When Marnie Was There

The 2015 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival announced their complete schedule for its 32nd year, featuring over 245 films from 44 countries to be screened from October 23 to November 1 at venues across Chicago.

Along with the newly released schedule, the 2015 Festival unveiled this year’s official poster and theme: Passport to a World of Movies for Kids.

Among the highly anticipated features is When Marnie Was There (pictured above), the most recent film from Studio Ghibli, with an all-star American voice cast led by Haillee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2, Ender’s Game, True Grit). Another festival highlight, based on the phenomenally popular best-selling book series, Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism teaches a fun lesson of friendship and independence, as plucky orphan Molly finds a book with which she masters the power of hypnosis. Also highly anticipated is the tweenage Danish Game of Thrones-style adventure The Shamer’s Daughter, in which Dina unwillingly inherits her mother’s supernatural ability to stare into someone’s soul and make them feel ashamed of their own bad deeds.

2015 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival Feature Films

Trenk, the Little Knight. It’s medieval times and ten-year-old Trenk, peasant and property of evil Sir Wertolt, wants to become a knight and free his family. After many adventures, he solves the duchy’s dragon problem and is knighted by the Duke. Now he just has to grow up to become a proper hero! His sword may be heavier than he is, but with persistent practice, he is soon ready to conquer the terrifying dragons. Joining him are his friends, Thekla and Momme, in this thrilling adventure of knights, castles, duels, and dragons, told with humor, twists, and turns. Conflict resolution through brains over brawn is what wins the day in the end! Based on the beloved book series. Austria/Germany, screened in English. For ages 5 and up.

Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism

Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism. (pictured above) Plucky Molly enjoys her family of friends in a small-town English orphanage. That is, until she finds a book that gives her the power of hypnosis. When her talented best friend, Rocky, is adopted, Molly sets her sights on a new, big-city adventure: having fun and becoming a huge TV star! But is the false fame worth it, at the expense of true friendship? Based on the phenomenally popular best-selling book series, starring Raffy Cassidy (Snow White and the Huntsman, Disney’s Tomorrowland), and featuring Oscar-nominated Emily Watson and Celia Imrie (Nanny McPhee). England, screened in English. For ages 8 and up.

Oddball. The sleepy maritime Australian town of Warrnambool is losing its beloved Little (“Fairy”) Penguin population faster each day. It’s up to hard-nosed local chicken farmer “Swampy” Marsh, his notoriously havoc-wreaking dog, Oddball, and ten-year-old granddaughter, Livvy to save them! Mother Emily is the top conservationist on the island. While she wants to stay to preserve the island’s wildlife treasure, time is running out, and the family must move if the efforts are fruitless. Both free-thinking Swampy and goofy sheepdog Oddball together have a bit of a reputation, but Livvy and family will keep them on track as they search for clues illuminating the reasons for the penguins’ perilous position. Based on real-life events, the Maremma dogs have truly made a difference on the penguin colony. This is a fairy tale about fairy penguins come true! Australia, screened in English. For ages 9 and up.

Code M. D’Artagan’s legendary sword has been missing for generations. Resourceful twelve-year-old Isabel decides to take over her grandfather’s search to solve the Musketeer’s mystery, once and for all, by piecing together clues and codes. Joined by two unlikely friends, they band together – all for one and one for all! But who can Isabel really trust? Brought to you by the same director as the 2014 Festival hit, Secrets of War. Netherlands, screened in Dutch with English subtitles. For ages 9 and up.

Secret Society of Souptown. Mari, Olav, Sadu, and Anton are part of the “Secret Society of Souptown,”whose sole purpose is to go on adventures and solve mysteries. When a magic potion starts making adults act like children, ten-year-old Mari takes charge, and her friends must work together to find the antidote to save the town. Perhaps a clue is in the old book that Mari’s grandfather mentions, hidden by their scientist ancestor during the German occupation in World War II. The gang must first get to the remaining clues to save the day. But they only have 48 hours! Estonia/Finland, screened in Estonian with English subtitles. For ages 10 and up.

When Marnie Was There. The wildly popular Studio Ghibli’s latest is a Hitchcockian coming-of-age film. Twelve-year-old Anna believes she’s forever outside of the invisible magic circle where most people live. In order to help her relax for the summer and recover from a recent asthma attach, Anna is forced to live with her aunt and uncle in the countryside of Japan. However, her entire summer unexpectedly takes a turn when she meets a bewitching and mysterious neighbor girl with flowing blonde hair named Marnie. But is Marnie real or imagined? Featuring an all-star American voice cast: Haillee Steinfeld (True Grit, Pitch Perfect 2, Ender’s Game), Kiernan Shipka (TV’s Mad Men), John C. Reilly, Catherine O’Hara, and Kathy Bates. Japan, screened in English. For ages 11 and up.

Rhubarb. Siem is twelve years old and pretty tired of moving from house to house with his father each time a new romance fails. Winnie is twelve years old and hopes that her fiery but gorgeous mother Tosca can just settle down. When the two parents meet at the children’s school, a relationship blossoms. To ensure that this one sticks, the kids take matters into their own hands. Budding videographer Siem enlists friend Winnie to come up with tips and tricks for how to make a fruitful relationship grow, by creating a how-to video guide for the hapless couple. But will the pair’s multi-media efforts get real-life results? Netherlands, screened in Dutch with English subtitles. For ages 11 and up.

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow. (pictured above) The satellite KITSAT-1 is abandoned in outer space because of a malfunction. She used to be doing research on human activity, collecting sounds and images. She has captured the most intriguing voice of all while researching Planet Earth: that of young Kyung-Chun. The teen is a would-be singer-songwriter, deep in the throes of miserable rejection from his unrequited love. Transformed into a creature, he is forced to wander, forever pursued by the evil Incinerator. It’s up to Merlin the Wizard to help bring the two isolated beings together, each facing failure. By embracing their humanity and humanness, while at the same time sorting out what lies ahead in their futures, can this unlikely pair become more than just friends? South Korea, screened in Korean with English subtitles. For ages 11 and up.

Labyrinthus. Fourteen-year-old Frikke finds a mysterious camera in the park and he soon gets sucked into a virtual video maze. Is his new friend Nola real or imagined? Frikke thinks he has what it takes to crack the code, but perhaps he does not have control over the rules after all. He’ll have to play the game to the end, using all available resources, or risk losing everything. Belgium, screened in Dutch with English subtitles. For ages 11 and up.

The Shamer’s Daughter. The Shamer’s daughter, Dina, has unwillingly inherited her mother’s supernatural ability. She can look straight into the soul of other people, making them feel ashamed of themselves. When the sole heir to the throne is wrongfully accused of the horrible murders of his family, Dina’s mother is lured to Dunark under false pretenses to make him confess. Refusing to use her ability for the wrong purposes, she is taken prisoner. It is now up to Dina to uncover the truth of the murders, but soon she finds herself in a dangerous power struggle, with her own life at risk. Based on the popular book. Denmark, screened in Danish with English subtitles. For ages 12 and up.

Adama. As twelve-year-old Adama is about to experience his boyhood rite of passage, he and his brother’s lives are changed forever. Adama lives in a remote African village, but his older teenaged brother Samba gets lured outside of their community to join the ranks of the Tirailleurs, French West African soldiers recruited by the French during World War I. Despite all odds, Adama goes on a journey and finds his brother at the ferocious Battle of Verdun on the Western Front. This stunningly animated coming-of-age story is an inspiring depiction of perseverance and personal striving where fraternal bonds triumph. France, screened in French with English subtitles. For ages 12 and up.

2015 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival Shorts Programs

Ready, Steady, Go! On your marks, get set, go! Come along with these animated characters as they undertake remarkable adventures. In one film, persistence pays off for pals Rita and Crocodile, as they set out for a day of fishing. In another film, an abandoned mitten makes an unexpected hang-out for a rag-tag pack of animal friends. Then, visiting a new place can be difficult even for the intergalactically well-traveled. There’s more than one way to feel like an alien! Finally, quirky Pecival Pilts reaches for new perspectives – on stilts! Perfect Houseguest (USA), Bear and Bird (USA), The Sun of Bagnolet Street (France), Lune (France), My Little Croco (France), Rita and Crocodile: “Fishing” (Denmark), The Tie (Belgium), The Mitten (France/Belgium), Alien (Czech Republic), The Story of Percival Pilts (Australia/ New Zealand). For ages 2 to 8.

New Faces, New Friends. New friends may well turn out to be best friends, and it’s okay if they are a little different, too. In this collection of animated shorts, characters of all species forge new friendships, learn about each other, and explore the world around them. A tabby cat and a goose may be an unusual friendship, but Fred and Anabel are inseparable as they set out on a series of adventures. In the last short, a boy’s imagination takes wing – literally! – with the help of his animal friends. Mr. K’s New House (Taiwan), Achoo! (Japan), Rita and Crocodile: “Forest”(Denmark), Bear and Bird (USA), My Little Croco (France), Lune (France), Rita and Crocodile: “Zoo”(Denmark), Fred and Anabel (Germany), The Mitten (France/Belgium), Konigri-kun: “A Small Rice Ball” (Japan) The Little Blond Boy with a White Sheep (France). For ages 2 and up.

Out and About. Doers and Dreamers Wanted! Join these spirited individuals on their journeys as they discover new places and new faces. Little Cousteau longs for a big adventure in the deep blue sea, just like his idol, Jacques Cousteau. But does he even have to leave his bedroom to experience the deep blue sea? In the last film, the town character becomes the new town hero, striving to achieve his goals of new heights and new perspectives. The Sun of Bagnolet Street (France), Da Vinci and the Button (Ireland), La Fontaine Turns Film-makers – The Crow and the Fox (France/Belgium), Rita and Crocodile: “Forest”(Denmark), Trude’s Flatmate: “The Gift” (Germany), My Little Croco (France), Lune (France), The Little Cousteau (Czech Republic), Ba (Brazil), The Story of Percival Pilts (Australia/New Zealand). For ages 5 and up.

Halloween: Tricks and Treats.Tricks and treats, new identities, aliens, monsters, all at a snap of your fingers! It’s Freaky Friday for the feline and canine cantankerous duo in one film, as they realize that being kind might be the only way to reverse the damage. Can these enemies put their differences aside in time to get their voices back? Then, when is too much of a sweet treat just too much? In one set of shorts, can Trude’s roommate mend some of his monstrous ways? In the last short, while a classmate picks on new girl Anabelle for her wearing a funny mask, it only takes one move of solidarity on Bethany’s part to rally the students around her. Ham Ham (Germany), Tony and Mr. Illness (Czech Republic), Rita and Crocodile: “Camping” (Demark), The Sweet Porridge (Germany), Alien (Czech Republic), Trude’s Flatmate: “The Gift” (Germany), Frenemy (France), Pawo (Germany) Snap (Croatia), Trude’s Flatmate: “Digger” (Germany), Bunny New Girl (Austria). For ages 5 and up.

Day Trippers. Adventure and flights of fancy are on the minds of the characters in these short films, even if only for a little while. A boy finds he can fly with the help of his wooly and feathered friends. In another short, Alfred has regal aspirations on his “day off” from school. Then, in the final film, Belinda and Alexander break free and escape to a swanky music hall to fulfill a lifelong dream. Imagination and day tripping await! Alien (Czech Republic), One, Two, Tree (France/Switzerland), The Captain, the Pilot and the Singer (Norway), Cookin’ with Fire (Australia), My 2014 Neighbor (Philippines), The Little Blond Boy with a White Sheep (France), Astronaut K (Switzerland), The Fly (Italy), Prince Alfred (Germany), Dreaming of Peggy Lee (England). For ages 8 and up.

Not Invisible. Whether deaf, hearing, or somewhere-in-between, these short films prove there is no limit with a little patient persistence, creative communication, and a good team. In one film, Jean-Michel discovers through countless comedic efforts that in the game of love, the greatest superpower is the ability to communicate. In another film, Alexander and Belinda defy expectations and achieve a lifelong dream: singing on stage. At only 15, twins Sisi and Wanwan inspire us with their dedication to music, to each other, and to supporting youth in their native China. Finally, extraterrestrial robot Spanneroo and earthling Joe build a friendship that crosses galaxies, solves problems, and brings them on unimaginable adventures! Mr. Violet (Iran), Jean-Michel the Woodland Caribou (France/Belgium), Dreaming of Peggy Lee (England), Sisi and Wanwan (Netherlands), Spanneroo and Joe (France). For ages 8 and up.

Halloween: Transformers. Teenage transformations can be wacky and weird, especially for some of the characters in this collection of shorts. In a film based on a Sioux tale, Coyote denies his gift but is granted a magical second chance to redeem himself. In another short, what happens when a young minotaur’s single mom begins to date – only, Mr. Right is a little prone to turn into stone? Then, what to do when Granny turns into… an orange tree? Make marmalade, of course. In the final film, a family’s camping trip goes awry when Simon’s older sister’s wish comes true. Enjoy these tales of transformation, magic, and persistence. A Single Life (Netherlands), Cookin’ with Fire (Australia), Alchemist’s Letter (USA), Alien (Czech Republic), My Stuffed Granny (Greece), Coyote and the Rock (Hungary), Mythopolis (Czech Republic), The Wish Fish (Czech Republic). For ages 10 and up.

Halloween: AlieNation. The characters in this collection, alien or otherwise, are going through some changes and hardly feel like themselves anymore. In a beautifully animated French film, single Mom has brought home a new beau, who is a … raven? The new stepfather is entirely a bird of a different feather, and it takes quite a bit of adjustment in the household. In the final short, Amelia and Duarte become different people when going through their relationship’s break-up. Transforming and compartmentalizing each magic moment into an orderly system might help contain their sorrows. Alien (Czech Republic), A Single Life (Netherlands), Alchemist’s Letter (USA), Alienation (Germany), My Stuffed Granny (Greece), Coyote and the Rock (Hungary), My Home (France), Amelia & Duarte (Portugal). For ages 13 and up.

Circuit Breakers. The characters in this collection of short films are disconnected. They need to trip their emotional switch to be fully in touch with themselves and with those around them. In one film, recent immigrant Yussef comes to the realization that to move forward in his new environment, he needs to reveal a bit about himself to his new classmates and unload the burden of his past. In another short, two young brothers are thrown together in an uncomfortable situation, but learn they can rely on each other as never before. In the final film, a young teen visits his father in prison, where they have a limited time to truly connect. Soot (Portugal), Yussef is Complicated (Ireland), Like a Butterfuly (Germany), The Swing (England), Picnic (Croatia). Contains extremely coarse profanity and is for ages 14 and up.

2015 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival Shorts Program Special Event

“Nature Cat” Special Sneak Peek. The national PBS launch of Nature Cat is right here, in Chicago! Come for the sneak peek and stay for behind-the-scenes insight on animation from members of the creative team. Fred is a housecat who dreams of exploring the great outdoors, but there’s one hitch: he’s still a housecat with no instincts for nature! Time for action-packed adventures full of nature investigation, “aha” discovery moments, and humor. Voiced by an all-star line-up of comedic actors, including Saturday Night Live star Taran Killam as Nature Cat. The brain-child of brothers David Rudman (Sesame Street, The Muppets) and Adam Rudman (Tom & Jerry, Sesame Street, Cyberchase), Nature Cat is a co-production of Spiffy Pictures and WTTW Chicago. For ages 4 and up.

Edgy Animation and Anime

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow. The satellite KITSAT-1 is abandoned in outer space because of a malfunction. She used to be doing research on human activity, collecting sounds and images. She has captured the most intriguing voice of all while researching Planet Earth: that of young Kyung-Chun. The teen is a would-be singer-songwriter, deep in the throes of miserable rejection from his unrequited love. Transformed into a creature, he is forced to wander, forever pursued by the evil Incinerator. It’s up to Merlin the Wizard to help bring the two isolated beings together, each facing failure. By embracing their humanity and humanness, while at the same time sorting out what lies ahead in their futures, can this unlikely pair become more than just friends? South Korea, screened in Korean with English subtitles. For ages 11 and up.

When Marnie Was There. The wildly popular Studio Ghibli’s latest is a Hitchcockian coming-of-age film. Twelve-year-old Anna believes she’s forever outside of the invisible magic circle where most people live. In order to help her relax for the summer and recover from a recent asthma attack, Anna is forced to live with her aunt and uncle in the countryside of Japan. However, her entire summer unexpectedly takes a turn when she meets a bewitching and mysterious neighbor girl with flowing blonde hair named Marnie. But is Marnie real or imagined? Featuring an all-star American voice cast: Haillee Steinfeld (True Grit, Pitch Perfect 2, Ender’s Game), Kiernan Shipka (TV’s Mad Men), John C. Reilly, Catherine O’Hara, and Kathy Bates. Japan, screened in English. For ages 11 and up.

Boy and the World.

Boy and the World. (pictured above) This colorfully animated film follows a young Brazilian boy who explores his world with wonder and a sense of curiosity. One day, while searching for his father in the bustling city, he stumbles onto a network of money-grubbing adults who pit governmental forces against a band of colorful merrymakers. A stunning depiction of growing up and the choices that must be made, this film is a creative feat in emotional, lyrical animation. Brazil. For ages 12 and up.

Edgy Animation. Come for a sampler of this season’s best animated short films from around the globe! In one film, each awkward aspect of puberty is portrayed by characters in different animation styles. In another, a new arrival is an alien in more than one sense of the word. In order to stave off feelings of discrimination, a video diary proves a good coping mechanism for one woeful young city dweller. Go along for the ride as films based on French surrealist poetry deliver boundless, fantastical perspectives. Lastly, daughter and father band together to get government aid, but there is just one hitch. A Single Life (Netherlands), A Portrait (Greece), Blotting Paper (France), The Sun of Bagnolet Street (France), Sovereign Paperwork (Uruguay), Alienation (Germany), The Zebra (France), The Bengal Salsify (France), Aubade (Switzerland), Alien (Czech Republic), The Marathon Diary (Norway), My Stuffed Granny (Greece), Why Banana Snarls (Russia), Granny (Georgia), Soot (Portugal). For ages 13 and up.

Fantasy Fantastic. The characters in this collection of animated shorts are dreamers and doers. But, do their reveries stand in the way of moving on in their lives and moving forward in their relationships? A recent graduate of a French film school animates a set of films based on the Surrealist poetry of Robert Desnos. Then, a young skier, despite her best efforts, is never first place at the Lapland Marathon Arctic Challenge. But then again, winning isn’t everything. Then, in a cheeky digitally animated short, Amelia and Duarte “unpack” their feelings during a break-up in a very unusual fashion. In the last film, Hugo’s new stepfather is a bird of a different feather, entirely. Mr. Violet (Iran), In a Small Boat (France), I Have Dreamed of You So Much (France), Paris (France), Reclining (France), Aubade (Switzerland), One, Two, Tree (France/Switzerland), Air-Mail (Switzerland), Counting Sheep (France), Sleepy Steve (USA), The Marathon Diary (Norway), Amelia & Duarte (Portugal), Mythopolis (Czech Republic), My Home (France). For ages 13 and up.

Little from the Fish Shop. Not your mother’s Little Mermaid! A very adult re-telling of the Hans Christian Anderson story, director Jan Balej uses stop-motion animated puppets in the tradition of his legendary countryman, Jiří Trnka. Forced to relocate above ground, the Sea King and his family are fishmongers in a sleazy harbor town. Hidden from humans until her 16th birthday, his youngest daughter is unschooled in the ways of the human world. Fascinated by the seedy surroundings, “Little” falls instantly in the thrall of the oily neighbor, owner of a brother and bar next door. When pure love meets real-life risks, tragedy ensues. Czech Republic. For ages 16 and up.

2015 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival Weekday Evening Screenings- Shorts Programs

Style and Substance. The young people in this collection of short films sort out what they really need versus what they already have – or what they can make themselves! In one film, a middle sister is mortified that she can’t be like her neighbor with her amazing, brand new bike. In another film, Myna longs for an Xbox upgrade. In the final short, four teens travel to a fashion school in Mannheim to learn from style experts how they can revamp their current wardrobes without spending a dime. Mo’s Bows (USA), Catwalk (Sweden), Me and My Moulton (Canada/Norway), Myna and Asterix (India), You Are Style! (Germany). For ages 10 and up.

Circuit Breakers. The characters in this collection of short films are disconnected. They need to trip their emotional switch to be fully in touch with themselves and with those around them. In one film, recent immigrant Yussef comes to the realization that to move forward in his new environment, he needs to reveal a bit about himself to his new classmates and unload the burden of his past. In another short, two young brothers are thrown together in an uncomfortable situation, but learn they can rely on each other as never before. In the final film, a young teen visits his father in prison, where they have a limited time to truly connect. Soot (Portugal), Yussef is Complicated (Ireland), Like a Butterfuly (Germany), The Swing (England), Picnic (Croatia). Contains extremely coarse profanity and is for ages 14 and up.

2015 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival Weekday Evening Screenings- Feature Films

Tour of Honor. This thoughtful feature-length documentary film details a program created by Honor Flight, an organization that flies World War II and Korean War veterans out to Washington DC to see the memorials erected in their honor. It is a powerful, emotional journey that tells the personal stories of the veterans, members of the Greatest Generation. For ages 12 and up.

How I Came to Hate Math.

How I Came to Hate Math. (pictured above) Why is it that most of us struggled to stay awake in our high school math classes? A group of passionate mathematicians, who have dedicated their lives to the study of mathematics, hope to explain how most students have come to hate math and why we are missing out on the vast creativity, beauty, and potential that mathematics has to offer. In conversations with math visionaries, the film highlights the many outlooks on math applications (scientific, business, economics), opens up discourse about the importance and magnificence of math, and conversely, why people may generally find math historically inaccessible. Take back that negative perception! France, screened in French and English with English subtitles. For ages 15 and up.

Boy 7. In a future world, the Netherlands is a totalitarian government that has turned select teens into robotic killers to launch terrorist attacks in the nation. Talented hacker, Sam, is unwillingly recruited to join the Institute and starts a training regimen with a deadly diploma in mind. Through non-sequential narrative and flashbacks to a parallel life, Sam convinces fellow “trainees” Lara and Louis to help him infiltrate and subjugate the oppressors. But flashbacks and flash drives may not be enough to expose the conspiracy. Does Sam have what it takes? Netherlands/Belgium/Croatia, screened in Dutch with English subtitles. Contains extremely coarse profanity and is for ages 15 and up.

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