A powerful film that gives us a glimpse into the experiences of foster youth and the fragility of the foster care system. We witness the reality of being a foster youth while also seeing that every person’s experience is different and nuanced. This film shows us the tragic consequences of this “broken system” but also shows us the positive impact that individuals and families can have when the system works.
When did you last watch an Iranian film? Or better yet, where is the last time you saw or learned anything about Iran? Odds are the news is where most Americans encounter any stories about Iran and usually, it’s not good news. Well, filmmaking is quite alive in Iran and the stories they tell are not what’s on the newscaster’s minds. They are mostly about the lives of everyday Iranians who experience the joys and sorrows of working hard and getting to tomorrow. Included in IRAN: Axis of People is a documentary about an Iranian girl who just wants to ride her bike on the city street but is reprimanded again and again for doing so as a girl. Gando is another documentary that relates the story of a girl who went to the river to fetch some water but encountered a crocodile?! This is evidently a regular problem for this village. Then there are several stunning animations about the worlds we humans have created around us. Iran truly is an axis around which stories of everyday people’s lives rotate. Films on this reel include…
ONE NICE DAY – An elementary school teacher is given the opportunity to give away one new bookbag to a student in his class. To decide, everyone writes a name on a piece of paper and tosses it into a bag. The teacher will pull out the winner. Little did he know… the fix was in! 🙂 (2014 / 3 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Sousan Salamat / live-action / Persian w/English subtitles)
BORDERLESS – Delaram is a teenage girl who was born with Down syndrome. She is very aware of being treated differently by others and feels that there is a border between everyone she encounters. Delaram has come up with a unique coping mechanism to maintain happiness in her life. The imagination can be a powerful tool. (2020 / 13 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Behrad Sahebgharani / live-action / Persian w/English subtitles)
GANDO – In the Sistan and Baluchistan provinces of Iran running water is scarce. Villagers must go to local ponds and rivers to get what they need on a daily basis. Once you are on the river bank you must be very careful because gando (Iranian crocodiles) live there as well. This documentary tells the story of a nine-year-old girl named Hawa who lost her arm one-day getting water. It’s also a story about, despite the gando being a threat, the villagers respect the gando because they believe they help bring the water. (2020 / 8 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Teymour Ghaderi / documentary / Persian w/English subtitles)
WOODEN SWORD – Two young boys meet on a park bench while waiting for their fathers to return. Little do they know their fathers have not formed a friendship similar to what they just have. Is what they see next might stay with them forever. (2019 / 7 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dirs Behzad Alavi, Sousan Salamat/ live-action / Persian w/English subtitles)
THE ROTATION – There is a war between two tribes over claiming the sun in the sky. As a result of that war, the sun is annihilated and the volcano erupts. Those two tribes perish and a new sun is made by lava. Several centuries pass and the new tribes continue to war over their claim to the sun in the sky. The sad cycle continues. (2020 / 7 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Hazhir As’adi / animation / no dialogue)
RAINBOW – A young flower vendor working a street corner comes across something that is not his. The events that follow show his regret and misunderstanding of other people’s intentions. (2020 / 11 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Mohammad Khalili/ live-action / Persian w/English subtitles)
A GIRL FROM PARSIAN …is an insightful documentary about a group of young Iranian women who wish to ride their bikes and the resistance they encounter from men of all ages. (2019 / 20 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Parinaz Hashemi Mobarakeh / documentary / Persian w/English subtitles)
THE ELEVENTH STEP – A little lion cub, born in a zoo, lives in a cage that is only ten steps long. On the eleventh step he bangs his head against the bars, but one day the zookeeper leaves the cage door open…. (2020 / 11 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Maryam Kashkoolinia / animation / Persian w/English subtitles)
RAYA – Raya’s family is having a dispute with the landlord and eviction is on the horizon. She and several of her friends also have a problem with a teacher at school and they decide to take matters into their own hands. Raya learns the hard way how not to deal with problems she might have with other people. Thankfully she demonstrates this knowledge shortly after. (2019 / 14 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Sepideh Berenji / live-action / Persian w/English subtitles)
This compilation of four films has multiple, thought-provoking topics to think about, and hopefully after, talk about. They include the struggles of young, Afghani women being musicians in a time when it looks like the Taliban will be coming back to power. Other films from the Netherlands and Argentina follow families who are dealing with children on gender journeys unfamiliar to them. The last film, 2nd Class, is quite relevant to what is happening here in our own country when it comes to reacting to white supremacists. The reel includes the following films…
SOMETHING ABOUT ALEX – A young teenager develops a close friendship with his older sister’s boyfriend, and must confront the depth of his feelings when the couple announces that they will be moving away. (2017 / 18 mins / Netherlands / dir Reinout Hellenthal / live-action / Dutch w/English subtitles)
ORCHESTRA FROM THE LAND OF SILENCE – You’ll defeat the beast with the power of music. Zohra – the first female orchestra of Afghanistan. Girls are preparing for their journey to play a concert in Europe. We see their everyday reality in contemporary Afghanistan through the eyes of 16-year-old girl Marzia. After arriving in Europe unexpected thing happens and four members of the orchestra decide to run away… (2020 / 30 mins / Afghanistan, Slovakia / dir Lucia Kasova / documentary / English, Persian and Slovak w/English subtitles)
THE NAME OF THE SON (El Nombre del Hijo) Lucho, a 13-year-old trans boy, doesn’t usually share much time with his father. When he goes on vacation with him and his younger sister, the new closeness puts their relationship to the test. (2020 / 13 mins / Argentina / dir Martina Matzkin / live-action / Spanish w/English subtitles)
2ND CLASS (2ND CLASS – 2021 Special Jury Award Best Short Live-Action Film!) This is a story about an elementary school teacher who is violently attacked one night by a neo-Nazi. After healing enough to return to the classroom she finds out that the man who attacked her is one of her student’s fathers. What does she do? And why? This film demands a conversation after viewing. WARNING: Graphic scene with profanity. Recommended age 13+ (2018 / 13 mins / Sweden / dir Martina Matzkin / live-action / Swedish w/English subtitles)
France was the number two country from which we received submissions this year. (U.S. was #1, can you guess #3? The answer is at the end of the film synopsis!) With so many good ones to choose from we NEEDED to have a French film reel this year. The language is common between them but the styles run the gamut. Some highlights include two eight-year-olds who decide to embark on their own Montreal adventure, earthworms singing about their role in what could be your backyard, and a kingdom where “fashion rules the day”…until Ridicule arrives! Film on this reel include…
SONG OF AUTUMN (CHANSON D’AUTOMNE) is one of a series of animated shorts that are inspired by the poems of Paul Verlaine. Young filmmakers who have just graduated from French animation schools interpret Verlaine’s poems in film. PCFF is showing three of these films this year. (2020 / 3 mins / France / dir. Jean-Baptiste Marchand / animation / in French w/English subtitles)
WEDNESDAY (MERCREDI) Iris and Leo are waiting for their school bus, just like any other day. This morning, however, it does not arrive. Facing no rules but their own, the two eight-year-olds embark on an urban adventure, one they shall never forget, roaming the streets of Montreal. (2020 / 10 mins / Canada / dir. Lisa Delhom & Jérémy Paquet / live-action / in French w/English subtitles)
DOLIUM PÉPLUM – Recreating battle is one of the oldest games children play. In this short film from France, a vineyard is the setting for two epic forces to fight to the bitter end. (A little irony for U.S. viewers with the red vs. blue costumes.) A super creative short film with make-it-yourself costumes, weapons and battle accoutrements, you will sense the influences of classic battles depicted from Braveheart, Henry V, Kurosawa and even a little Monty Python. 🙂 (2020 / 9 mins / France / dir. Théo Nodet / live-action / in French w/English subtitles)
THE JELLYFISH (LA MEDUSE) – In an ocean infested by plastic, a little being leaves his reef and goes on an adventure on a jellyfish… (2019 / 4 mins / France / dir. Mélanie Peltier / animation / no dialogue)
THE NATURAL ORDER OF THINGS (L’ORDRE DES CHOSES) -An unintelligent insect, at the lower level of the food chain, survives its position as prey in the forest. But suddenly, the established order is overthrown. The insect provokes a sequence of accidents that build upon the other. (2019 / 4 mins / France / dir Luce Grosjean / animation / in French w/English subtitles)
WORMS OF EARTH (TERRE DE VERS) – Naked, slimy and rampant bros; No legs, no teeth, and no toes; We dig with no mischief, your burden we relief; We’re at your service, there is no artifice; The Earthworm team is here, as tight as musketeers. The lyrics say it all! (2019 / 8 mins / France / dir Hélène Ducrocq / animation / in French w/English subtitles)
LUPIN – A young wolf ventures out of his burrow for the first time, while his mother is busy hunting. Lost and frightened, he finds shelter in a garden. Jeanne, Gaston and Louis, the hunters’ children, find him and decide to bring him back to his home in the woods. (2020 / 11 mins / France / dir Hélène Ducrocq / animation / in French w/English subtitles)
CONQUISTADOR is one of a series of animated films that are inspired by the poems of Paul Verlaine. Young filmmakers that have just graduated from French animation schools interpret the poems into their visions on film. PCFF is showing three of them this year. (2020 / 3 mins / France / dir Jérémie Cousin / animation / in French w/English subtitles)
THE FAITHFUL FISH (LE POISSON FIDÈLE) – What would you do with a sculpin (a non-edible fish) that keeps biting on to your hook? Three children on vacation near a lake in Maine try and try and try to catch another fish. (2019 / 8 mins / Belgium / dir Atelier Collectif / animation / in French w/English subtitles)
PROMENADE SENTIMENTAL is one of a series of animated films that are inspired by the poems of Paul Verlaine. Young filmmakers that have just graduated from French animation schools interpret the poems into their visions on “film”. PCFF is showing three this year. (2020 / 3 mins / France / dir Emily Tronche / animation / in French w/English subtitles)
À LA MODE – In a kingdom tormented by fashion crazes, a queen and her court must always keep up with the new trend. If not, an abominable monster will consume them: the Ridicule. But with the arrival of a disarmingly natural cowboy, this nation of fashion victims laughs, and a simple question arises: what if the Ridicule isn’t what we think? (2020 / 9 mins / France / dir Jean Lecointre / animation / in French w/English subtitles)
ATHLETICUS: One Rink for Two – Flamingoes are rehearsing their figure skating number when the ice rink is invaded by a troop of elephant hockey players. The winner of this power play will find their time on the ice trunk-ated! (Ouch!) (2019 / 3 mins / France / dir Nicolas Deveaux / animation / no dialogue)
VANILLE – Vanille, a young Parisian girl who recently arrived in Guadeloupe, dives into an adventure tinged with mystery, meeting picturesque characters and a magic flower. These are holidays that promise to be rich in twists and turns! PCFF’s first film ever from Guadeloupe! And it’s soooo good! (2020 / 30 mins / France & Guadaloupe / dir Guillaume Lorin / animation / in French w/English subtitles)
Who or what do you care for? Sometimes those who care for others are not whom you would think. The stories told on this reel include a witch’s attempts to placate a baby she originally cared for in quite a different way, a fox who takes a baby bird “under his wing”, and a mother who decides it’s time to tell her daughter about her birth mother. They all share a theme about someone caring for another who is quite unlike themselves. Included on this reel are…
THE MAGIC FOREST AND THE THINGS – A six-year-old narrator teams up with an illustrator to tell a story about a land that has apple, chocolate, and dog food trees. (It’s not on any map!) Things go awry when a giant is asked to pick these trees for people to build their houses with. The giant was all too obliging to the point of picking almost all the trees! The people then realized you MUST be more efficient with the way you use these resources if everyone is going to have a home to live in. They adjust their ways and high fives all around! (2020 / 4 mins / USA / dir. Dave Russo / animation / in English / all ages)
THE PROMISE (PCFF 2021 Winner Children’s Hospital Jury Prize!) – The Promise is an urban fairy tale that plays out on the mean streets of a suffering city. Here, a young thief tries to snatch an old woman’s bag but she cannot have it without giving something in return: “the promise”. It is the beginning of a journey that will change her life and a chance to change the world for good. (2020 / 7 mins / UK / dir. Chi Thai / animation / in English / all ages)
THE LEAF – A larger than life sailor gets an autumn leaf from a small girl. It reminds him of his home and for how long he has not been there. He runs home to meet his old parents. What will he find? (2020 / 6 mins / Belarus / dir. Aliona Baranova / animation / non-dialogue / all ages)
THE FOX AND THE BIRD – A solitary fox finds itself improvising fatherhood for a freshly hatched baby bird. Two paths cross and a family is formed until fate reminds each of the life it is meant to lead. (2018 / 12 mins / Switzerland / dirs. Sam and Fred Guillaume/ animation / non-dialogue / all ages)
THE WITCH AND THE BABY – An aging witch needs a baby for a spell to make her young again. But when she brings home a recalcitrant infant things don’t go according to plan. (2020 / 5 mins / Russian Federation / dir. Evgenia Golubeva/ animation / in English / all ages)
AURORA – Once upon a time, there was a little girl who fell in love with a beautiful horse named Aurora. This expressive animation evokes children’s drawings and the texture of storybook illustrations. Aurora is a bittersweet story about love, friendship, and growing up. (2020 / 5 mins / USA-Canada / dir. Jo Meuris / animation / in English / all ages)
TOBI AND THE TURBOBUS is a heartwarming story about growing up in a wolf pack and finding the right place for yourself. Sometimes this requires leaving old friendships behind in order to start new, more supportive ones in the future. (2020 / 7 mins / Germany / dir. Verena Fels / animation / in English / all ages)
REHAK – A young girl discovers Rehak, a magical drawing hidden behind her bedroom wallpaper. She thinks she has found a new friend when in fact someone else has found an old one. (2020 / 7 mins / UK / dir. Pierre B / live-action & animation / in English / all ages)
TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF LOVE – A young girl is old enough to start to learn about her adoption story. Her mother’s explanation shows she has given this conversation a lot of thought! (2020 / 6 mins / USA / dir. Alyce Vest / animation / in English / all ages)
MAÏJA – In the Nordic Islands, Maïja, a young girl, waits for the return of her father, away at sea. But the weather is worsening and her father is not coming back. (2019 / 7 mins / France / dirs. Arthur Nollet, Maxime Faraud, Mégane Hirth, Emma Versini, Julien Chen, Pauline Charpentier / animation / no dialogue / all ages)
ROSE – Rose’s life-long security blanket represents her mother’s love, which she clings onto as a toddler, tosses aside as a teen, and realizes she desperately needs at the start of adulthood. (2020 / 3 mins / USA / dir. Emily Kimes / animation / in English / all ages)
ATHLETICUS: The Encounter – A turtle “meeting” a puffin leads to the birth of an epic figure skating couple! (2019 / 3 mins / France / dir. Nicolas Deveaux / animation / no dialogue / all ages)
STOLEN KISSES – “When my grandmother had to move to an elderly home because she had dementia, I thought things would go downhill from there. But on the contrary. She met a man there, Rinus also diagnosed with dementia, and they fell in love. Unfortunately, he got mentally worse than her and had to move away to another home. I was shocked that nobody asked my grandmother and their feelings were so easily dismissed. Although my grandmother forgot a lot of things, she kept on asking me where Rinus was. Her feelings for him she did not forget. I wanted to tell this story. But since there are already many films with the theme of dementia, I thought it would be enlightening to see the story through a child’s eyes. Children also experience these sorts of things and can give us a fresh, sometimes funny, perspective. My grandmother died on October 20th, 2020 aged 96. She hadn’t yet seen my film, but I’m proud to have this also in loving memory of her.” – Lidi Toepoel (Director) (2020 / 14 mins / Netherlands / dir. Lidi Toepoel / live-action / in Dutch w/English subtitles / Ages 8+)
In a province in the middle of the Mongolian steppe, 11-year old Amra lives a traditional nomad life with his mother Zaya, father Erdene, and little sister Altaa. While Zaya takes care of the flock, Erdene works as a mechanic and sells Zaya’s homemade cheese at the local market. Their peaceful routine is threatened by the encroachment of international mining companies, digging for gold and devastating the natural habitat. Erdene is the leader of the last nomads opposing them and tries to unite and convince his comrades not to accept the compensations the companies have offered. But after Amra’s father dies in a tragic car accident, his mother wants to give up the nomad life and trade the steppe for the city. But Amra refuses and tries to carry on his father’s David vs. Goliath fight with his cleverness and the tools of an 11-year-old boy.
PCFF 2021 WINNER Special Jury Award Best Narrative Feature!
Jack raves about his younger brother Gio, whom he believes to have superpowers. As he grows older he realizes that his brother is special in other ways. In a moment of uncertainty, Jack decides to deny having a brother from his classmates. But he failed to take into account that a brother like Gio is a personality impossible to deny to anyone. The consequences are a hard lesson learned in this poignant, humorous coming-of-age-story full of clashing emotions. Will Jack dare be as natural as his brother? Based on a true story.
PCFF WINNER 2021 Audience Choice Award: Best Feature Documentary
When filmmaker Suzanne Crocker suggests that her family spend a year eating only locally sourced food, her husband and three teenagers are skeptical. What complicates this experiment is that the family lives in a remote Yukon town, less than 300 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle—not exactly an easy place to access fresh-grown food all year round. First We Eat follows Suzanne and her family as they hunt, forage, fish, grow and raise their own food, struggling along the way to create a meal plan with variety and flavor. In perhaps the most bizarre effort to inject some seasoning into her cooking, Suzanne even dries human blood to use as salt. Filmed primarily by the director herself, this challenging look at food security and sustainability is also an intimate study of a family in the midst of a tough but rewarding experiment.
This documentary offers an extraordinary and tender examination of family life in ways that feel both personal and universal. When their mother is imprisoned, Ale and his sister Rocio’s relationship is faced with the greatest challenge possible: they must work together to parent their two young siblings.They promise to help each other and keep their family together until their mother is released, but as undocumented Honduran immigrants, living, working and studying in Mexico is difficult. Soon the prison wall that keeps their mother away gives rise to other emotional barriers that prevent the brother and sister from understanding each other. Just as they start to lose hope the family’s life takes an unexpected twist.
Important note from the director:
In 2014 I worked for a non-profit organization which helps convicted women, overseeing their cases and helping their re-introduction to society. I met Rocío and Alejandro’s mother on one of my visits to prison, and I was immediately struck by her energy and clear-headedness in such a terrible environment. The other inmates had a great respect for her.
The moment I pointed my camera at them and conducted my first interview I felt drawn to them, and I was particularly intrigued by the way they were handling the situation. The whole thing seemed to me like an extremely difficult predicament, but here I saw two courageous individuals with a great sense of humor who were willing to keep fighting. And I deeply admired them.
I later found out more about their story. Their life had been full of ups and downs from an early age, but the family had stayed together and remained strong through all of it. That history had turned them into very unique individuals; they were a great, tight-knit family and their ties were deep and complex.
Cathy’s tenth birthday is tough enough without her eccentric father giving her an egg as a gift along with a warning: “Be there when it is born so the bird recognizes YOU as its mother.” After a game of hide-and-seek goes awry, Cathy’s friend Margaux unknowingly becomes the “mother.” Unfortunately for the bird and Margaux, her parents believe Margaux is unable to care for this pet from her wheelchair. It takes a duckling, a great friend and a temporary flight from home to alter everyone’s impressions of life’s limitations.