Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
Filmmaker and mother, Lori Benson, received a diagnosis of breast cancer and – on a suggestion from her filmmaker husband, Jonathon – decided to have friends film her experience. In Dear Talula, we, the viewers, get to see Benson’s struggles, decision-making, treatment, beautiful relationships with friends, family and one-year-old daughter, Talula. I urge you to take the time – just 34 minutes – to experience this inspiring documentary.
Ms. Benson also travels the country to speak at film screenings. It would be wonderful to see her in Kalamazoo someday.
If you have yet to discover our collection of movies that have been shown by the Kalamazoo Film Society you should go and check out the list. Recently I watched The Band's Visit, a short film about an Egyptian Police Band who travels to Israel to play at an Arab Cultural Center opening. The language barrier results in the band taking the wrong bus and they end up in a remote Israeli village with no hotel and no hope of a return bus ride until the next day. What results is an interesting and hilarious night when the tensions between Egyptian and Israeli slip away in favor of semi-romantic dates, roller skating and birthday parties. Both parties not only learn something about the other's country, but also themselves. It was not hard to believe that this film has won over 35 international film awards because it is a lesson in cross-cultural differences.
The Band's Visit
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle’s timeless children’s book about a caterpillar’s daily culinary journey through foods both nutritious and snacky. While subtly being taught the days of the week, counting, and metamorphosis may not be foremost among the memories readers take away from the story, Carle’s signature (now iconic) style of illustration ensures that the butterfly-in-waiting that is the story’s center figure is as recognizable among children of any age as any talking bear, frog, or sponge.
Such a famous story will certainly have its own animated version out on DVD – whether or not the animated telling remains faithful to the book. Thankfully, Scholastic’s animated version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a faithful and appropriate adaptation of the story. Using Carle’s original illustrations, the animation is limited and evenly paced, never jarring the senses. The story is narrated word for word, nothing added and nothing taken away. The male narrator’s voice is soothing but not sleep-inducing, and while it’s no substitute for the voice of a loved one reading the story aloud, it has its charm. (Subtitles are available for those who want to read along as the story unfolds.) The film is as short as the book – it’s over in less than 10 minutes – but for those who want more, adaptations of Carle’s Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and I See a Song are included on the same disc.
Carle’s print version of the story, in its many forms (most fun – an oversized board book with a toy caterpillar that can be moved in and out of the holes of the eaten fruits), is the finest way to enjoy the tale. Still, it’s nice to have an animated version of this classic available, as a calm alternative to the more boisterous cartoon fare which may not suit all ages or moods. In any form, Carle’s vivid colors are sure to amaze those who encounter them as much forty years on, as in forty years past.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories
The votes have been counted, the judges and public have had their say, and we have the winners of the 6th annual Teen Filmmaker Festival! We had a wide range of films entered in the festival this year, and the winning films are a strong indication of the level of quality of the films that were sent in. Take a look on our YouTube page and see for yourself! For more info about the film fest, as well as a complete list of the screened films and winners, check out the Film Fest page in the Teen section.
2009 Teen Film Fest Winners!
The very recognizable but certainly underappreciated Richard Jenkins stars in this quiet independent film about the power of human connection. Jenkins plays widowed economics professor Walter Vale whose life has lost all resemblance of happiness or sparkle until a random encounter with two complete strangers gives him the connection to humanity that he desperately needed to jumpstart his life. The visitor, that the title refers to, turn out to be two undocumented aliens (Tarek who is Syrian and Zainab from Senegal) living illegally yet productively and peacefully in New York City. An unwarranted and random stop by the authorities sends this touching and well paced film off in an entirely new direction from where it started, but the strength of the characters and the strong performances of the cast act as ballast that keeps this very well constructed film moving along to a conclusion that stays with the viewer long after the credits role.
I have learned to know a Vietnamese family who own a small business here in Kalamazoo. Both husband and wife fled South Vietnam when they were children, following the 1975 fall of Saigon. He left his family at 12 and escaped by boat, spent one year alone in a refugee camp in Thailand and then was sponsored by a church in Orange County, CA. She was three years old when she escaped with her family. They also spent a year in Thailand and made their way to Orange County. Recently the couple recommended a DVD, Journey from the Fall, a wrenching film based on true stories of Vietnamese refugees who fled the country seeking freedom and Vietnamese loyalists who stayed behind. The family depicted in the film is separated---the wife and children escape by boat, while the husband stays to face imprisonment in a Communist re-education camp. My friend said, "this could have been my family's story. My father was assigned to a re-education camp, but one week before he was to report, an uncle arranged our secret escape." Knowing this courageous and caring couple, who are raising their three children in our community, gave this film special meaning to me. But even if you don't know anyone who has "been there," the film is significant for its documentation of events linked to US history that we should never forget. Vietnamese language with English subtitles.
Jorney From The Fall