This year’s Lucas Film Festival for young audiences focuses on loss, trust – and ghosts.
The cinema is strong as a bear, but also slow as a dromedary: it arrives, but that can take time. That’s why the topic that moves the world is missing at the Lucas Festival for young film audiences this year. The war in Ukraine is not yet a subject on the silver screen, but war in the world is.
The Syrian director Marya Zarif built her animated film “Dounia and the Princess of Aleppo” from the experiences of millions of children. “War is a reality in many countries,” she says in an interview with the audience. Six-year-old Dounia has to leave her destroyed, poisoned home with her grandparents, her Aleppo, which was such a magical place for her. “When I was little, everything looked magical to me too,” says Marya Zarif. That’s why it had to be a magical story, with Dounia as a little fairy who is not only a victim on the run, but also full of power.
The 45th edition of Germany’s oldest children’s and young people’s film festival once again brought overwhelming images and fantastic young actors to the cinemas – and reality, not just in films. When a fifth grade class gathers in front of the cinema in downtown Frankfurt, a homeless man lies buried in his blankets. The kids don’t seem upset.
But Lucas is also a refuge, the right place for two hours of distraction. For example, the German comedy “Lucy is now a gangster”, a delightful fairy tale in which all children are more sensible than all adults. Or “The Ghastly Brothers”, wonderfully creepy, wonderfully silly, wonderfully gross, a little bit Poltergeist, a little bit Hogwarts. “We love ghosts and paranormal stuff,” say the Belgian filmmaker brothers van Ostade in a film talk. “There wasn’t that much of that in Belgium. We felt and obligated to change that.” A gluttonous couch is tamed by the ghostbusters finding the right fodder: “What’s the biggest object you can lose in a couch?” Of course, the TV remote.
No slapstick. The plot involves Lilith, who is parked in the haunted boarding school by her mother because she, the mother, has to research the famous bird Kakapo in New Zealand. It hurts Lilith a lot, but: “It was important for us to say that a mother should have the chance to realize her dreams – even if she has children.”
For their films, the funny brothers always remember what they found exciting even as children. They have that in common with “Dounia” director Zarif across genres and also with Niklas Bauer and his short film “Herr Schnurr’s magic suitcase”. Some forget what they loved as a child, he says. “Then films often seem thoroughly pedagogized.” Bauer’s story tells of a magic case that one climbs into to reappear in a completely different place, and Kater Schnurr puts people on the trail. The first festival entry, “and then you hope they like it”. do you like it “They laugh in different places than expected. But they laugh.”
Dreaming away from everyday life is always possible with the Lucas. Fly along with a domestic goose that is given freedom (and cry a little along in “The Child and the Goose”). Growing up like in “How I Learned To Fly”, when Sofia has to go on vacation with her grandma and still experiences cool things on Croatia’s coast.
But Lucas wouldn’t be Lucas without the big serious issues. This year, for example, violence against women in the Brazilian film “Raquel”. A young woman tries to come to terms with the death of her mother. The film has mystical and horror parts. “We are having a difficult time in Brazil, a time like a nightmare,” says director Mariana Bastos. “It’s about empowering women.” Many would have told her about experiences of violence after the film.
The loss of the mother, a topic also dealt with by Christoffer Sandler in “So Damn Easy Going”. Daughter and husband are severely traumatized. A quiet, initially sad film on the edge between tender and harsh. It helps, as always and everywhere: love. The Swedish director, who is as unpretentious as he is likeable, explains that he wanted to create a warm feeling and hope. “Once the first cut was done, I wanted to quit and do something else professionally.” He laughs. “It was the worst thing I had ever seen.” The author of the underlying novel was also horrified when she saw what he wanted to do with the material. “Today we are friends.”
Where do you find out such stories behind the stories? At Lucas. The horror ghost comedy maker Michael van Ostade also lures there: “Ask us! We don’t bite… tight.”
Lucas Film Festival: until October 13 in Frankfurt, Offenbach and Wiesbaden. lucas-filmfestival.de