CHILDREN OF THE SEA: Ayumu Watanabe, Studio 4°C, GKIDS
CHILDREN OF THE SEA: Ayumu Watanabe, Studio 4°C, GKIDS

The Oscar qualifying New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF), now in its 23rd year, runs February 21 through March 15, 2020 and will highlight the cinematic achievements of Japan in an expanded program, shine a spotlight on new Canadian animation, and introduce its first-ever Industry Forum to focus on inclusion and representation in children’s media.

Now in its fourth edition, NYICFF’s Friends & Neighbors program showcases the cinematic achievements of Japan. Friends & Neighbors: Japan shares a curated selection of four new and retrospective feature films and one short film collection, highlighting the region’s rich cinema and cultural history in a breathtaking range of styles: from the East Coast Premiere of Ayumu Watanabe’s atmospheric CHILDREN OF THE SEA (2019, NYICFF OPENING NIGHT FILM), and the US Premiere of the award-winning, fresh vision of Kenji Iwaisawa’s ON-GAKU: OUR SOUND (2019) to Renpei Tsukamoto’s charming live-action inter-generational twist in BENTO HARASSMENT 2019); to a retrospective screening of Taiji Yabushita and Akira Daikuhara’s landmark anime MAGIC BOY (1961). A contemporary short film collection offers the world premiere of Koji Yamamura’s highly anticipated hand-drawn animation DREAMS INTO DRAWING (2020), alongside other other stop motion, 2D animation, and live action films from a wide range of Japanese filmmakers.


ON-GAKU: OUR SOUND (2019), Kenji Iwaisawa

BENTO HARASSMENT (2019), Renpei Tsukamoto

MAGIC BOY (1961), Taiji Yabushita and Akira Daikuhara

Short Film Program:
FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS: JAPAN, Short Film Collection, Various

Joining NYICFF’s celebrated annual Animators All Around panel will be Daisuke ‘Dice’Tsutsumi, filmmaker and co-founder of California-based Tonko House. Dice will share insight into Tonko House’s creative process and an exclusive look at some intriguing new projects in development. Previous to founding Tonko House in 2014, Dice was an art director at Pixar, and a visual development and color key artist for Blue Sky Studios. Dice joins Jill Culton, director of ABOMINABLE, for the 2020 Animators All Around event.

NYICFF 2020 showcases an exceptional range of animated shorts, features, and episodic content from fresh and innovative Canadian filmmaker voices, including the world premiere of the second season of Netflix and Silvergate Media’s acclaimed new series HILDA, with director Andy Coyle from Canada’s Mercury Filmworks appearing in person for an exclusive Q&A. With a dynamic animation and national film sector, unique cultural perspective, and outstanding animation schools, Canadian cinema is shaping new boundaries in creative visual storytelling. By turning a lens on Canada with 2020 program focus, NYICFF will explore the nuances of Canadian culture and highlight its national cinema for an avid all-ages audience—while also introducing Canadian filmmakers to the wider NYC film community.

23rd New York International Children’s Film Festival Film Details

Children Of The Sea
Ayumu Watanabe, 2019, 111 min.
Ages 10+
Japanese with English Subtitles

Based on the exquisite manga of the same name, Children of the Sea (GKIDS) draws on the talents of Japan’s famed Studio 4°C (Mind Game; Tekkonkinkreet) and the mighty Joe Hisaishi, whose magical scores are the life-force behind so many of Studio Ghibli’s animated classics. A visually dazzling, mind-bending aquatic mystery. Ruka’s dad is so absorbed in his studies at the aquarium that he hardly notices when she befriends Umi and Sora. Like Ruka, the mysterious duo has the unique ability to hear the call of the sea and its endangered creatures. Together, can they save them? “This is a film you experience on a deeper level, one that washes over you like a wave… It’s hard to overstate what an atmospheric triumph Studio 4°C has pulled off here.”—Matt Schley, The Japan Times

On-Gaku: Our Sound
Kenji Iwaisawa, 2019, 71 min.
Japanese with English subtitles
Recommended Ages 12+

From grunge to genius, On-Gaku turns it up to eleven musically and visually! Kenji and his two buddies are considered the toughs in their high school. Only clever Aya knows their too-cool-for-school attitude is a total act, until a bass guitar unexpectedly ends up in Kenji’s hands. With its deadpan humor, fresh animation style, and upending of the musical genre, there’s no wonder this film won the Ottawa Int’l Animation Festival’s top prize.

Bento Harassment
Renpei Tsukamoto, 2019, 106 min.
Japanese with English subtitles
Ages 10+

Can food speak louder than words? With Futaba’s mother tired of her teen’s icy attitude, she’ll try an unusual tactic to get her to talk—by way of her bento lunch box. For an entire school term, Futaba opens box after box, each designed with its own cringe-worthy message. An offbeat story of growing up, Bento Harassment will leave audiences laughing…and hungry.

Magic Boy
Akira Daikuhara and Taiji Yabushita, 1961, 83 min
Ages 8+

Anime? Check. Disney-inspired cute critters? Check. Beautiful colors? Do you even have to ask?! Our Festival Flashback is a groundbreaker: the first-ever anime film released in the US (from renowned Toei Studios), and quite possibly the inspiration for many more. Step back in time and follow Sasuke’s adventures from the very beginning!

Friends & Neighbors: Japan
Short film program
75 min
Ages 9+

Say konichiwa (hello!) to our 2020 Friends & Neighbors. Celebrate Japan’s rich film and cultural history in a breathtaking range of styles: the hand-drawn artistry of master animator and NYICFF alum Koji Yamamura’s world premiere, Dreams into Drawing, the stop-motion nod to traditional Japanese puppetry in Gon, the Little Fox, and the manga-style zaps, zings, and ;pows of Onomatopoeia Rap, and more.

Andy Coyle, 2020, 44 min.

She’s clever, kind, witty—and rocks a pair of red boots like nobody’s business. Hilda is back, rescuing elves, dodging trolls, and exploring Trolberg’s strange history and stranger personalities. The BAFTA award-winning Netflix Original series inspired by Luke Pearson’s hugely popular graphic novels returns to NYICFF with the world premiere of Season Two. Join us for sneak peeks of “Troll Circle” and “The Witch,” two truly enchanting adventures!

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