he comes face to face with a Canadian grey wolf. The creature’s deep, penetrating gaze startles him, stirring something long dead inside his own self. Sensing the first signs of change in his son, Everett encourages Owen to collect some basic data about the wolf he saw and its family pack–the Druid Peak pack. Owen’s small assignment grows into a passion and his own life becomes deeply tied to the Druid Peak wolves and their struggle for survival. When a change in government policy threatens the animals, Owen must decide how far he will go to protect the wolves, his father and the place he has finally come to call home. A coming-of-age story with a conservation twist, Druid Peak is a film about the human soul’s need for wild things, and the challenges of holding onto them.
Writer/director Marni Zelnick was awarded a $100,000 production grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for work on this film. Shot on location in West Virginia, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Utah, “Druid Peak” stars Spencer Treat Clark (“Mystic River,” “Gladiator”), Andrew Wilson (“Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums”), Rachel Korine (“Spring Breakers,” “Septien”) and the wolves of Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife (“White Fang,” “Into the Wild”).
Played at 2014 PCFF to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of Japan’s masterpieces of animation.
One of the most endearing and internationally renowned films of all time, a film that Roger Ebert called “one of the five best movies” ever made for children, “My Neighbor Totoro” is a deceptively simple tale of Satsuki and Mei, two young girls who move with their father to the countryside while their mother convalesces in a nearby hospital. They soon discover that the surrounding forests are home to a family of Totoros, gentle but powerful creatures who live in a huge and ancient camphor tree and are seen only by children. Based on Miyazaki’s own childhood imaginings, Totoros look like oversized pandas with bunny ears, the largest of which takes the girls on spinning-top rides through the tree tops, introduces them to a furry, multi-pawed Catbus—a nod to Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat—and ultimately brings the two much closer together as sisters.
Beneath the film’s playfulness and narrative simplicity lie depths of wisdom. As with much of Miyazaki’s work, at its core “My Neighbor Totoro” is about humankind’s relationship to the Earth. The film is infused with an almost spiritual reverence for the power of nature (a philosophy tied to the ancient Shinto belief that every object in nature has a soul). Everything that surrounds us, from light-dappled tree groves, to the marvelous clouds, echoes the density and lusciousness of life. Protected by the Totoros, we know no harm will come to our two heroines in the forest’s sunlit glades and mysterious shadows. The girls may be awed by the power and majesty around them, but they understand instinctively that nature has no malice. The viewer is left with a sense of wonder at the beauty, mystery and preciousness of the world all around us.
Patema is a precocious teen who loves to explore the caverns and tunnels of her subterranean world until she falls into the DANGER ZONE! In her inverted gravity world, she falls upwards to the Earth’s surface and risks falling into the sky. Saved by an equally rebellious young man who is charmed by this upside-down girl, they fight to save her from the totalitarian surface government that seeks to annihilate her subterranean civilization and the freethinking people they represent. A dizzying, suspenseful animé.
In May 2013, the Okee Dokee Brothers embarked on a month-long trek on the Appalachian Trail. They hiked, camped, met mountain musicians, and wrote the songs that make up their second adventure album, Through the Woods. As a follow-up to their Grammy Award-winning album this documentary invites viewers and listeners along for a journey full of camping, old-time mountain music, miles of hiking—and a few shenanigans.
As childhood friends growing up in Denver, Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing were always exploring the outdoors. Whether rafting down their neighborhood creek or discovering hiking trails through the Rocky Mountains, Joe and Justin were born adventurers. Now, as the GRAMMY® Award-winning Okee Dokee Brothers, they have put this passion for the outdoors at the heart of their Americana Folk music and this film.
Joe and Justin record and perform family music with a goal to inspire children and their parents to get outside and experience nature. They believe this can motivate kids to gain a greater respect for the natural world, their communities and themselves. The three-time Parents’ Choice Award winners have garnered praise from the likes of NPR’s All Things Considered and USA Today, and have been called “two of family music’s best songwriters”. Their nationwide fan base is drawn to their witty lyrics, strong musicianship and unique folk style. By appealing to the musical tastes of the entire family and recognizing that kids deserve quality music, the Okee Dokee Brothers are working full-time to advance the family music genre.
This wordless, evocative, uniquely original animated film follows Cuca, a young Brazilian boy who ventures from his simple countryside home into a neon-infused, carnivalesque metropolis in search of his father. It’s an audio/visual feast. When the credits roll there is a good chance your interpretation of the film might vary from others—but what a ride!
Open your senses to a refreshingly original, uniquely visual animated film from Brazilian artist Alê Abreu. Employing everything from mosaics to watercolors, the film overflows with delight, exploding with vibrant color and samba/hip hop rhythms. The story focuses on Cuca, a young child growing up in the Brazilian countryside with his family. One day, his father leaves to work in the city, leading Cuca to set out for the metropolis, determined to reunite his family. The animation starts simply, but as Cuca ventures further into the world, the visual style takes on a greater complexity, eventually creating a neon-infused cityscape with a variety of strange characters never seen before. The seemingly simple story reveals a number of conflicts between country and city, poverty and wealth, the handmade and machinery in such a way that audiences of all ages will experience the same narrative on different levels. Abreu’s film is captivating, and will keep your attention rapt for its full running time with hardly a line of dialogue all the way to its surprising and emotional finale.