"Spirit Bear" Among Honored Films at Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children
by Brian Brooks
Awards were presented over the weekend at the Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children, with audience award winners as well as jury prizes announced at the Isabel Bader Theatre, closing the event, which featured 87 films from 26 countries. The Sprockets Audience Choice Award Feature Film went to Stefan Scaini's "Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story" (Canada). Based on a true story, the film follows the campaign of Vancouver teenager Simon Jackson, who worked to save a rare white kermode bear, known as the Spirit Bear. The films stars Ed Begley, Jr., Graham Greene and Mark Rendall ("Childstar") as Simon.
Also taking an audience prize in the animation category was South Korean film, "Oseam" by Sung Baek-yeop. The film centers on a nine-year-old blind girl who becomes the sole caregiver of her impish five-year-old brother following the death of her mother.
In the jury categories, Sandra Nettelbeck's "Sergeant Pepper" won top nods from Jury 1, which is comprised of children ages eight and nine. The film is the story of a dog that has inherited a fortune from his master, but must contend with the fury of the deceased man's estranged children. Jury 2 (ages 10 and 11) picked Danish director Peter Flinth's "The Fakir" for its prize. The feature is the story of twins Emma and Tom and the extraordinary events that unfold when they move to a dilapidated old mansion with their widowed mother. Jury 2 (age 12) meanwhile gave its kudos to Dutch director Mijke de Jong's "Bluebird." The film, which had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, focuses on a thirteen-year-old girl who becomes a target of bullying. Mair Doyle's "Blue Dog Blues" (U.K.), and Kay Mastenbroek and Jacqueline de Bruijn's "Vola's Ticket" (India, Netherlands), won prizes in the shorts category.
"It's our best Sprockets to date," said Jane Schoettle, director of Sprockets. "We're absolutely thrilled with the increase in attendance and the increased number of international guests. Seeing a 20 per cent growth in one year is an incredible testament to the profile of the festival and the level of engagement of our young audiences. Once again, Toronto's youth have spoken through the jury process and through our audience awards with compelling results."
Sprockets is a program of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, which hosts the annual Toronto International Film Festival in addition to other events year-round.
[ For more information, visit the Sprockets website. ]