WSFF: Flick-Nic

Sid the Pike
Are you in Toronto this weekend and looking for something that the whole family can enjoy? Well, you’re in luck. To help kick off this year’s Worldwide Short Film Festival, the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) invites you to two FREE film screenings in Dufferin Grove Park. The first – and more family-oriented – programme is “Shorts for Shorties: Flick-Nic,” which screens at noon. The second programme, “Christmas in June” (reviewed here) is suitable for general audiences, but younger viewers might not appreciate the films as much. Everyone, though, will delight in how “Flick-Nic” shares the magic of movies and lets you be a kid again, even if it’s only for one day.

What does a cat say? What does a dog say? Does the cow go “moo”? “Flick-Nic” opens with a fun film from Down Under that’ll have everyone in the park bobbing their heads and practicing their animal noises. Animal Beatbox (Australia, 3 min.) is a funky roll-call of the animal kingdom, with creatures of every kingdom, phylum, class and whatever joining in for a big hip-hop powwow of animal pride. It teaches kids the whole zoo in a mere three minutes! Is there a better way to educate your child? The next film, Sid the Pike (Gäddan Sid) (Sweden, 10 min.), takes the kids to fish school and gives them a great look at life under the sea. The film, directed by Tony Holm, boasts some incredible underwater cinematography that follows one pike (named Sid) in his daily life in his lake. Sid the Pike looks like an observational documentary, but thanks to some expert cutting, shot/reverse shot, and point-of-view camerawork, the film transforms into an engaging narrative of the water’s food chain. Some scenes of Sid on the hunt might be too much for the wee ones; however, Sid’s post-catch happy-dance always keeps the mood lively. (I wonder if Sid sings “Les poissons” as he enjoys the catch of the day?)
Acorn Boy
If the reality of the food chain scares some little viewers, the next short should easily pick them back up. Stella and Sam: “Nightfairies” (Canada, 12 min.) is a segment of the popular television show Stella and Sam. Based on the series of children’s books by Marie-Louise Gay, Stella and Sam: Nightfairies gives kids the joy of seeing some familiar faces on the big screen. It’sfamily-friendly fun that teaches kids the joys of the outdoors – the perfect lesson from a screening in the park, eh? It has a really cute doggy, too. There are funny animals galore in Acorn Boy (Ziluks) (Latvia, 10 min.), which screened previously at the Berlin Film Festival. Acorn Boy gives an imaginative look at life in the insect world when one little acorn goes exploring and stumbles into a beehive. Kids will love the eccentric stop-motion animation and the little bippity-bop noises the animals make. This is definitely an animal film of the “Happy Working Song” type.
The Gruffalo's Child
Before moving on to the main course, “Flick-Nic” serves up the quick fairy tale Four (Italy 3 min.) that sees a little fairy wake up for a new season of housework. Four gives way to the main attraction of “Flick-Nic”, The Gruffalo’s Child (UK, 26 min.). Not only was the 2009 short The Gruffalo an acclaimed Oscar-nominee for Best Animated Short, but it also scooped the Audience Award at last year’s Worldwide Short Film Festival. The Gruffalo’s Child is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor: it’s just as fun and magical as the last Gruffalo. Helena Bonham Carter leads an impressive cast of voice talent that includes John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson and Robbie Coltrane, and she plays a mother squirrel that tells her children a story to explain the origin of some new footprints that appear around the forest. These prints, she says, belong to the Gruffalo’s child. The Gruffalo’s child, she explains, is an inquisitive little beast, so her father, the Gruffalo, tells his child a story about the big bad mouse in the woods that might catch her if she strays too far. Growing “curiouser and curiouser” (as Alice might say), the Gruffalo’s child wanders out into the woods in search of the mouse. Shirley Henderson (Meek’s Cutoff) puts her signature squeaky voice to good use and voices the interested junior Gruffalo; she provides a great little beast that should easily captivate the kids in the audience, as will the lovely animation, sprightly score, and cute little critters that make the film such a winner. Adults will love the film for the same reasons, but they’ll also appreciate the clever rhyming scheme that connects the dialogue and the narration. A fable about the joy of storytelling, The Gruffalo’s Child is a perfect end to the “Flick-Nic” that will have parents snuggling up with their kids and basking in the sunlight and the warm whimsy of the film. The Gruffalo’s Child is easily the standout among the films at “Flick-Nic” so might the Gruffalo triumph as a back-to-back audience favourite? We’ll have to see! The festival officially starts June 5, so we’ll keep you posted as to where this gem stands!

“Flick-Nic” screens at Dufferin Grove Park on Sunday, June 3 at noon.
“Christmas is June” screens Sunday, June 3 at 9:00 pm.
Once again, admission is FREE.

Please visit www.shorterisbetter.com for tickets, program/film info, and show times.
(And check back here for updates & reviews of this year's Worldwide Short Film Festival.)