Clara and the Secret of the Bears (2013) MIFF Review


Switzerland/Germany   93 Mins

Clara has returned to her village in the Swiss Alps after her summer holiday. She sees a bear cub playing in a meadow and suspects the father is not far away – the mother was killed by poachers the year before. Clara starts to have visions brought on by the house her step-father is renovating; visions of a young girl from the past and her troubles. It becomes clear that Clara must find a way to help this girl and the bears.

I get very nervous about bears. I think that’s quite natural. They are wild and have claws and teeth and kill people. I found some of the scenes with Clara interacting with the bears, even from a distance, very unsettling, even though there was no real indication that anyone would be hurt. It was not that type of film.

It is, however, a gorgeous film. The alps are so beautiful, the story is strong and you are quickly on the side of Clara, who is quite strong and capable, yet a bit out of her depth. I felt, at times, that the editing took away from the story, possibly missing some crucial points and dwelling on things that had been clearly stated, but it is none-the-less a film worth watching, and a film I think many younger teenagers would enjoy.

Clara and the Secret of the Bears is part of the Next Gen Program and has school screenings on Thursday July 24 at 1pm at the Forum and Thursday August 7 at 11am at ACMI. Book through ATOM

Capturing Dad (2012) – MIFF Film Review


Japan  74 mins

Hazuki (Erisa Yanagi) and Koharu (Nanoka Matsubara) are sisters growing up in Numazu, Japan; one is in high school and one a bit older. Their mother (Makiko Watanabe) learns that their father, who left fourteen years earlier, is extremely ill and sends her daughters to his deathbed with one mission – to take a photo of him so she can laugh in his face. Neither girl is keen, but they follow their mother’s wish. When they arrive, they discover their father has passed away and they must deal with family they don’t know and grief that they can’t comprehend.

The film has a very low-budget feel, with simple shots and stilted acting. However, despite the flaws, it is a really heartfelt and delightful film. The daughters are both dutiful and gently rebellious, and the relationships feel genuine. Capturing Dad is an excellent choice for the Next Gen program – a film that raises issues around identity, death and family without being heartbreakingly painful.

Capturing Dad is screening at ACMI on Wednesday, August 7th at 11am and at ACMI on Friday, August 9th at 2pm. School bookings and teacher resources are available.


Foxfire (2012) – MIFF Film Film Review


France/Canada  143 mins

It’s the 1950s in small town America. A group of girls, sick of being hassled and harassed by the boys and men of the town, form a secret gang; Foxfire. Their initial goal is revenge on those who wrong them, but ultimately, it is freedom they seek. The story is told as an extended, narrated flashback by Maddy (Katie Coseni) who recorded their exploits at the time. She and the other girls were enthralled by the charisma and vision of Legs (Raven Adamson), prepared to follow her just about wherever she wanted to take them.

Right from the start, the film shows why such a rebellion is necessary for these girls. Alienated from ‘normal’ American life, these girls decide that if they are not going to be seen as acceptable, that they do not need to follow the paths normal for young ladies. There is some of the angst that I have found frustrating in other depictions of dissatisfied teenagers, however Foxfire has reasons for this angst, along with strong relationships and some sense of hope.

Foxfire screens at ACMI on Friday, August 9 at 11am and at Greater Union on Sunday, August 11 at 4pm. School bookings and teacher resources are available.