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Sprockets fest unveils Family Weekends slate

'Virtual Mom' to kick off fest that includes 14 features, 22 shorts

TORONTO — Young film buffs can now set their schedule for the Family Weekends portion of the third edition of Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children, set for April 8 and 9 and April 15 and 16.

Sprockets director Jane Schoettle announced the lineup for Family Weekends, which consists of 14 features and 22 short films in eight languages from 14 countries. The lineup for the school program portion of the fest will be announced at a later date.

Fest will kick off with the world premiere of Laurie Lynd’s “Virtual Mom,” created by and starring Canuck thesp Sheila McCarthy (“I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing”), Debbie Reynolds and Laureen Collins. McCarthy plays a mom who is magically transformed into a 13-year-old version of herself and then befriends her daughter. The pic has been sold to Nickelodeon, Disney U.K. and the CBC.

Obscure films

Schoettle notes that Sprockets doesn’t show many U.S. studio films. “They don’t need us,” she points out. “We’re interested in showing people what cannot be seen through any other means.” An exception this year is “Wide Awake,” by Academy Award- nominated filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”), a film which Schoettle describes as “underappreciated” when it came out several years ago.

Also showing will be a new animated version of “Anne Frank’s Diary,” a co-production between France, Ireland, the U.K. and the Netherlands/Luxembourg, directed by Julian Wolff. Holocaust survivor Judy Cohen will be there to address the audience, as well as Anita Mayer, who met Anne Frank in the concentration camp she was sent to after she was discovered in hiding.

The lineup will also include Nadia Tass’ Australian film “Amy,” with Rachel Griffiths (“Hilary and Jackie”), winner of the Prix de la Jeunesse at Cannes in 1999. Two Academy Award-nominated shorts are also on the slate: the Canada/Norway co-production “My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts,” an NFB production which is up for best animated short, and “Teis and Nico,” from Henrik Ruben Genz, a Danish film that’s up for best short.

Weekend workshops will include animation lessons, an animal wrangler and opportunities to learn the tricks of the filmmaking trade.

Schoettle reported that attendance at Sprockets doubled from the first year to the second and she anticipates that its “exponential” growth will continue. “I think we’re well on our way to becoming the premiere North American launch for international children’s films,” she said.

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