Sprockets 2007 kicks off this weekend

Sprockets - the Toronto International Film Festival for Children - begins unspooling its 10-day programme tomorrow night with the gala premiere of the animated fish fantasy, The Reef, at the Winter Garden Theatre. Following that, the Family Programme moves north to Canada Square (with occasional stops at the Isabel Bader Theatre) for its first and second weekend, presenting short and feature-length family entertainment from all around the world.

Here's a quick peek at some of the highlights over the course of the fest.

This Saturday's highlights include the animated Brave Story from Japan, a big screen adaptation of Hansel and Gretel from Germany, and a programme of shorts called Fabulous Fables on Saturday afternoon.

On Saturday night at the Winter Garden Theatre, the much-ballyhooed Tribute to Degrassi kicks off at 7:00 with guests from all incarnations of the indestructible Canadian television franchise. Snake will be in attendance, for those of you who aren't tired of running into him at the HMV at Yonge & Bloor.

On Sunday, a shorts programme called Loot Bag features a short film called Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot, which I saw last year and consider quantifiably perfect in every way. Telling you more would give the fun away. There's also the feature-length Off-side, a flick for the older kids from the Netherlands, about fitting in at school.

During the week, the School Programme allows teachers to use the festival's international lineup to introduce kids to film from other countries. Forget the Science Center: what field trip could be better than going to the movies?

On Saturday the 21st we have Island of Lost Souls, an overseas hit that looks like a Danish Harry Potter. There's also Lapislazuli (In the Eye of the Bear), from Austria, in which a modern 12-year-old girl meets one of those frozen-in-ice-for-a-million-years Neanderthals that are so popular in movies these days.

Saturday also features a workshop on stop motion animation at Ryerson, and if there were ever a more kid-friendly cinematic art form than stop motion, I don't know what it is.

The festival concludes on Sunday the 22nd with the closing night film, The Ugly Duckling and Me, another CGI-animation effort, this time concerning a rat instead of a fish.

I'll be back with reviews of some of these films at the end of each weekend of the festival. Tickets for Sprockets are still available through the TIFFGroup box office (Manulife Center) or at the web site, sprockets.ca.

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