The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, now in its 19th year, continues Friday through Sunday, November 1 through 3, at City North 14; Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton; and the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble. Tickets are $6 for children and adults, $4.50 for Facets members; various discounts are available for ten or more tickets. Professional actors will be on hand to read subtitled films. For more information call 773-281-9075 or 773-281-2166. Programs marked with an * are highly recommended.


Her Majesty

In 1953 a teenage girl dreams of meeting Queen Elizabeth during the monarch’s visit to New Zealand, a goal complicated by her growing friendship with a Maori woman disliked by the people of their town. Mark J. Gordon directed. 100 min. (City North 14, 9:45 am)


In Marina Gonzalez Palmier’s White Like the Moon (2001), named best short film at the New York International Latino Film Festival, a Mexican girl living in San Antonio in the late 50s struggles with her racial identity when her mother forces her to bleach her skin. Three shorts from Spain complete the program. 74 min. (Facets Cinematheque, 9:45 am)

Virginia’s Run

This Canadian independent feature by Peter Markle is pure Hollywood hokum, a National Velvet retread about a girl (Lindze Letherman) whose mother has died in a riding accident but who’s emotionally attached to the mother’s horse and its foal. The screenplay, by Markle and Valarie Trapp, sticks to the formula: the difficult horse only our heroine can control, the widowed father who forbids her from riding it (Gabriel Byrne), the secret training sessions, the spoiled rich kid (Kevin Zeger) who’ll do anything to win the big race. The actors compensate for the story’s predictability by underplaying every line, a strategy that succeeds only in making Zeger’s trophy-hungry villain the most interesting character. With Joanne Whalley. 101 min. (Jack Helbig) (City North 14, 9:45 am)

What’s So Funny?

“In Pierre Monnard’s UK comedy Swapped,” writes Fred Camper, “a boy trades his boring father for two goldfish, and dad winds up getting traded away again and again. The complaint ‘All he ever did was read newspapers’ is illustrated with a shot in which a paper seems to have replaced his head.” Joshua Katzman describes Christina Schindler’s German short Different as “a touching tale of a chameleon that has trouble changing color like its increasingly angry siblings.” The pair are among 15 live-action and puppet-animation shorts, from Canada, Denmark, Australia, the UK, and the U.S. 88 min. (Vittum Theater, 9:45 am)


Lars Berg wrote and directed this Norwegian coming-of-age story about two brothers, the older of them a hockey star who realizes he was conceived by someone other than their father, the younger an amateur rock musician who admires his sibling’s skill with girls. 76 min. (City North 14, 10:45 am)

* Minoes

After being exposed to chemicals from a deodorant factory, a young woman (Carice van Houten, appealingly naive) turns into a Siamese cat, Miss Minoes. If you can accept this fantastic conceit–whose logical implications are ignored as the story progresses–you’ll probably enjoy this whimsical comedy from the Netherlands. Even in human form, Minoes still climbs up trees, prowls rooftops, hungers for fish, and engages in kitty talk, giving a shy reporter (Theo Maassen) scoops about the factory’s unscrupulous owner that she picks up from gossiping cats. Her feline friends are skeptical of people, and their wisecracks are among the charms offered by Tamara Bos’s script. Director Vincent Bal handles the action scenes with winking humor (the bad guy driven mad by cats is a hoot), and the budding love between Minoes and the reporter is played with considerable tenderness. In Dutch with subtitles. 88 min. (TS) (City North 14, 11:15 am)

Beautiful Minds: Memory, Senses, and Inspiration

Ryan Landel’s visually witty black-and-white live-action short The Midnight Express (2001) tells the tale of a boy who’s awakened every night by a Chicago-to-New York passenger train roaring through his bedroom. Gil Alkabetz’s German short Trim Time (2001) is a lively color animation about an industrious barber who takes it upon himself to trim a tree’s wild foliage. In Nina Paley’s minimally drawn but frantically imaginative Fetch! (2001) a white background bisected by a horizontal black line serves as the backdrop for a yellow, bananalike character hurling a red ball for his blue dog to chase. After the ball goes astray, the dog and its owner are led through a series of point-of-view gags that build into crazy, Escher-like mazes. Bahram Javaheri’s Iranian The Flower, the Bird, the Sun is a beautiful semiabstract animation using a variety of media, including cutouts and dappled finger paint, to communicate the oneness of nature. In Dive (2001), a Norwegian short competently directed by Sirin Eide, a kid playing at the beach gets bullied by his prospective stepbrothers until he uses his new snorkel to play a prank on them. And in Aviva Barkhourdarian’s live-action German drama A Dog’s Hideaway (2001), a rather shameless but nonetheless effective heart tugger, an abused dog escapes from its biker owner and is adopted by a girl who’s been longing for a pet. Three more shorts complete the program, which totals 70 minutes. (JJ) (Facets Cinematheque, 11:45 am)

Inside View: How Other Kids Live

Short films about children of other cultures, from Canada, India, Denmark, and the UK. 78 min. (Vittum Theater, 11:45 am)


Adventures With Aardvarks

Great Britain’s Aardman Animations (Chicken Run) produced the 30-minute Hamilton Mattress, about an aardvark plucked from obscurity to star in a film about its life. Five more shorts complete this 85-minute program, including Fetch!, Dive, and Trim Time (see “Beautiful Minds” listing for Friday, November 1). (Facets Cinematheque, 11:00 am)

Kids & Clever Critters

In Vincent Woodcock’s UK cartoon Little Ghosts–Trip to Loch Ness, “wee ghosties” visit the title locale to search for the legendary monster, peering in one direction while he appears in the other. Paws begins unpromisingly, with a trite parody of Jaws, but then turns to an affectionate story of a dog that manages to navigate a butcher’s touch-tone ordering system to land some T-bone steaks. Yu-chen Hsieh’s Taiwanese Inspiration ribs abstract painting: when an artist struggling with a still life uses his brush to swat a pest, the result is a lot better than the realistic piece he was working on. And Aimee Barth’s live-action Kosher (2001) offers a wry commentary on issues of Jewish identity: a six-year-old boy asks a girl to marry him, and after a yarmulke-wearing friend refuses to officiate because the groom is a gentile, the boy stops eating ham. Seven more shorts complete the program, which runs 89 minutes. (FC) (Facets Cinematheque, 11:00 am)

* Minoes

See listing for Friday, November 1. (City North 14, 11:00 am)

Virginia’s Run

See listing for Friday, November 1. (City North 14, 11:00 am)

Diving In

Chris de Deugd’s elegant Daedalus’ Daughter, from the Netherlands, uses simple chalk and charcoal sketches to convey the excitement of flight. Seven more shorts about the sea and its creatures complete this 76-minute program, from Canada, Norway, Belgium, Germany, the UK, and the U.S. (Jack Helbig) (Facets Cinematheque, 1:00)

The King’s Beard

A barber struggles to survive in a kingdom where the king’s abundant beard makes shaves and haircuts extremely unfashionable. Tony Collingwood directed this animated feature from the UK. 75 min. (Facets Cinematheque, 1:00)

* Help, I’m a Boy!

An overachieving A student (Sarah Hannemann) and a sloppy, D-minus classmate (Nick Seidensticker) switch bodies in this 2001 German fantasy by Oliver Dommenget. The film’s well-worn Hollywood device (Freaky Friday, Vice Versa) could have been tiresome, but screenwriter Astrid Stroher uses it to reveal truths about early adolescence, and Dommenget avoids the obvious drag humor, developing subplots about a sorcerer looking for a worthy successor and the girl’s growing realization that she doesn’t want to be a great athlete like her mother. Hannemann and Seidensticker are delightful; it’s a pleasure to see young actors who don’t look as if they just stepped out of a pouty jeans commercial. In German with subtitles. 95 min. (Jack Helbig) Also showing: the 12-minute Bulgarian short Rocks and Chocolate. (Facets Cinematheque, 3:00)

Wild and Wiggly

Tim Harper, whose puppet animation has the same odd mix of precocity and innocence that marked the Rankin-Bass specials of the 60s, recently revived the British cartoon character Andy Pandy for the BBC; in The Andy Pandy Band the title character and his friends transform household items into musical instruments. Eight more shorts complete the program, from Iceland, India, Belgium, Slovakia, Canada, and the U.S. 62 min. (Joshua Katzman) (Facets Cinematheque, 3:00)


Three kids cross the Australian continent to foil a poachers’ ring in this feature by Di Drew. 85 min. (Facets Cinematheque, 5:00)


An Angel for May

A boy in suburban London (Matthew Beard), unhappy with school and his mother’s impending marriage, is magically transported back to the 1940s in this British fantasy, adapted from a novel by Melvyn Burgess. The film contrasts the boy’s broken home with the tight-knit farming family that welcomes both him and the haggard orphan he’s befriended (Charlotte Wakefield, looking like a Dickensian urchin), and despite the modest production values, director Harley Cokeliss and veteran cinematographer Stephen Smith convey a strong sense of life in the English countryside. The shifts between past and present take a while to figure out, but the ensemble acting is solid, with especially good performances by Beard and Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom). 100 min. (TS) Also showing: an eight-minute version of Hamlet. (Vittum Theater, 11:00 am)

Her Majesty

See listing for Friday, November 1. (City North 14, 11:00 am)

Jumping for Joy

Set in a small Idaho town, this drama by writer-director Timothy J. Nelson revisits the conformity and gender prejudices of the early 60s, as a tomboyish farm girl with a mean slam dunk (Lindsay Pulsipher) is mistaken for a boy and invited to join a second-rate high school basketball team. Of course, after she steers the team toward a championship her secret tumbles out, shocking her coach, her teammates, and school officials. Nelson doesn’t push the feminist rhetoric too hard, stressing the importance of solidarity (a natural leader, the girl inspires her team), though the heroine’s appealing androgyny is a quiet argument for gender fluidity. The film’s ending is abrupt and predictable (followed by a coda decades later, in which the woman is honored for her pioneering role in women’s sports), but these drawbacks fail to diminish Pulsipher’s feisty, winsome performance. With Joe Estevez and Victoria Jackson. 90 min. (TS) (City North 14, 11:00 am)

Tall Tales for Tots

In the Danish Oswald the Monkey (2001) the title simian and its mates have been enslaved by a tyrannical orangutan that forces them to procure its food and pick the bugs out of its fur; Peter Hausner’s depiction of Oswald’s revolt is colorful enough, but the resolution is rather run-of-the-mill. Eleven more shorts complete the program, which totals 75 minutes. (Joshua Katzman) (Vittum Theater, 11:00 am)

Kids With Movie Cameras

Not all of these 21 videos by children succeed: some are short and slight, while some collaborative projects fail to cohere. But Iain Piercy’s Scottish animation Native Roots, created by a number of kids, is an affecting ecological statement. Using photographs of dumps, paper cutouts, and actual candy wrappers, it tells the simple story of a forest being cut down and replaced by homes, which are in turn covered over by apartment buildings; after garbage fills the frame and factory pollution kills the fish, hands remove the candy wrappers and plant trees. Piercy achieves the visual consistency of theater by maintaining the shallow space of a tabletop and optimistically conflates the video’s creation with the possibility of improving the world. Other works of interest include the Welsh short Warrior to Saint, Derfel of Wales, in which a warrior’s conversion to Christianity is visualized by crossed hands suggesting a crucifix, and the Scottish Foods ‘R Us, in which a kid TV anchor reporting on the need to eat fruits and vegetables slips up by scarfing down a candy bar. 70 min. (FC) (Vittum Theater, 1:00)