Sprockets catches ‘Rat’

Slate includes 26 features, 42 shorts from 19 countries

TORONTO — “I Was a Rat,” a U.K./Canadian co-production directed by Laurie Lynd, will world preem as the opener of the fifth Sprockets Toronto Intl. Film Festival for Children, skedded for April 12-21.

The pic about a boy who may have been a rat stars Brenda Fricker, Tom Conti, Ned Beatty, Don McKellar, Sheila McCarthy and newcomer Calum Worthy. It is based on the bestseller by Whitbread Award-winning author Philip Pullman.

This year’s slate of 26 features and 42 shorts from 19 countries was unveiled at a press conference in To-ronto Tuesday. “For ten days of the year, kids can see films they can’t see anywhere else — non-mainstream films; very accessible, and very entertaining, but they’re not studio films,” Sprockets director Jane Schoettle told Daily Variety. “Studio films are OK too, but parents and kids want a chance to see films that are different.”

Schoettle expects auds to exceed the 12,000 that attended the fest last year. “By all indications, this year is going to far surpass that” she said, and added that the fest is changing venues, moving from three screens to eight, because “the demand is there.”

This year’s slate includes more feature-length animated films, including Spain’s first 3D animated pic “The Living Forest” (2001), from Angel de la Cruz and Manolo Gomez, “The Abrafaxe: Under the Black Flag” (2001) from Gerd Hahn and Tony Power, based on hugely popular German comic books about three friends who travel through time, and “The King’s Beard” (2001) from Tony Collingwood.

“I will only show the best of what I can find,” Schoettle said, “and it just so happens that this year we were lucky enough to find these wonderful feature-length animation films that no one in North America has seen yet.”

Auds will also have a chance to see Russell Crowe in one of his earliest works, John Tatoulis’ “The Silver Brumby” (1993) based on the novel of the same name, in which a silver stallion struggles to be the leader of his herd.

The fest’s includes a selection of favorites from Sprockets’ first four years. The rarely-seen films include the 1997 Peter Flinth film “Eye of the Eagle” set in a 13th-century Danish kingdom; Caroline Link’s “Annaluise and Anton” (1999) about two friends from different backgrounds; and Rumle Hammerich’s “Wanted: Grandfather,” (1994) in which two boys decide to adopt a grandfather.

“Children in Warzones: Voices From the Frontlines,” gives children a program of films and a forum to talk about conflict and current events. The slate includes “Adna in Sarajevo,” a Bosnia/Canada co-production directed by Felice Gorica and Mima Sadikovic, featuring 11-year-old Adna as she talks about living in a war zone in the Balkans; Oscar-nommed “Promises,” directed by Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg and Carlos Bolado, which follows the lives of seven children aged 9-13 in Israel and Palestine; and “A Child’s Century of War,” a feature-length Canadian documentary directed by Emmy award-winner Shelly Saywell, which examines war from a child’s perspective.

The Short Film program this year includes “Quiero Ser” (1998) Florian Gallenberger’s Oscar-winning tale of two brothers living on the streets of Mexico, and “Glasses” (2001) a Canadian pic about friendship in claymation from Brian Duchscherer.

This year’s Reel Rascals program will feature the entire collection of films starring Ludovic the teddy bear from Canuck animator Co Hoedeman, including “Ludovic: the Snow Gift,” “Ludovic: A Crocodile in my Garden” and “Ludovic: Visiting Grandpa.”

Sprockets is divided into two programs; Family Weekend programs, April 12-14 and April 20-21; and the Sprockets School Screenings, featuring 26 films from 16 countries from April 16-19. There will be workshops on animal training, the technical wizardry of animation, and special effects make-up.

There will be five awards, three of them selected by children’s juries and two by Sprockets’ auds. Awards include the YTV Silver Sprocket Award for favourite live-action feature, and the animation award. For more information, visit www.bell.ca/sprockets.

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