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MOUNTAIN MIRACLE - AN UNEXPECTED FRIENDSHIP

Germany (97 mins, dir. Tobias Wiemann)
Language: German with English subtitles
Scenic alpine sights provide a stunning backdrop for this spirited and acclaimed coming-of-age adventure about a young girl's determination to overcome obstacles.

Nothing is going to thwart Amelie’s (Mia Kasalo) quest for a normal life – not her divorced parents, her stern doctors, or her life-threatening asthma. Shipped off to a mountainside clinic after her latest attack, the feisty 13-year-old isn’t content to simply accept her situation. If she can’t find her way back to Berlin, then she’ll just have to team up with local teen Bart (Samuel Girardi) and climb up to the peak in search of its mythical healing powers.

Anchored by strong performances from its young leads, Mountain Miracle – An Unexpected Friendship proves a warm and witty second feature from filmmaker Tobias Wiemann. Honest and forthright down to its depiction of Amelie’s stubborn nature, it’s a high-altitude exploration of illness, inner strength and the importance of welcoming assistance – and one that received special mentions from the youth juries at both the 2017 Berlin and Toronto film festivals.

10/08/201811:00amACMI 2Book
16/08/20181:30pmACMI 2Book

 

Classroom discussion points: Acceptance of limitations, dealing with illness, friendship, personal growth and independence, teenage rebellion
Age suitability advice: Contains very mild, infrequent coarse language
MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 12+

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INVENTING TOMORROW

USA (105 mins, dir. Laura Nix)
Language: English, Indonesian and Spanish with English subtitles
Students from Indonesia, India, Mexico and Hawaii prepare to take the Olympics of world science fairs by storm.

This compelling, globe-trotting documentary from director Laura Nix charts the experiences of seven young scientists as they prepare for the International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles. Tackling issues such as water pollution, air quality and even the levels of arsenic found in local soils after natural disasters, these seven inspiring teenagers grapple with problems that are directly affecting their homelands as they also struggle with the day-to-day hassles of being a kid on the verge of adulthood.

An antidote to the current global political discourse where climate change is denied and new technologies are thwarted for the sake of profits, Inventing Tomorrow might just give hope for a better future. With echoes of the crowd favourite spelling bee doc Spellbound (MIFF 2003), Inventing Tomorrow is a joyous celebration of adolescent determination.

Inventing Tomorrow is a documentary about badass teenagers who will save all of us.” – Nerdist

09/08/20181:30pmACMI 2Book
13/08/201811:00amACMI 2Book

 

Classroom discussion points: Science and technology, the environment, cross-cultural exchange, hope for the future
Age suitability advice: MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 10+

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LU OVER THE WALL

Japan (112 mins, dir. Masaaki Yuasa)
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
The top award winner at the 2017 Annecy Animation Festival, Lu Over the Wall is a genre-bending musical mermaid tale from noted anime director Masaaki Yuasa.

Following his parents’ divorce, 14-year-old Kai and his father move back to the superstitious seaside village where the latter grew up. The locals discourage music for fear it attracts vampiric merfolk but despite his grandfather’s warnings, Kai joins a band. Sure enough, their rehearsals entice a fun-loving young mermaid whose tail becomes feet at the sound of the beat and whose siren-song voice causes irresistible dancing.

Although its primary story element is similar to Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Ghibli’s Ponyo, Lu Over the Wall runs in very different directions thanks to Masaaki Yuasa’s offbeat imagination and anarchic animation style that recalls everything from pop art to Matisse to 1920s 2D cartoons. And although it’s endearingly trippy, it remains a family-friendly fairytale that explores understanding, acceptance and inclusiveness in a most delightful way.

“A charming story filled with fantasy and childlike wonder.” – Japan Times

09/08/201811:00amACMI 2Book
14/08/20181:30pmACMI 2Book

 

Classroom discussion points: Acceptance of difference, tolerance, friendship, first love, superstition/bigotry, fantasy & folklore
Age suitability advice:
MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 12+

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL

Spain (68 mins, dir. Pau Ortiz)
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
A top award-winner at Hot Docs, The Other Side of the Wall follows two Honduran teenagers in Mexico who have to grow up fast after their mother goes to prison.

Spirited and strong-willed, Rocío is 13 years old when her mother is sent to prison for ten years on dubious charges. Her older brother, Ale, is 18 and expecting a baby with his girlfriend. Both are forced to leave their studies and take on the role of parenting their younger brother and sister while their mother is locked away. But their brother–sister relationship strains under the weight of these new responsibilities, and their predicament starts to wear them down as they struggle to keep the family together. And as undocumented Honduran migrants in Mexico, they face even more barriers outside the home.

Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Pau Ortiz, The Other Side of the Wall scored the Best International Feature Documentary Award at the 2017 Hot Docs Film Festival for its revealing depiction of an immigrant family story with warmth, empathy and hope.

“A stunningly intimate and cinematic look at life as an immigrant in Mexico.” – CBC Radio

08/08/20181:30pmACMI 2Book
15/08/201811:00amACMI 2Book

 

Classroom discussion points: Dealing with adversity, poverty, immigration, survival, growing up before your time, sibling rivalry and family responsibility, family relationships
Age suitability advice: MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 15+
Contains infrequent coarse language

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EDHEL

Italy (84 mins, dir. Marco Renda)
Language: Italian
A young girl with malformed ears uses fantasy to help her cope with classroom bullies and process the death of her father in this Italian coming-of-age film.

For Edhel, school is a nightmare of bullying. She is made a target because of her ears, which conspicuously end in points. Already grieving the passing of her father, her torment at school causes her to withdraw and her only joy is the time she spends with her father’s horse, Caronte. Edhel also has a fractious relationship with her mother, who wishes her to undertake a procedure that will correct the shape of her daughter’s ears. Yet Edhel comes to see them in a new light when she strikes up a friendship with the school janitor who believes the girl’s ears are a mark of the elves – and a mystical new world opens up to her.

Director Marco Renda’s fable of recognising inner strength and learning to accept one’s own differences is a fantastical ride for young audiences.

08/08/201811:00amACMI 2Book
16/08/201811:00amACMI 2Book

 

Classroom discussion points: Bullying, dealing with grief, fractured family relationships, friendship, fantasy, coming-of-age
Age suitability advice: MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 10+
Contains some mild-impact violence including one scene involving the main protagonist being beaten by school students and another of the janitor being beaten by two other men.

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THE GIRL WITHOUT HANDS

France (76 mins, dir. Sebastien Laudenbach)
Language: French with English subtitles
Winner of the Jury Prize and Best French Film award at the Annecy Animation Festival, The Girl Without Hands is a breathtakingly beautiful fairytale unafraid of its Grimm origins.

The title is quite literal. A miller accidentally sells his daughter to the devil. But when the devil is unable to corrupt the girl, he demands her father chop off her hands. Understandably, she runs away and eventually meets and marries a kind and handsome prince. Before you can say ‘they lived happily ever after’, the prince is called away to war and the girl is left to raise their child alone – a task she proves entirely capable of, even without hands.

Acclaimed short-filmmaker Sébastien Laudenbach makes his feature debut with this exquisite, surprisingly feminist fable. Writing, directing, editing and animating entirely on his own, his film is a solo passion project that takes an unvarnished approach to a lesser-known Brothers Grimm tale, warts and all. But Laudenbach’s remarkable hand-painted illustrations soften the brothers’ harsher edges without sugarcoating them, while his almost impressionistic brush strokes and shimmering Fauvist colours lend an appropriately dreamlike quality to the proceedings.

“A dazzlingly imaginative movie about survival.” – The New York Times

07/08/20181:30pmACMI 2Book
17/08/201811:00amACMI 2Book

 

Classroom discussion points: Dealing with adversity, betrayal, self-sufficiency and survival, love, folklore, feminism, personal growth and independence
Age suitability advice: Contains some violence, obscured; one scene that implies consensual oral sex; and a couple of very brief scenes of female nudity
MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 15+

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SPEAK UP

France (95 mins, dir. Stephane de Freitas and Ladj Ly)
Language: French with English subtitles
A group of teens from Paris's impoverished suburbs go through high-intensity training to compete for the title of France's best young orator. The catch: they've rarely spoken in public before.

The French approach the art of oratory with unflinching seriousness, and nowhere is this more evident than in the ferocious competition of the Concours Eloquentia, a tournament of public speaking for the country’s university students. Into this rhetorical battle dome stride four very different teens: a formerly homeless student; a staunchly feminist Muslim; an aspiring actor; and a girl who’s lost both her parents. But not just anyone can win the Eloquentia and the training they’ll endure will challenge them in ways none of them could have imagined.

A break-out sensation when it was released in France, Speak Up is a rousing documentary from filmmakers Stéphane de Freitas and Ladj Ly. An illuminating showcase of youthful creativity with a defiantly egalitarian streak, Speak Up is a showcase for the power of the words we speak – as long as we learn how to use them.

“Uplifting and authentic… Speak Up reveals that there may be a new, far more ethnically diverse generation ready to step up and take the reins. You just have to listen to them.” – Hollywood Reporter

07/08/201811:00amACMI 2Book
15/08/20181:30pmACMI 2Book

 

Classroom discussion points: Public speaking, building of confidence, feminism, healthy competition
Age suitability advice: Contains a reference to sex work (as part of exercise in building an argument)
MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 12+

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BIG FISH & BEGONIA

China (105 mins, dir. Xuan Liang, Chun Zhang)
Language: Mandarin, with English subtitles
Like Spirited Away in reverse, Big Fish & Begonia is a visually breathtaking Chinese animation that gives ancient Taoist myth a Ghibli-esque make-over.

Over a decade in the making, this groundbreaking fantasy adventure began life as a beloved short before being turned into a feature. The tale of Chun, a supernatural girl who travels to the world of humans on her 16th birthday in the form of a red dolphin, the film explores love and sacrifice with stunning beauty.

Writer/directors Xuan Liang and Chun Zhang have woven a sumptuous, sinuous and uplifting epic out of various folkloric sources including the Zhuangzi (one of the foundation texts of Taoism, alongside the Tao Te Ching), Classic of Mountains and Seas and In Search of the Sacred. Underscored by a delicate soundtrack from anime composer Kiyoshi Yoshida (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), Big Fish & Begonia is a Chinese box-office hit that sets a new bar in animated artistry.

“An incredibly affirmational journey … that unfolds like a waking dream en route to a state of transcendent bliss few films achieve.” – Variety

06/08/201811:00amACMI 2Book
14/08/201811:00amACMI 2Book

 

Classroom discussion points: Coming of age, use of folklore, family relationships, first love, sacrifice, fantasy, rites of passage.
Age suitability advice: Contains brief scenes of nudity (animated) and mild cartoon violence (a dolphin is harpooned) as well as one scene of a fist fight.
MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 10+

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