New York International Children’s Film Festival
Age recommendation: 13 and up, 5-10, All Ages, Little Kids, Teens
The New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF) announced its complete feature film slate for 2023.
The festival will be held in person and begins March 3, and will run weekends through March 19.
Expanding to venues across Manhattan and Brooklyn, hosts include SVA Theatre, Film Forum, DCTV’s Firehouse Cinema, Scandinavia House, Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn and Sag Harbor Cinema.
NYICFF is not only for kids; the festival has programming to offer film lovers of all ages.
The complete feature slate is:
BELLE & SEBASTIAN: NEXT GENERATION
Belle et Sébastien: Nouvelle génération
Live Action, Pierre Coré, 2022, 96 min.
French with English subtitles
City kid Sebastian is less than thrilled to spend school break with his grandmother and aunt in the countryside instead of filling his days with parkour around Paris with his friends. Though the family farm is in the stunning French Pyrenees mountains, Seb finds herding sheep utterly boring. That is, until he meets Belle, a beautifully humongous canine with a heart as gold as her voluminous locks. When Seb learns that Belle is being mistreated by her owner, he’s ready to draw on his city pluck and do what it takes to protect his new friend. In the process, he just might find a way to save the family farm from greedy developers and looming climate change. Filled with gorgeous mountain scenery and modern themes, this contemporary version of Belle and Sebastian delivers on its next gen title. If, like us, you’re already a member of the fervent Belle and Sebastian fanbase, you know that the real screen starlet is Belle. If not, prepare for some puppy love at first sight.
Animation, Masaki Tachibana, 2022, 103 min.
Japanese with English subtitles
Tamaki is ready to create an exciting social life for herself at university when she, quite literally, bumps into the members of the aeronautics club, knocking over their glider plane. With the pricey damage done, she begins working in the club to compensate. The grace that Tsuru-tama lacks on the ground she quickly finds in the sky, but in order to fly high, she has to catch a thermal—no easy feat for a team that relies on reading the sky rather than high-tech devices. Then there’s her older sister, Yano, who holds a grudge and will use sneaky means to win the contest for herself and her teammate, the too-cool-for-school Hatori. But Tamaki plays fair and square, even to her own disadvantage, as she’d rather have a stiff rival than win by the competition’s careless mistakes. She wants nothing more than to repay club captain Kuramochi, not only for the damaged glider but for taking her under his wing and helping her discover her power and passion. But when he disappears, will she find a runway back that feels like a win?
DOUNIA & THE PRINCESS OF ALEPPO
Dounia & La Princesse D'Alep
Animation, Marya Zarif & André Kadi, 2022, 72 min.
French with English subtitles
Bold of spirit and wild of hair, six-year-old Dounia lives joyfully with her family in Aleppo, where she spends her time traversing the bustling souks, or marketplaces, teeming with delicious ingredients just right for her grandmother’s amazing dishes. Life is filled with kind neighbors, shared stories, and music until a gradually intensifying conflict brings a growing troop of soldiers to town. When the family is forced to pack up and join the global ranks searching for a safer place to call home, Dounia’s grandmother stuffs rosewater sweets and other fresh-baked, homestyle delights into her bulging suitcase. But all Dounia takes with her is a handful of nigella seeds, known in Syrian lore to have magical properties. Her handful of hope just might bear rewards in the form of the legendary princess of Aleppo and her guidance as the group journeys across Syria, the dangerous sea, the daunting borders of Europe, and more. Though navigating serious themes, this charming, funny, and visually dazzling tale offers an all-ages point of entry to explore timely issues and the timeless value of respect for all citizens of the world.
ERNEST AND CELESTINE: A TRIP TO GIBBERITIA
Ernest et Célestine, le Voyage en Charabie
Animation, Julien Chheng & Jean-Christophe Roger, 2022, 80 min.
French with English subtitles
At long last, they’re back! Ernest and Celestine, the wacky and warm, beloved if mismatched pair of travelers who made their US debut at NYICFF 2013 return for another instant classic, again for the first time in the United States. This time around, the once-forbidden friends are on the trail to Ernest’s home, Gibberitia. Grumpy Ernest is not too pleased to be headed back, but it’s
the only place where he can get is prized violin repaired after it’s broken (in a major oops!) by Celestine. The silver lining? Gibberitia is home to some of the world’s greatest musicians who fill their time together playing the joyful sounds that fill the streets. But disappointment looms when our ursine/rodent duo arrive to silent streets and the master luthier nowhere to be found. They soon learn that this unthinkable existence is a result of a citywide ban on all music. Together with their friends and a mysterious masked outlaw, they will use strategy, hijinks, and even some hard concessions to learn that being true to yourself might just be the sweetest music of all. Another duo returning to NYICFF? Co-directors Julien Chheng and Jean-Christophe Roger, who have worked on Fest favorites Mune (NYICFF 2015) and The Storytelling Show (NYICFF 2011), respectively.
GOODBYE DON GLEES!
Animation, Atsuko Ishizuka, 2021, 95 min.
Start with Stand by Me, add a bit of The Goonies, top with a dash of Stranger Things, mix well with visually dazzling sylvan and celestial animation, and you’ve got Goodbye Don Glees! This year’s must-see, Oscar-shortlisted story is about being a teen and the mundanity and hilarity that comes with it. Teen trio Roma, Tot, and Drop collectively go by “Don Glees,” a sly take on their glum (not gleeful) but adventurous outlook. When they are caught literally playing with fire, the group is called into question and they must set off on a quest through the forest to prove their innocence. Along the way, individual motivations, like Toto’s singular focus on studying medicine and Drops’ sweet belief in the power of friendship in the face of challenge, are put to the test. The result is cosmic, gutting, goofy—and yes, even gleeful—in this tough yet tender anime answer to Boyhood.
HOME IS SOMEWHERE ELSE
Animation documentary, Carlos Hagerman & Jorge Villalobos, 2022, 87 min.
English & Spanish with English subtitles
Ages 11+The brilliance of animated documentary is that it can provide an imaginative space to envision someone else’s story. Home is Somewhere Else tells three poignant tales of life on either side of the Mexico/US border. Our guide, Lalo, is a young Mexican artist raised in Utah who presents each story with his slamming Spanglish poetry. There are best friends and sisters Evelyn and
Elizabeth, one studying to become the sole doctor in her small Mexican village, the other making the pan of her sueños to sell in her very own LA bakery. We also meet Jasmine as she sets off to become an activist to protect families like her own. Finally, Lalo shares the story of his own childhood, deportation experience, and finding a way back and transforming his challenges through his work as an artist and activist.
LITTLE NICHOLAS - HAPPY AS CAN BE
Le petit Nicolas: Qu'est-ce qu'on attend pour être heureux?
Animation, Amandine Fredon & Benjamin Massoubre, 2022, 85 min.
French with English subtitles
Simultaneously mixing the story of a mischievous cartoon boy and his friends with the true tale of his creators, Little Nicholas is a visual delight with wit to match. When illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé first drew little imp Nicholas, he knew he had to get his good friend René Goscinny (of Asterix fame) to write the story. As the two artists bring the boy to life, Nicholas himself escapes the page to ask them about their own childhoods. Through these conversations, the friends share stories of early artistic ambition, immigrating to the United States, and family lost to World War II. More solemn moments are balanced expertly with Nicholas’s own adventures with his best friend Alceste (who simply loves toast!) in splashy watercolor, to deliver moments of utter joy. The first feature-length Little Nicholas film to maintain the essence of the text’s original artwork, this story of the creators and their created will delight fans of the books (who might know him better as Le Petit Nicolas) and send newcomers to their local libraries to discover what they’ve been missing.
LONELY CASTLE IN THE MIRROR
Animation, Keiichi Hara, 2022, 116 min
Japanese with English subtitles
Kokoro has had enough of the buzzing bells, shouting teachers, noisy hallways, and mean classmates at her middle school when she decides to just stay home. Bored and trapped, she finds a portal in her bedroom mirror that whisks her away to an enormous castle, where she’s greeted by the mysterious and gruff Wolf Queen—a wolf in girls’ clothing or the other way around, she’s not sure. Along with six other smart but world-weary students, she must follow all of the Queen’s rules, including a strict curfew. They are all in search of a magic key, hidden somewhere in the castle, that will grant whoever finds it any wish they want. As they conspire over strategy and share their stories, bonding in a place that’s free of fear and judgment and learning when to make (and sometimes break) their own rules in the name of friendship. Maybe the adults will begin to understand that it’s the circumstances, and not the kids, that need to change in this meaningful anime adapted from Tsujimura Mizuki’s popular YA novel.
MY ROBOT BROTHER
Live Action, Frederik Nørgaard, 2022, 84 min.
Danish with English subtitles
The future is now in this hilarious vision of a slightly absurd high-tech world not far off from our own. There, robots serves as kids’ personal assistants, leaving adults to a life of leisure hanging (quite literally) around the house in body suits and VR headsets. It’s not a perfect world, especially for 12-year-old Alberte, whose sweet but super embarrassing android Robbi is the oldest model there is, lightyears behind the 15.0 version of all her classmates. So when she gets the perfect birthday present—Konrad, the newest humanoid that’s not even on the market—her popularity spikes and things start to look up. Konrad’s AI makes him slick and amazingly human-like, and loyal but bumbling Robbi gets shoved to the side. But can the connection between Alberte and Konrad hold up to a real friendship?
Live Action, Nicole van Kilsdonk, 2023, 91 min.
Dutch Sign Language, Dutch & French with English subtitles
Co-produced by BNNVARA
Jamie is only just starting to get settled at her new boarding school for the deaf when she learns that her dear grandmother, the only other non-hearing member of her family, has landed in the hospital. When her family tells her there’s not enough time to pick her up in the Netherlands before heading to the hospital in Paris, Jamie is left feeling helpless. Imane, Jamie’s very new friend and classmate, sees her upset and suggests they secretly make the journey on their own. Together they face a scary clown, an abandoned mansion, a gibberish band, and much more on their trek from school through the French countryside. This charming film gracefully explores the way the two girls—one with a cochlear implant and one without—navigate friendship, the deaf community, and the hearing world. Joining the ranks of films like CODA and Sound of Metal, Okthanksbye takes care to represent the deaf community with graciousness and accuracy. But unlike those films, Okthanksbye is an unabashedly fun coming-of-age road movie.
ONE SUMMER STORY
Live Action, Shuichi Okita, 2020, 138 min.
Japanese with English subtitles
Between competitive swim team practice and cramming for classes the anime Buffalo Kotek is Minami’s only respite from her hectic life. So it feels a lot like kismet when she discovers that her classmate Shohei, and aspiring manga artist, shares her obsession—and that his brother is an amateur detective. It seems as though Minami’s finally formed the perfect team to help her unravel a big mystery of her own, following a recent trail of clues that just might lead to her long lost father. The timing couldn’t be better when an out-of-town swim competition presents itself as the perfect alibi, and she sneaks off to the Japanese coast to discover a whole new side of herself in this bold and charming story of anime, friendship, family, and the life aquatic.
PANDA! GO PANDA!
Animation, Isao Takahata, 1972, 72 min.
We’re flashing back to a Festival classic that our youngest audiences may have missed! From the legendary team that formed Studio Ghibli (with original concepts and character designs by Hayao Miyazaki) comes two deliriously delightful animated featurettes in one program! Seven-year-old Mimiko has somehow persuaded her grandmother to take off by train and leave her home alone. She’s quite capable of handling all duties of home and hearth, but gets more than she bargains for when PapaPanda and baby Panny turn up at her door. Their round bodies, wide grins, and off-kilter clowning offer the first glints of another charming neighbor to come. Infused equally with the amazing and the absurd, this seriously fun Totoro precursor is sure to win over new audiences and seasoned Ghibli fans alike. Panda, Go Panda, indeed!
Animation, Kajsa Næss, 2022, 90 min.
Norwegian with English subtitles
“More or less based on true events.” So begins the mostly true-to-life story of Titina, an intrepid fox terrier, and her companions on their aerial expedition to the North Pole. When Italian engineer Umberto Nobile is invited to build and airship for Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, he knows he’s embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. And who better to accompany him on his dirigible to the top of the world than the trusty street pup he rescued in Rome? Just as their airship, the Norge, is poised to reach a milestone as the first to make the Polar flyover, a petty power struggle turns the journey sour. With colorful animation mixed with live action documentary footage, Titina captures all of the real, high-altitude antics that made history—all from the vantage point of one lucky dog.
Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany
Live Action, Sander Burger, 2022, 97 min.
Dutch & French with English subtitles
unthinkable when her family members are unexpectedly detained, leaving Ama to find a solution. Harnessing the focus she learned in swim training and armed with the wisdom of her mother’s tales of their homeland, she must forge a path and follow clues to reunite her family. Fortunately, a gigantic spirit animal rooted in Senegalese tradition might just be of service.
Tickets are available beginning Feb. 10.