“T-Rex” is an intimate, true coming-of-age story about a new kind of American heroine. in 2012, women’s boxing debuted at the 2012 Olympics. Fighting for gold from the USA is Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, just 17 years old and by far the youngest competitor. From the hard knock streets of Flint, Mich., Claressa is undefeated and utterly confident. Her fierceness extends beyond the ring as he protects her family at any cost, even when their instability and addictions threaten to derail her dream. Claressa does have one stable force in her life. Coach Jason Crutchfield has trained her since she was just a scrawny 11-year-old hanging out at his gym. Jason always wanted a champion, but never thought it’d be a girl. Her relationships with her coach and her family grow tense as she gets closer to her dream, but Claressa is determined. She desperately wants to take her family to a better, safer place and winning a gold medal could be her only chance.

How do children born into poverty find hope? This documentary follows the lives of a garbage picker, a music teacher and a group of children from Cateura, Paraguay. In this slum, they create musical instruments entirely out of garbage: first out of necessity, but the project became so much more. LANDFILL HARMONIC brings us on their journey from local village orchestra to world traveling (internet fueled) troupe whose trajectory of success is enhanced by their trash-into-music message.

Winner of the 2015 Audience Choice Award SXSW
Winner of the 2015 Audience Choice Award AFI

The Crocodiles” was a huge hit at our 2011 festival, so screening the second installment of their trilogy was a no-brainer! All the original cast members are back (looking a little older as kids are prone to do), and several new characters assist in solving another town conspiracy. This time the gang of pint-sized detectives stumbles across a plot involving a local factory threatened with a mysterious closure. Worried that their parents will lose their jobs, the young sleuths must work together to uncover the sinister plan.

“The Crocodiles Strike Back” is packed with plenty of adventure and humor. What this film has above and beyond other films made for young adults is a sincere development of characters with real-world domestic situations. There are kids from broken families trying to cope. Racism is tackled, as are stereotypes of the physically challenged, often in humorous ways. These evolving young adults are empowered through their friendship despite entering a difficult age of thinking romantically about each other. There is still teasing but with respect for one another. Dealing with issues relevant to kids around the world, this entertaining coming-of-age film is guaranteed to thrill audiences.

A true-to-life film about fulfilling potential and overcoming destiny, “I am Kalam” has touched hearts across India and worldwide. Chhotu, a bright yet impoverished Rajasthani boy, dreams of gaining an education while he works at a roadside cafe. When he hears an inspirational message from President Kalam, he changes his name to Kalam and commits to studying independently whenever he can. He befriends a local prince, but the two must fraternize in secret. Through their forbidden friendship and a case of misjudged intentions, Kalam struggles to find his place and tries to meet the president. A heartwarming narrative, “I Am Kalam” speaks not only to the dreams of many uneducated children in India but to anyone who has dared to seek a better life for himself.

Abila, 14, lives in the violent slum jungle of Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya. He is a Luo – one of the many Kenyan tribes. He is smitten with Shiku, who is the same age, but she is a Kikuyu, and that is the problem. Boys and girls from different tribes are not encouraged to mix. But Abila has another problem. At the start of the film, he finds his father in a disturbing state. His mother says it’s a hangover, but Abila has a feeling there’s more going on. He finds out that his father’s soul has been stolen by a Nyawawa, a female spirit. Despite the hostility of the surroundings, Abila and Shiku set off together to save the soul of Abila’s father.

You could say that the location is the real protagonist of this film. Shot in 13 days, this film was made in Kibera, where more than one million people live and battle for survival. Its residents acted the film’s parts.

This film emerged from a workshop and benefited from production support by the famous German director Tom Tykwer. Above all, the camera work is of a level that is seldom seen in African pictures. The authentic background in combination with the outside support turned “Soul Boy” into a sparkling – and surprisingly professional-looking — short film.

Filmed against the sweeping landscapes of the remote Mongolian mountains on the Kazakhstan border, this story of self-discovery introduces us to Bazarbai, a 12-year-old nomadic boy who dreams of joining his brother in the city of Ulan Bator to make his fortune. His father, however, has other plans: to teach his son the trade of eagle hunting, a generations-long family tradition. Bazarbai does indeed travel to the city, carrying his father’s aging eagle with him. When the bird is taken from him, the boy realizes his strong bond not only with the bird, but also to his family. A metaphor for his own life’s path, Bazarbai’s journey leads him through dangers and temptations to finally accept responsibilities he must claim as his own. The cinematography plays a crucial role, as we are dazzled and moved by spectacular scenes of soaring eagles in their native habitat.

“Louder than a Bomb” is a film about passion, competition, teamwork and trust. It’s about the joy of being young and the pain of growing up. It’s about speaking out, making noise and finding your voice. It also happens to be about poetry.

Every year, more than 600 teenagers from more than 60 Chicago-area schools gather for the world’s largest youth poetry slam, a competition called “Louder Than a Bomb.” Founded in 2001, Louder Than a Bomb is the only event of its kind in the country—a youth poetry slam built from the beginning around teams. Rather than emphasize individual poets and performances, the structure demands that kids collaborate: presenting, critiquing and rewriting their peers’ pieces. To succeed, teams have to create an environment of mutual trust and support. For many kids, being a part of such an environment—in an academic context—is life-changing.

Set in scenic but strife-ridden Kashmir, “Tahaan” tells the story of an eight-year-old boy who tries to gain back his beloved pet donkey that has been sold along with his family’s possessions to pay the family debt. He wanders village and countryside, navigates border checkpoints, negotiates with merchants and money lenders on his quest – and is recruited to hurl a grenade into an army compound. Lush cinematography and a recurring chorus of Sufi singers add texture to this tender fable.

Once dubbed “the most famous man in the world,” Charlie Chaplin has long been recognized as one of the preeminent icons of both comedy and cinema. From 1914 until 1967, Chaplin wrote, directed, produced and starred in more than 80 films, quickly advancing from basic slapstick to a unique comic style: immaculately constructed, deeply human, and always hilarious. “Modern Times” is one of his most acclaimed works that can make a child (or the child in us) laugh with abandon while truly empathizing with his iconic character, the down-and-out Tramp.

Because of its cultural significance, “Modern Times” was selected by the Library of Congress in 1989 for preservation in the National Film Registry.

A charming and intriguing kids’ film from India, “Gattu” is about an orphan being raised by a strict uncle constantly frustrated by his nephew’s inability to focus on work. Gattu is obsessed instead with kite-flying, and in particular with defeating the mysterious Kali, a black kite that rules the skies. To do this, Gattu is prepared to steal, lie, and even go to school! The only problem—he is illiterate. Nonetheless, our hero takes up the challenge, proving anything might be possible when the will is strong enough. Nominated for Best Children’s Feature Film at the 2012 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.