2016 Festival Flashback!! Five years ago we invited this thought-provoking documentary to our festival. With the situation in the Middle East still far from resolution, this film speaks volumes about the hurdles people face to live in peace.

ALMOST FRIENDS is a documentary about two Israeli girls—an Arab and a Jew—who live only 40 miles away but in many ways live worlds apart. Participating in an online program that fosters educational exchange and friendship, the two girls correspond with caution and eventually meet face-to-face. The experience is profoundly moving for them, their families, and the audiences who see this touching film. But when conflict spans generations, change is slow and “almost” anything might be a start…

 

What happens when a diverse group of LGBTQ youth dares to be “out” on stage to reveal their lives and their loves? THE YEAR WE THOUGHT ABOUT LOVE goes behind the scenes of one of the oldest queer youth theaters in America, with a camera crew slipping into classrooms, kitchens, subways and rehearsal rooms. Boston-based True Colors OUT Youth Theater transforms daily struggles into performance for social change. With wit, candor and attitude, this cast of characters captivates audiences who may be surprised to hear such stories in school settings. THE YEAR WE THOUGHT ABOUT LOVE introduces a transgender teenager kicked out of her house, a devout Christian challenging his church’s homophobia and a girl who prefers to wear boys’ clothing even as she models dresses on the runway. When real bombs explode outside their building, the troupe becomes even more determined to share their stories of love to help heal their city. Brave, encouraging, and funny…these are the inspiring LGBTQ youth leading us into the future.

Tenth-grade filmmaker Bailey Webber is on a mission that starts when her school district, in a misguided attempt to address childhood obesity, forces its schools to perform Body Mass Index (BMI) tests on selected students. After a sixth grader voices her protest against the “fat letters,” Webber recognizes the injustice of telling children they are fat if they don’t fall within a narrowly accepted range. Her keen inquiry includes a relentless chase after the bureaucrat who sponsored the law. Whether staging a vigil at the state house or interviewing health experts, Bailey never loses her cool, pursuing with poise and charm. Her dogged pursuit is always done with poise and immense charm. THE STUDENT BODY is a sophisticated, smart, steadfast, sensitive and often humorous chronicle of two brave girls who expose the hypocrisy of grownups who think they are safeguarding youth.

 

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.

“No matter what we do, is it really going to make a difference?” This corrosive statement becomes the core of “ReGENERATION,” a documentary that succeeds as a lightning rod for social change through thought and action. Strongly calling out the apathy of the current generation of youth and young adults, the film, narrated by Ryan Gosling, presents a cross-section of perspectives from a society fed more through corporate media than by truth. Unique commentary on the problems facing our society are explored through an inspired collective of musicians (STS9), a 20-something conservative family and a group of five suburban high school students looking for their place in the world. As the powerful evidence of our reliance on technology, disconnection with nature, excessive consumption and loss of history add up, leading scholars from around the world (including Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky), journalists (Amy Goodman) and media personalities, Mos Def and Talib Kweli) stimulate the discussion with their wisdom and personal reflections. As engaging as it is insightful, ReGENERATION stands to be heard and energizes audiences to join its march to a world of passionate action.

 

“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.

Over the course of a year, this witty documentary follows two urban, multiracial 11-year-olds as they explore their place in the food chain. Sadie and Safiyah talk to storekeepers, farmers, food activists, farmers to learn more about the origin of the food they eat, how it’s cultivated and how far it travels from farm to fork. The girls formulate sophisticated and compassionate opinions about urban sustainability, and by doing so inspire hope and active engagement.

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.

Lola lives on a houseboat called “The Pea” with her mother, but life isn’t exactly smooth sailing. She misses her long-gone Dad and doesn’t care much for her Mom’s new boyfriend. Things change when she befriends a Turkish schoolmate with problems of his own. Despite the tough subjects in this film LOLA ON THE PEA is also musical, funny, and fast-paced with a believable story that will provide much to talk about after the show.

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.