Five compelling short films bridge the generation gap

Learning from You
Friday, April 22
At TIFF Kids International Film Festival

One of the best parts about TIFF Kids is the ability to see short films from around the world, often with the filmmakers in the room. The collections are always a diverse offering yet adhere to a theme. This year’s Learning from Me program brings together two documentaries and three narrative films under the umbrella of how elders and children can come together to learn and teach each other.

Our favourite was Sing, a film from Hungary about a children’s choir. Director Kristof Deak was on hand to talk about his inspiration for the film. Years ago his roommate told him how when she was little, she sang in a choir but the choir director her told her and other less musically gifted children to mouth the words instead of sing out loud. He was intrigued to explore what would happen if the children worked together to teach their choir director a lesson. Wonderful acting and a nostalgic feel – not to mention Hungarian choral music – make this story really special.

Filmmaker Rosemary Ma was also in Toronto to talk about her documentary Welcoming Arms. This doc is about a man in Bermuda who has made it his life’s mission to stand on a traffic circle and tell people he loves them as they whiz by. For 30 years Johnny Barnes has stood there, six hours a day, five days a week, blowing kisses and saying hello. Ma keeps the story simple, but layers in commentary from area children who have been affected by this simple act.

The other documentary, I am Yu’Pik, is about a basketball tournament in a native community in Toksook Bay, Alaska. The film centres on Bryon Nicholai, a teen basketball sensation and the pride of his Yu’Pik family and community. Basketball, we learn, is just as much a part of the culture as fishing and hunting. The natural drama of a high school basketball tournament provides a winning backdrop to Bryon’s story. It is especially poignant to watch, as native communities across Canada are currently struggling with youth social issues.

Ba, from Brazil, is a sweet film. It centres on the emotional arc of Bruno, a little boy who gets booted out of his bedroom when his grandmother (Ba) comes to live with them. Wise Ba patiently wins him over by sharing her love of gardening. The Australian film The Supermarket lifts the corners on the seldom explored subject of male body issues. Matty, 13 (and the supermarket owner who gives him an after school job) both learn that strength doesn’t only come from muscles.

TIFF Kids runs until April 24. Check tiff.net/kids for the schedule and other film details.

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