Morrison Gets a Baby Sister

Sprockets 2009: International Film Fest for the Young and Young at Heart

Sprockets, the Toronto International Film Festival Group's annual film fest for children, kicks off a week-long series of youth-centric flicks tomorrow. Much like the TIFF experience, Sprockets brings in movies from around the world to film-goers seeking something a little different than what is normally on at the cineplexes.

Don't get me wrong - I am happy to sit through a very polished Pixar release, but how often do I get to see footage from the Sri Lankan countryside? One of the features in this year's lineup, King Siri is the tale of Sirimal, a poor Sri Lankan village boy who wins a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in the city (translated as "super college" in the subtitles). In this new posh environment, being extraordinarily gifted often causes him a lot of grief.

Another private school survival story, Cathy Randall's Aussie coming-of-age piece Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger is co-presented by the Toronto Jewish Film Festival (also on this week - see my TJFF preview). In this film, Esther Blueburger reinvents herself at a new school, gets new clothes, becomes cool and mean, learns life lessons - the usual, but with a smart sense of humour (see trailer below). Also worth mentioning are Kung Fu Kid, a sentimental Japanese martial arts film and the Dutch entry Morrison Gets a Baby Sister, following five year-old Morrison overcome with fear and panic in the days leading up to his new sibling's birth.

Curious about who is behind this festival, I asked Allen Braude, TIFFG Co-Director of Learning, a few background questions about Sprockets.

Who programs Sprockets?

Films at Sprockets are programmed by Allen Braude, Co-Director of Learning, in collaboration with Elizabeth Muskala, fellow Co-Director of Learning as well as help from a dedicated team of programming associates.

Nicholas Pagee programmes Future Frames - a programme of short films directed by students at post secondary film schools in Canada. He also contributes to programming of animated short films.

The festival audience keeps growing, how are you attracting new patrons?

Sprockets is committed to engaging youth in GTA's diverse communities whether it's through the universality of Sprockets' films, interaction with filmmakers, participation through Jump Cuts, juries, or our hands-on activities. Educators, students and the public have been our best champions and it's their support that has helped Sprockets grow. They support us by coming back every year and spread the word to friends and family about the great films and the fun experience offered at Sprockets.

How do you handle subtitles with younger children?

For films recommended for children 3 to 10 years old, the English subtitles are read aloud by an experienced reader, thereby allowing children of a variety of ages and abilities to enjoy films from around the world.

Which festival highlights would you recommend for grown-ups?

One of the reasons audiences keep coming back to the festival is that adults enjoy the films as much as their children. Take a look at this year's line up and if a film appeals to you buy yourself a ticket and enjoy!

Sprockets runs from April 18th to April 24th at Famous Players Canada Square and Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Grande. Tickets are available online or at the TIFFG Box Office. Still from Morrison Gets a Baby Sister.

Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger trailer:

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