ZLIN, CZECH REPUBLIC — Europe’s oldest children and youth film festival wrapped its 49th edition Saturday in a town more famous for its footwear than films, with major awards going to Czech, Danish and Canadian films.
Zlin — where shoemaker Tomas Bata established factories in the 1890s that helped make his footwear famous worldwide — hosts an annual jamboree of films for younger audiences that pulls in kids by the schoolbus-load.
Golden Slipper for best children’s feature — awarded by an international expert jury that included Gabor Csupo, the Los Angeles-based Hungarian-born creator of kids cartoon “Rugrats” — went to Czech director Maria Prochazkova’s “Who Is Afraid of the Wolf?”
The film, which also picked up the top prize at the Czech national film awards Finale held in Pilsen in April, tells the story of a small girl who attempts to understand her complex family situation through the prism of the children’s Little Red Riding Hood fairytale.
Best feature film for youth went to “Max Embarrassing” by Denmark’s Lotte Svendsen about a 14 year old who lives with an extrovert mother.
Juries made up of children and teenagers also made separate awards: the children’s jury gave kudos to Czech director Miloslav Smidmajer’s “Hell With a Princess,” a rollicking tale of a beautiful princess whose nuptials are interrupted by a visit from the devil; the youth jury voted for “It’s Not Me, I Swear,” by Canadian helmer Philippe Falardeau, a searing tale of a sad 10-year-old boy driven to attempt suicide by the crazed behavior of his parents.
The film, which played in Berlin’s Generation KPlus this year, was given a special mention by the international expert jury, who lauded its excellence in cinematography, acting and script but felt it was a film aimed at an adult, rather than youth audience.
There was another special mention for Japanese director Tetsu Maeda’s “A School Day With a Pig,” about a teacher who decides to teach children about their relationship to the food they eat by having them raise a pig.
The festival, which has expanded in recent years, screened 470 films from 44 countries with 199 films competing in five categories during its eight-day run and notched up nearly 100,000 spectators.