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KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
CHILDREN OF THE SEA - GKIDS
Series: FEATURE, AGES 10-15
Description - CHILDREN OF THE SEA is the latest feature from Japan's STUDIO4�C (known for Tekkonkinkreet, MFKZ, Mind Game, Animatrix, Batman: Gotham Knight, and others), and is directed by Ayumu Watanabe, with a score by award-winning composer and longtime Studio Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro). CHILDREN OF THE SEA is adapted from the manga of the same name by author Daisuke Igarashi, which won the Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival. When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her dad works. Now she feels drawn toward the aquarium and the two mysterious boys she meets there, Umi and Sora. They were raised by dugongs and hear the same strange calls from the sea as she does. Ruka's dad and the other adults who work at the aquarium are only distantly aware of what the children are experiencing as they get caught up in the mystery of the worldwide disappearance of the oceans' fish.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Full of intense imagination and interesting concepts, Children of the Sea is sure to captivate its audience. This Japanese fantasy film offers its viewers a tremendous amount of excitement and appreciation for nature. It's full of exploration and great artistic design. Some of the film's themes are difficult to connect with, yet the Children of the Sea keeps its viewers engaged and curious with its amazing animation.

The film is about a young, somewhat troubled teen named Ruka, who finds herself challenged by the relationships of her peers and her mother. During troubling times, Ruka is drawn to the local aquarium where her dad works -- a place she visited often and found comfort in as a child. Many mysteries of the ocean confuse Ruka over the years but when she meets Umi and Sora, two brothers believed to be raised by dugongs, marine mammals, their knowledge of the ocean seems to shed light on those mysteries. After Ruka spends her summer with Umi and Sora, she discovers that she, too, has this supernatural connection to the sea.

A big "thumbs up" to the animation department in this film for bringing the mystic ocean and its creatures to life! Children of the Sea kept us glued to the screen with its combination of animated drama, fantasy, and mystery, from scene to scene. The detailed and colorful environments of the sea, is by far my favorite part of the film. Although the story is challenging at times to follow, this film is a visual masterpiece.

Children of the Sea contains some deep concepts, and its message is difficult to understand. Mysterious ocean sounds that seem to trigger a global migration of sharks and whales in this film may be the film's best message. These sounds, which are part of the ocean's mystery, could affect the future of all life on Earth. Everything that surrounds us is connected, and we must find balance within the greater universe. Man and nature must live in harmony.

I give Children of the Sea 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 11 to 18. Children of the Sea may be more appreciated by adult nature lovers who could better appreciate its message and in-depth concepts. This film can be seen on blue-ray, DVD, and digital streaming.

Reviewed by Dominic D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10
Juror Recommended Age: 5-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED

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SKY DOG
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SKY DOG - VISION FILMS
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12-18
Description - After a high school senior working on his pilot's license rescues a dog named Oreo, he finds out his mom is a CIA agent who's been captured. He teams up with Oreo and a new friend to find his mother and uncover double agents inside the CIA.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - An enthralling watch, Sky Dog will capture kids' hearts and surely become a fixture feature film in many households. The high production quality, intriguing script and fast-paced action all make for a pleasant viewing experience. In a crowded segment of action/spy films, Sky Dog undoubtedly stands out.

Sky Dog follows the life of Colt Lifestone, a high school senior who has his heart set on getting his pilot's license. After a fateful revelation regarding Colt's mom's job and news of her kidnapping, Lifestone finds himself uprooted from all he knew to be normal, in a new home, new school and with two mysterious guardians. Colt teams up with his new friend Alice to find out what's really going on... and solve some mysteries in the process.

Both the characters of Colt Lifestone (Daniel Knudsen) and Alice Jones (Vickie Lynn Smith), the protagonists of the film, come across as confident and strong. However, Knudsen's shaky or robotic delivery can jerk the reader out of the magic of the story at times. There are many other actors involved in the "above-the-line" element of Sky Dog, and I especially enjoyed the performances of Mimi Sagadin (as Sheila Porter) and Rocco Guirlanda (as Agent Dewitt Porter). They sold their antagonistic roles to me and stirred up emotions in my heart, a difficult feat for many films. Sagadin, specifically, truly commits to her character--her performance seems to me to be the most genuine of all. Now to other talent on the film. Daniel Knudsen and Tim Kaiser directed Sky Dog; Mark Knudsen wrote the script and Kristina Kaylen led the production effort. All of these individuals show exceptional talent, but one member of the production crew shines above all: Samuel Joshua, the mind behind the film's original music score. The musical score would have to be my favorite part of the film. A mix of simple tunes, orchestral pieces and regal John Barry (James Bond films)-esque trumpet fanfares -- the music of Sky Dog adds much to the film and makes the viewing experience that much more enjoyable.

The message of Sky Dog is twofold: always do the right thing, no matter what it takes, and recognize the heroes around us. In terms of an advisory, parents should be aware that Porter mistreats Colt at two or three points in the film. Also, Colt and Alice steal a plane and defy the rules. There are also thematic elements in Sky Dog, such as kidnapping and weapons, that would not be advisable for young children.

I give the film Sky Dog 4 stars out of 5 and recommend it for kids aged 12 to 18. Adults may enjoy the movie as well. Sky Dog is coming to you, online and on DVD October 20, 2020!

Reviewed by Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Sky Dog is a very exciting movie and I enjoyed it. This movie keeps you curious about what will happen next. Also, there is a turn of events that keeps you very engaged throughout. Lastly, there is a hero in this movie and everyone loves a hero. This film has all the components to make an absorbing and delightful movie.

This film is about a teenager named Colt Lifestone (Daniel Knudsen), who is just a normal teenager until he discovers that his mom (Jeannine Thompson) is a CIA agent and is in danger. Colt is determined to rescue her with the help of a friend and a small dog.

The mood of this movie is hopeful and suspenseful. This is really a film that teenagers will enjoy. Written by Mark. A Knudsen, this film has an interesting storyline that is filled with emotional, action filled scenes. For example, when the CIA goes on a mission the audience follows along. This part is very intriguing as we watch the mission unfold. The most exhilarating part of the film is the ending, when Colt faces the bad guys. This is when the pieces of the puzzle come together and give the film its final touch. The camerawork is great, especially all the various camera angles. Daniel Knudsen, who plays Josh, is a well-known actor and film director. Daniel Knudsen's acting is very natural, but there is lack of emotion. For instance, when he finds out that his mom is in danger, he doesn't show much concern about it. Moreover, Oreo (Rosie Berryer), is Colt's dog. Oreo is loyal, smart and plays a big part in helping Colt and his friend. In this film, the mom's acting is very expressive. You can really see the emotion in her face and that's what makes her a great actor.

The messages of this film address determination and teamwork. Colt is not one to give up and this really helps him become a hero. The saying "two heads are better than one" is proven in this film. When you work together with others, it is more likely that the outcome will be great.

I give Sky Dog 4.5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 13 to 18. Adults will like it as well. You can find this film on Digital and DVD October 20, 2020.

Reviewed by Ginebra Q., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Sky Dog is a great suspenseful movie that lots of kids, especially those that like planes, will like. The film is also fun to watch.

The movie is about a teenage boy who wants to become a pilot and then, rescues a dog named Oreo. When Colt Lifestone (Daniel Knudsen) figures out that his stepdad (Tim Kaiser) and mom (Jeannine Thompson) are CIA agents his life is turned upside down. In one part of the movie, Colt tries to convince his protectors that he might have figured out a way to get back his mom, but do they listen or not?

I like the scene when Colt's teacher talks about what true heroes are and how to be one. The character that I like the most is Alice Jones (Vickie Lynn Smith). She is a good friend and is mostly with Colt when he needs her. She is not an ordinary friend. She always believes in him and what he says. My favorite part of the movie is when Alice and Colt work together to find his mom. They have to deal with some dangerous people but they do not let anything stop them. They work together and come up with smart ideas such as putting a bad guy to sleep by sneaking some sleeping pills to his drink. They then end up getting away with their ideas and go on to find Colt's mom.

The message of the film is that you can be a hero without any special powers.

I give Sky-Dog 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 10. You can find Sky-Dog on October 20, 2020 on digital and DVD.

Reviewed by SaniyaRain F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ 19.95 Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
CANDY PLANET

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CANDY PLANET
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CANDY PLANET - SAMUEL GOLDWYN FILMS
Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-8
Description - Getaway for an awesome summer vacation with Rainy and her mom on a faraway rainforest planet made entirely of Candy. When Rainy's mother is accidentally turned into a living-Candy -- it will be up to Rainy to save her mom from a world of outrageous characters in the sweetest places... Candy Planet.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - I enjoy the vibrant color scheme of the animated film, Candy Planet. There is a copious amount of neon and bright colors. It visually appealing to me, so I assume it will also be appealing for children. Sometimes there are unnecessary scenes that slow down the pace of the high energy adventure. For example, when the film cross-cuts between the adventure and the residents of candy planet, I know it is necessary to show both places, but it seems as if the candy planet scenes are there to add runtime rather than give the viewer information.

The storyline is about a mysterious robot appearing and zapping Rainie's mother, Eileen, into a piece of candy. Rainie and her friends follow the robot to discover it is trying to take Eileen back to the candy planet. Along the way, Rainie and her friends discover the truth about candy planet's existence and during their adventure, they learn the meaning of friendship.

I like how the viewer is omniscient while the characters are more restricted in their knowledge of the candy planet's ruler, Gordon's true intentions. This technique may reduce the surprise of the "big reveal," but the viewer still experiences tension while the characters discover Gordon's motive. The film starts in the middle of things, which makes the viewer intrigued instantly. Besides the extra added fluff, which can be easily looked over, it's still a good storyline. Everything gets explained thoroughly.

This film is animated and doesn't employ an array of varied camera angles. With the action scenes, of course we receive some medium and close-ups that connect us with specific characters emotions, but other than that the camerawork is fairly simple. The costumes that Rainie's friends wear are ornate and correlate with her friends being from an otherworldly jungle, hence their skin is blue. I like the various different planets and how each one has a specific theme. One is frozen; one has attacking candies which resemble Venus flytraps; one is a molten lava planet. Each planet also presents a different obstacle the characters need to overcome.

The music and sound effects work well. Both appropriately connect to the scenes in which they are paired. The music in the dance scene that Rainie and Gordon share is upbeat; each time they step on a button it beeps to the beat. Fun fact, the character that voices Rainie, Cherami Leigh, is an adult and not a child. Leigh's range in voice-acting is great. The key influencers are the editors and the storyboard creators. With animation, production process is a little wonky due to editors starting towards the beginning of the process rather than the end. Creating storyboards for any film is tedious, but especially with animation, because if someone decides to cut a single second out of the original storyboard, the creators have ultimately wasted time when it is cut. The same idea applies if something is added later.

This is small, but having the main character as a young girl and not a young boy can potentially inspire young girls to lead and embark on their own heroic journeys. One of the simpler messages is of friendship. Working together with people that care for one another, through the good and bad moments, results in a stronger and more loving friendship. An implicit message of this film is karma. Whether that be good or bad, like Gordon reluctantly becoming a piece of food, which he turned people into for years, unwillingly. A positive example of karma is when Rainie's mother explains to her that since she has a kind heart, she'll attract kind people in her life. What you put out in the world, positive or negative affects you, so you might as well make it a positive. One other message is that you can't subdue your emotions or bad experiences. The more you suppress them the bigger it explodes in the end. If Gordon communicated with his brother about how he genuinely felt, Rainie and her friends would have never endured his wrath.

There are a couple of fights, but they are more like tackling between the antagonist and the other characters. There is no graphic violence. My favorite part is the ending because Gordon receives karma. He's turned into a piece of food, which is what he was doing to other people for years. A lot of the characters in this film are voiced by actors with a long list of prior work such as Cam Clarke, Robbie Daymond and Dorothy Elias-Fahn.

I give Candy Planet 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it ages 3 to 10. It is a cute, adventurous film and it actually presents important messages.

Reviewed by Tor F., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Candy Planet is an interesting animated movie that younger kids will definitely find entertaining. It is somewhat predictable and some of the characters are kind of strange. The dubbing is very good and lines up pretty well with the animation.

The storyline is about a young girl, Rainie and her mom who go to a magical jungle for a vacation. They find a mysterious present outside their door and discover it is a magical camera that turns people into candy! Rainie's mom turns into a living chocolate bar, and to save her, Rainie and her friends fly to her rescue and get dragged to Candy Planet. There they meet Gordon who is not who he seems. Find out what else happens when you watch Candy Planet.

This movie is aimed at a younger audience, because the humor is basic and the storyline is simple. Even though it is somewhat predictable, it is an original idea, and I appreciate that. The movie's dialogue was initially in Chinese, so it is dubbed in English and it syncs up better than I expected. The animation is well produced. It looks similar to other animated movies, but has a uniqueness of its own. The characters are not very well-developed. There is little background on the characters and you have to guess what their relationships are. Speaking of characters, my favorite is Powderpup, the candy dog that they meet along the way. He is adorably cute.

The primary messages are about friendship and teamwork. Even though this movie is aimed at showing the importance of friendship, Rainie does make rude remarks towards her friends.

I give Candy Planet 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8. It is available now on Amazon Prime Video, FandangoNow and other streaming platforms.

Reviewed by Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Candy Planet is a 3D animated movie with a unique story. It has great animation and lots of bright colors throughout. It is a fun movie with lots of emotion. Due to the short run time of the movie (75 minutes.), it seems very fast paced, but that doesn't stop it from being a good film. I also really like the villain of the movie.

The storyline is about a girl named Rainie (Cherami Leigh) and her friends getting transported to a world inhabited by candy people after her mom gets turned into a candy. Rainie and her friends have to go through tests to turn her mom back into a human. The villain of the movie, Gordon (Todd Haberkorn), is the leader of the candy planet and tries to get Rainie to lose her friends and her belief in friendship. The only complaint I have with this movie is that it's never explained how Rainie became friends with the blue jungle people. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story.

The voice actors in the film are very good, especially Cherami Leigh who plays Rainie. She gives a fantastic performance, which is probably due to her extensive voice acting experience. I also really liked Robbie Daymond's performance. The voice actors are the best part of the movie as they really stand out. The animation is excellent as well; I really like all the colors in the movie. They make the movie feel more fun and playful. I also really like movies that are 3D animated. My favorite scene is when they're running on different planets, trying to get to the test.

The main theme of the movie is about friendship and how important it is. Throughout the movie, Rainie is tempted by Gordon that she doesn't need her friends and that they slow her down. Although friendship is a strong theme in a lot of animated movies, I think Candy Planet utilizea that theme particularly well. The film doesn't have anything that parents would worry about except a couple of fight scenes, which aren't too bad.

I give this movie 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 10. You can find Candy Planet now on iTunes, Amazon digital, Google Play, Vudu and FandangoNow.

Candy Planet is an animated film that is perfect for younger kids who like a good adventure about friendship.

The storyline follows a girl named Rainie (Cherami Leigh), on vacation with her mother, when a camera comes along and turns her mom (Dorothy Fahn) into a candy and takes her to a planet made entirely of candy. Of course, Rainie and her friends have to save her and due to a slight error in judgment, Rainie ends up having to save her friends along with her mom.

My favorite part of the movie is the beginning when some cute animals are turned into doughnuts and taken to the candy planet. The animals are super cute and act funny. I enjoyed the way Cherami Leigh voices Rainie, because she really takes on her character and her vocal expressions relay her emotions perfectly. The part of the film that sticks with me most is how all the voice actors convey emotion solely through their voices. The way Dorothy Fahn plays Rainie's mother, you can hear the concern for her daughter. There are a few other actors in this movie that stand out to me. For example, Robbie Daymon, as Blue, changes his voice throughout and makes his character come to life. This movie is in 3D animation, which is very well made. The characters are clear and the background doesn't overshadow the characters. The sound effects sound real and make it sound like the cameras are taking pictures. With all the action taking place, the sound effects are important to enhance the story. It is very well paced and keeps the viewer wanting to know how the characters will solve the next problem they face. The music is suspenseful throughout, which adds intrigue to the story development. The colors are all bright and happy, reflecting the candy and making it intriguing to younger viewers. My eyes were drawn all over the place because it is all so bright and exciting.

The message of the film is about trusting your friends and working with them to complete a task. If you don't trust your friends they will stop trusting you.

I recommend Candy Planet for ages 4 to 7 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. You can find it now on Google Play movies, Prime video, Hulu and Netflix.
Juror Recommended Age: 5-8 Suggested Retail Price: $ 9.99 Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
CAMP ARROWHEAD

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CAMP ARROWHEAD
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CAMP ARROWHEAD - SAMUEL GOLDWYN FILMS
Series: FEATURES, AGES 7-16
Description - 19-year-old Sophie Walker attends a summer camp to help her get over the loss of her mother. She attends as a worker and is initially made fun of by some rich girls at the camp. But when the rich girls realize they need another girl for the archery team, they invite Sophie to join. Meanwhile, Sophie has met a mysterious man in the forest named Percy who claims to be an archery coach. Sophie gets Percy the job as team coach and Percy proceeds to turn the girls into lethal archers. Along the way, Percy also helps Sophie come to terms with the loss of her mother - in an unexpected and magical way.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - From an adult's perspective, I feel Camp Arrowhead tries to tackle a lot of themes including death of a parent, disabilities, religion, sport competitions, a mystery, and more. Maybe children watching wouldn't recognize that, but the film tries to tackle a lot of ideas in a short amount of time, so some ideas don't seem as fleshed out as others. The excellent camerawork makes it much easier to get through.

The story follows Sophie, a teen whose mother has recently passed, who discovers that her father needs to go out of town for work. Not wanting to be sent to her younger cousin's house for her summer vacation, she reluctantly goes to Camp Arrowhead with her friend April to work at the camp that caters to rich teens. Throughout the film Sophie encounters various other characters that influence her and teach her lifelong lessons.

The camerawork is very well done. The lighting always looks great and is never too dark nor too bright; almost every shot looks perfectly balanced. I enjoy the superimposing image of Sophie's face dissolving into the image of the car driving to Camp Arrowhead. This happens at the beginning of the film so it insinuates to the viewer that there is going to be a significant connection between the two. I also like shallow focus shot when Percy sings and Devin's mother is behind her in the shadows and is out of focus. She is in contrast with Devin who is in focus and not in the shadows. It represents how Devin's mother is always lurking behind her and watching her every move to try and control her life. The sets and locations are very relatable and believable. The camp location encapsulates a typical teen camp location that I have seen in many other films. Finding a good location for shooting in the woods is typically hard, but the woods in this film looks great and realistic. The music relates well to each scene. The score used for emotional scenes evokes somberness and the music used for uplifting montages matches the action.

Percy is the character who influences the rest of the cast in certain ways they need to change. For example, Percy helps Tyler realize his strength and how smart he really is. Percy is very all-knowing and guides these characters into their respective changes. The other key influencer is most likely the editor. The editing is seamless and there aren't any awkward cuts. It flows well.

The message, as clich� as it sounds, is about how love, compassion and understanding conquers all. This has a religious theme, that comes in quite unexpectedly. I don't mind it, but feel as if it should have been addressed earlier in the film because it seems to come out of left field. As it is, it is just very abrupt. You should know that there is a death of a parent mentioned, but it is not in any way graphic. There are some typical camp shenanigans throughout the film, but it is just some petty pranks.

What this film reinforces is the idea of understanding others' struggles. We truly do not know what others are going through, such as Devin dealing with her over-controlling mother. As soon as Sophie treated Devin with respect, she experienced a very different side of her. An interesting part is when Sophie's phone message finally is sent to her deceased mom despite saying "undelivered" for months. Utilizing her phone to concretely present the abstract idea of her "sending the message of love" to her deceased mother is clever.

I give Camp Arrowhead 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 9 to 13. I love the cinematography and editing; the production values are great, but the storyline is a bit all over the place.

Reviewed by Tor F., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Camp Arrowhead is a heartwarming film with an inspiring message. It is a story about overcoming tragedy and never losing hope. When you have friends and you work together, sometimes miracles happen. It is a fast-paced film with lots of laughter and adventure.

The storyline is about 19-year-old Sophie Walker (Tori Keeth) who recently lost her mother and volunteers at a summer camp to avoid staying with her cousins. A kind and mysterious man named Percy (Donnie William) gives her and her friend archery lessons and they both become ace archers. The camp bully, Devin Dupree (Chloe Lukasiak), really wants to win the archery competition and she is determined to win the competition no matter what. Along the way, Sophie comes to terms with her loss, in an unexpected and magical way.

One of my favorite parts of the film is the talent show scene. The songs are beautifully written and performed. Sophie sings a heartfelt song that touches everyone dearly. The emotions she expresses and the lyrics of the song really pull you in and grab your attention. Percy sings an upbeat song that leaves everyone feeling good and lifts the mood. Other characters also give talented performances. Chloe Lukasiak portrays her role as the bully in a believable way. Jennifer Aquino who plays Candace and Carter Southern who plays Tyler also bring their characters to life. The campground setting is perfect for the film. The natural setting, the camp buildings and the archery equipment really makes it all seem very real. I really enjoyed watching the characters develop and grow while they at camp.

The messages in this film are about forgiveness and love always prevail. Forgiveness allows peace and love and leaves viewers with hope.

I give Camp Arrowhead 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend this movie to ages 7 to 16, plus adults. This film is available now on digital channels including iTunes, Amazon digital, Google play, Vudu and FandangoNow.

By Carlee S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

I really enjoyed this fun and adventurous movie! Camp Arrowhead is set in an authentic American summer camp. The actors all give genuine and believable performances. The film delivers a positive emotional message and feel-good factor.

This story follows 19-year-old Sophie (Tori Keeth), whose mother has recently passed away and she hasn't been the same since. She joins her best friend, April (Joy Regullano), to work at Camp Arrowhead as her father thinks it would be a good idea for her to work through her grief. She wanders into the wood and meets an unusual old man who might just offer the help she needs and, when the archery team require some new recruits, Sophie and April are up for the task. They join the archery team and learn about the importance of family, friendship and teamwork.

The production is very professionally made and the cast are incredible. Chloe Lukasiak (Dance Moms) plays her performance as the stuck-up, posh and snobby brat, Devon Dupree, especially well. Tori Keeth (Henry Danger) takes on the lead role as the heart broken Sophie Walker, with great emotion and feeling. Donnie Williams plays the role of Percy, a character who is mysterious and helpful in a warm and friendly manner. The supporting cast are great and each plays their role to a high standard, adding to the overall performance. The set is very realistic and in keeping with the storyline. I especially love the cabins. They look so warm and cozy. The music helps set the scenes whilst not distracting from the movie, and the character performances. My favorite part is towards the end of the film when Percy leaves a surprise gift, that leads Sophie to a very special place. I don't want to spoil it for you all, so can't say any more than that.

The message of the film is of uplifting friendship, and that time helps to heal emotional pain. We watch the girls struggle through a social divide, initially clashing, then put their differences aside and forming a bond through teamwork. It also teaches us the importance of forgiveness, no matter what you've done.

I give Camp Arrowhead 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 15, plus adults. This film is available now on digital channels including iTunes, Amazon digital, google play, Vudu , and FandangoNow.

Reviewed by Katie F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Camp Arrowhead is a family-friendly film filled with laughs, drama and the hope that you have an open-mind.

With Sophie's dad going away for work all summer long, she decides to work at Camp Arrowhead with her close friend for the summer. Camp life has its challenges, especially since Sophie's mom died just a few months ago. With the help of new friends and a mysterious older man named Percy, Sophie learns the art of competitive archery and the gift of being able to communicate with her mom.

I enjoyed this movie because the plot is unpredictable and has a happy ending. Directors Timothy Armstrong and Fernando De La Cruz created a movie that generates a range of emotions. The magical theme was a surprise and includes some plot twists. Actor Donnie Williams' performance as Percy makes the magical character believable, while at the same time creating a well-loved movie character. Tori Keeth, who plays Sophie, creates a character that you hope will be able to find happiness. With the strong supporting cast you find yourself rooting for multiple people. The cinematographer, Ferguson Sauve-Rogan supports the film's message by creating authentic settings that carry the magical and realistic theme throughout the movie.

A common theme of the movie is to believe in yourself and have faith. Many of the characters in the movie confront and overcome difficult obstacles. Although the movie promotes many positive messages, some subtle racial inequity exists. Most likely this is not what the producers wanted, but it provides a good opportunity to bring awareness to discrimination in films and creates the chance to have an open and honest conversation about racism.

I rate Camp Arrowhead 4.5 out 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 14. You can watch Camp Arrowhead now on iTunes, Amazon digital, Google Play, Vudu and FandangoNow.

Reviewed by Calee N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Camp Arrowhead is a new feature film aimed at tween girls about friendship and loss that reminds me of a Disney Channel movie, but falls short. I wanted to like this film, but the pacing feels slow and the writing is awkward. The movie also solves all of its characters' problems too easily.

The storyline is about a 19-year-old girl, Sophie Walker (Tori Keeth), whose mother died a few months ago. She is angry at herself because she argued with her mom before she died and Sophie never had a chance to make up. Her friend is going work at Camp Arrowhead and invites Sophie to join her. At camp she ends up making friends with the rich mean girl campers, finds romance with the camp director's grandson who is in a wheelchair, and makes peace with her mom's death with help from a special friend.

The sets and locations are realistic. The costumes quickly identify teen girls at a summer camp. There are some special effects at the end, but they are not very high tech. My favorite character is Sophie's friend April (Joy Regullano), who is very upbeat and nice to everyone. The other lead character is Devin (Chloe Lukasiak), who is a stereotypical mean rich girl who is under lots of pressure to win at archery from her mean mom. She changes after she invites Sophie and April to join the archery team and they become friends. The movie has a strong moral message that is delivered through an older character, Percy, whom we later learn is not what he first appears to be. My favorite part of the film is the montage where Percy teaches the girls archery.

The message in this film is that kindness and forgiveness (especially of yourself) will make everything better. It feels religious by using symbols such as a cross and angel and talking about heaven. The message is positive. I just don't like that everyone's problems are solved so easily at the end. Most of the negative behavior such as revenge and cheating is handled when characters apologize or have consequences like getting disqualified.

I give this movie 2 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 through 14. This film is available now on digital channels including iTunes, Amazon digital, google play, Vudu, and FandangoNow.

Reviewed by Sammi B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10
Juror Recommended Age: 7-16 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
MAMBO MAN
MAMBO MAN - CORINTH FILMS
Series: FEATURE 14-18
Description - It is the story of a Cuban farmer and music promoter who gambles everything on a deal that appears too good to be true.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Mambo Man is an incredible Cuban flick! One not to be missed, especially for those of the Cuban culture. Relatable and a great family film.

Mambo Man is about a Cuban named JC (Hector Noas) who is both a farmer and a music promoter, popular on the island for his music. When his friend, Roberto (David Parez), appears out of the blue with a business offer JC cannot refuse, JC is left scrambling to find fifty thousand dollars. Throughout the film we see JC and his family struggle with their everyday life. We see how poor the island is and posters of Fidel Castro, whether praising or fearing him. Throughout the film, Cuba is shown in its poverty--overcrowded, with residents looking for work for food and money. Mambo Man doesn't hide Cuba's flaws nor does it glorify the country, but rather shows the day-to-day life of the island's inhabitants.

Another plus is the authenticity: the whole cast is Cuban and the movie is filmed in Cuba. (As a Cuban myself, I enjoyed seeing these shots of where my father grew up.) The entirety of Mambo Man is in Spanish with subtitles, with people rarely speaking English. At times, the subtitles do not match what the dialogue really says. Some lines are changed, sometimes phrases and expressions aren't included. Some of my favorite scenes are those that include music, especially traditional Cuban music made for dancing. The soundtrack includes wonderful songs that many Cubans can recognize. Mambo Man has incredible shots of the countryside of Cuba, too, such as JC's farmland, and when he and his chauffeur, David (Alejandro Palomino) drive through the city and countryside.

Overall, the main plot of the film feels extremely rushed, and the not-so-needed scenes drag on for way too long. For example, at one point, JC's friend steals ten thousand dollars from him. We never meet his friend, Omar, so it seems odd to have a character who is pretty unrelated to the plot steal such a grand amount of money. Also, there are parts in the film where tourists visit JC's farm that are longer than necessary. It would have been much better to meet Omar rather than see tourists that have no effect on the storyline. In another example, JC's wife, Rita (Yudexi De La Torre Mesa) is angry with her husband about how much money he is risking, and then in her next scene she talks about how losing a huge sum of money is no big deal, and that family is what is important. We miss her character development, and it seems peculiar how in one scene she nags JC about almost losing their home and in the next she shrugs it off.

The message of the film is that family is what matters most, not money, as JC learns towards the end. There are many uses of adult language; some shown in subtitles, and some not included but still said in Spanish. Heavy alcohol and tobacco depictions are shown as well.

I give Mambo Man 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. It premieres on virtual cinema on September 11, 2020.

Reviewed by Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 14-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
MULAN 2020

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MULAN 2020
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MULAN 2020 - WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES
Series: FEATURE, AGES 10-18
Description - To save her ailing father from serving in the Imperial Army, a fearless young woman disguises herself as a man to battle northern invaders in China. Mulan 2020 is a live-action adaptation of Disney's 1998 animated film of the same name, based on the Chinese folklore "The Ballad of Mulan." Directed by Niki Caro. With Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Li Gong, Jet Li.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth review
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Loyal, brave, true, honorable, and devoted, all describe aspects of Disney's new remake of the animated movie, Mulan (1998). Niki Caro, the director of this year's live-action version, took on the huge challenge of giving new life to the legendary tale of China's fearless girl warrior after 22 years. This action-packed, family film will keep viewers in suspense while tugging at their hearts along the way. Mulan offers us much to appreciate ...culture, a love for family, honesty, peace and so much more. We couldn't have asked for a better release date for Mulan, as its many messages are powerful and uplifting which are needed during these unsettling times in many communities.

The film follows a fearless young woman named Hua Mulan who is the daughter of Zhou, a warrior veteran. Mulan is not like other traditional women of her age. She is a uniquely gifted woman driven by the power of the chi, destined not to conform and marry the match of her parent's choice; rather she prefers to use her skills to fight as a warrior and to defend her country, town and family. Her father, who is traditional in his beliefs, warns Mulan to hide her gifts. Upon learning of a possible empire takeover by Bori Khan and his power hungry rebel group, one male from every household is ordered to enlist in the Imperial Army to defend their land. Mulan's father, the dad of two daughters, is not in good physical condition to take on this feat yet steps up to the challenge. Knowing that her father is in no shape to battle the enemy, Mulan sacrifices everything and faces death to disguise herself as the man of the household and train with the Imperial Army.

Yifei Liu, who plays Mulan, possesses great star power. She is fierce yet sensitive and shows viewers a wide variety of her emotions throughout the film. A huge shout out to the cinematography, art, set, costume, and make up crews for bringing such light, excitement, and brilliance to the legendary Chinese Empire. Every scene is colorful, bright, and full of life. China and New Zealand are perfect landscapes for the film sets and are perfect for captivating the viewers. And despite the adventure and suspense, the film entertains us with several scenes containing humor.

Mulan is a film with many messages of loyalty, bravery, honor, devotion to family, and more. The strongest message is about empowerment. Mulan, born into a culture where there is a clear division between the roles for men and women, chooses not to conform to tradition and claims her rights to be who she wants to be. Mulan is faced with many heartfelt decisions that, above all, could cause her death, yet she stays true to herself.

I give Mulan 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it to ages 8 to 18. Mulan is the perfect family film and adults will love it as much as kids. Mulan will begin streaming on September 4th 2020 on Disney+. This is a film that you do not want to miss!

Reviewed by Dominic D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

I love the new action-packed Mulan movie! The costumes and scenery in this live-action version of the animated film are stunning. Fans of Mushu will notice the new Mulan has no Mushu! However, this Mulan is a PG-13 movie with a lot of intense action, and I don't think that a talking dragon would fit in an action movie (sorry, Mushu!)

Mulan is about a girl (Lui Yifei) growing up in the male-dominated culture of the Imperial era of China. Women are supposed to be quiet, composed, graceful, elegant, poised and polite. But Mulan is different. She possesses a strong chi, something thought that only men could possess. When China is attacked by Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee), one man from each family is required to serve in the Imperial Army to defend China. Mulan has one sister and no brothers, forcing her father to fight. He is already a war hero and was injured while serving and cannot fight, so she has no choice but to disguise herself as a man and take his place.

First and foremost, the cinematography is unbelievable! There are so many unique camera angles, and the colors are strong and vivid. Kudos to cinematographer Mandy Walker! Along with impressive special effects, the costumes and scenery are beautiful. There are several differences between the new Mulan and the original. I enjoyed the newer one as it is a lot more about girl power, and has an all-Asian cast. My favorite performance was from Liu Yifei-- her fighting skills are very realistic (because she practiced so much) and she has a calm fierceness that is so heroic! The new live-action version also has many subtle tributes to the iconic songs in the original animated version. Also, while this film is not a musical, for those of you who loved the original songs, be sure to get the soundtrack, sung by Christina Aguilera.

Along with the warriors' credo to always be loyal, brave, and true, Mulan emphasizes the importance of family and demonstrates girl power. This movie has some scary elements and has several violent fight scenes.

I give Mulan 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 11 to 18. Adults will enjoy it, too. Mulan is currently available on Disney+. (It will be free to Disney+ subscribers on December 4th, 2020.)

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 10-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:



This title is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
QUARANTEENED, A VIRTUAL MUSICAL
QUARANTEENED, A VIRTUAL MUSICAL - CORI ANNE LAEMMEL
Series: INDIE FEATURE, AGES 11-18
Description - When literally everything is cancelled, how do we connect? Quaranteened: A Virtual Musical is an all new virtual musical from The Theater Bug, in partnership with MA2LA. Quaranteened was written by all teen writers and recorded entirely from home and produced remotely. The show features the intertwined stories of a group of teenagers trying to stay connected in a world asking them to isolate themselves. It is based on the moment we are living in, told across Zoom classes, FaceTime, TikToks and texts.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - The relevance of the short film Quaranteened: The Musical, its high production quality and great message make it a must-watch in 2020. The film is conscious of the fact that we are living in an era of a global pandemic and the sky seems like it's falling. It addresses the subject quite beautifully.

This musical is about teen life during the age of COVID-19, documented through photos, chats, Zoom calls and lots of great music!

The film addresses death, distress and technological irritation with delicacy, and I appreciate that. Without making one issue seem like it is less than another, Quaranteened: A Virtual Musical weaves a massive web of events (all of which reportedly have happened in 2020) that will make the viewer gape at the complexity of this year.

The decidedly novel approach to filming Quaranteened: A Virtual Musical gives it a unique flavor. It is all recorded online, which makes it feel very organic. As far as the best shot in the film, I like the one-on-one Zoom calls as they manage to encapsulate each character's thoughts, emotions and personalities, while maintaining focus, all in a snippet of time. What a clever idea! The costumes are all contemporary attire, typically worn by teenagers in 2020. The scenes take place in each character's home - making the film feel very real. I've attended zoom classes and the film's representation is accurate. The music is what drives this film and is emotionally deep and thought-provoking. Most importantly, I would love to have the musical score of Quaranteened: A Virtual Musical on a Spotify playlist.

The only major special effects, besides some animation with names, Instagram videos and FaceTime or Zoom calls are in a song with an 8-bit-like theme. The special effects are a fun touch and give the short film a lighter feel. Cori Anne Laemmel directs this short film. Anthony Matula is Director of Photography, Laura Matula is Producer and Musical Director and MA2LA Studios edited, mixed sound and dealt with SFX and VFX. This film has 30 writers and over 40 cast members! Out of the 40+ characters in this film, I found A. Jones' portrayal of Lee to be emotionally touching and incredibly convincing. I also shed several tears for Betsy, played by Abbey Rhyne. One of my favorite scenes is the one where Betsy and Peter call and talk out past events, sharing an emotional moment as friends. It is one of many touching moments in short film.

The message of this film is: even though we are isolated and socially distanced, we are not alone. We will get through this pandemic together and be stronger. You should know that one of the major events of the film is the death of a minor character from COVID-19. This qualifies as a sensitive topic.

I give Quaranteened: A Virtual Musical 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. The high production quality, relevance to our times, and deep storyline qualify it for a youth and family film festival. Reviewed by Eshaan, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The relevance of the short film Quaranteened: The Musical, its high production quality and great message make it a must-watch in 2020. The film is conscious of the fact that we are living in an era of a global pandemic and the sky seems like it's falling. It addresses the subject quite beautifully.

This musical is about teen life during the age of COVID-19, documented through photos, chats, Zoom calls and lots of great music!

The film addresses death, distress and technological irritation with delicacy, and I appreciate that. Without making one issue seem like it is less than another, Quaranteened: A Virtual Musical weaves a massive web of events (all of which reportedly have happened in 2020) that will make the viewer gape at the complexity of this year.

The decidedly novel approach to filming Quaranteened: A Virtual Musical gives it a unique flavor. It is all recorded online, which makes it feel very organic. As far as the best shot in the film, I like the one-on-one Zoom calls as they manage to encapsulate each character's thoughts, emotions and personalities, while maintaining focus, all in a snippet of time. What a clever idea! The costumes are all contemporary attire, typically worn by teenagers in 2020. The scenes take place in each character's home - making the film feel very real. I've attended zoom classes and the film's representation is accurate. The music is what drives this film and is emotionally deep and thought-provoking. Most importantly, I would love to have the musical score of Quaranteened: A Virtual Musical on a Spotify playlist.

The only major special effects, besides some animation with names, Instagram videos and FaceTime or Zoom calls are in a song with an 8-bit-like theme. The special effects are a fun touch and give the short film a lighter feel. Cori Anne Laemmel directs this short film. Anthony Matula is Director of Photography, Laura Matula is Producer and Musical Director and MA2LA Studios edited, mixed sound and dealt with SFX and VFX. This film has 30 writers and over 40 cast members! Out of the 40+ characters in this film, I found A. Jones' portrayal of Lee to be emotionally touching and incredibly convincing. I also shed several tears for Betsy, played by Abbey Rhyne. One of my favorite scenes is the one where Betsy and Peter call and talk out past events, sharing an emotional moment as friends. It is one of many touching moments in short film.

The message of this film is: even though we are isolated and socially distanced, we are not alone. We will get through this pandemic together and be stronger. You should know that one of the major events of the film is the death of a minor character from COVID-19. This qualifies as a sensitive topic.

I give Quaranteened: A Virtual Musical 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. The high production quality, relevance to our times, and deep storyline qualify it for a youth and family film festival. Reviewed by Eshaan, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
Juror Recommended Age: 11-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:



This title is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
DRONYA'S ARTIFICES
DRONYA'S ARTIFICES - KATERINA BALABAY
Series: INDIE FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - An eleven-years old boy Dronya most of all wants to win the competition of young programmers and go for education in the well-known IT-company. But parents sent Dronya to the summer camp, where the contest for a title of the best squad is taking place. Dronya and his new friends are challenged ahead a not easy task - to win the competition.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - I love the beautiful music and unique storyline of Dronya's Artifices. I learned quite a bit about Ukrainian culture from this movie and found the number of alternate plots, nuanced characters and deep messages that were compacted into one hour and 30 minutes to be astounding.

Ukrainian preteen Dronya has to draw his focus away from his main passion: coding the next revolutionary app for a nationwide contest (with the prize of an internship at a prestigious IT company) when his parents sign him up for summer camp. The overarching aim of this summer camp? A competition to see which group of campers shows unity, teamwork and creativity. Throughout the camp, Dronya grows as a person and develops an appreciation for Ukrainian culture... but then he realizes that not all is as it seems.

There are so many plots and subplots in this film, but fortunately the director and screenwriter Katerina Balabay manages to isolate each one and provide them with equal amounts of depth. From the internal and external conflicts of the characters to the overarching camp storyline, every element of Dronya's Artifices is captured perfectly. I do not speak Ukrainian, but the script design and overall messaging of the characters are deep enough to not be hindered by the exceedingly-literal closed captions.

The cinematography in this Ukrainian film is of very high quality. I could see some of the camera shots in this film being used in a Hollywood movie. There are no dimly-lit shots; all of the colors are perfectly balanced and the camera's focus is maintained throughout the film. I especially love the bokeh effect added to the smooth transitions between scenes. For example, in one shot, when the characters run off-camera, the camera descends into a field and focuses on a single blade of grass. When the characters are learning to paint in the style of Petrykivka, the emphasis placed on the plates and the many colors by the cameras is pleasing to the eye. I also love the style of filmography in many of the bike-riding shots, as they emphasized the vibrant surroundings, but also the movement of the characters.

For the most part, the children wear clothes that we would see in 2020. My favorite costumes are the traditional Ukrainian blouses and tunics which Mariana, a villager, and her family make and wear and then gifted to the kids. All of the costumes are relevant to the storyline and time period. Dronya's Artifices is set primarily in the Petrykivka region of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast (Province) in central Ukraine, but also contains some scenes from a large city, which appear to be Kyiv, the capital. The setting is very unique and brings a rarely seen angle to the film. The quaint Ukrainian huts, intricate paintings and beautiful countryside enhance the viewing experience greatly.

The music of this film really drives the action and can be seen as a marker of each plot point. The music is a mix of electro music and pop. Some songs have a horror element to them, and some have a more traditional Ukrainian feel to them. I love the soundtrack, although the audio quality dims slightly for a few minutes after each song. Voices and applause also seem a bit muffled. Katerina Balabay is the screenwriter, songwriter, producer and director of the film. Her screenwriting skills really show in this film. Boris Sevastyanov is the composer of the soundtrack of this film and Yurii Krasiuk is the director of photography.

Dronya is played by Stepan Kravets whose believable acting and strong delivery make his performance an enjoyable one. Sashko is played by Zachary Savelyev, and you can't help but want him to be your friend by the end of the movie. Julia Konik plays Ira, a camp counselor that is desperate to make her mother, Larissa Alexandrivna, head of the camp. Her performance is possibly the most emotionally compelling of all.

This film has so many positive messages. Throughout the film characters promote the idea of unity, cooperation, never giving up, trying new things, being resourceful, companionship and always having an appetite to learn. It shows us so much about Ukranian culture, folk music and Petrykivka paintings. I particularly benjoyed the section about the Petrykivka paintings. The setting is gorgeous, the song associated with it is great, and I enjoyed learning more about the UNESCO-certified decorative painting style.

I give Dronya's Artifices 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 8 to 18, plus adults. Besides being a multicultural film, Dronya's Artifices is enjoyable to watch because of the high production quality and believable acting. Reviewed by Eshaan Mani, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I love the beautiful music and unique storyline of Dronya's Artifices. I learned quite a bit about Ukrainian culture from this movie and found the number of alternate plots, nuanced characters and deep messages that were compacted into one hour and 30 minutes to be astounding.

Ukrainian preteen Dronya has to draw his focus away from his main passion: coding the next revolutionary app for a nationwide contest (with the prize of an internship at a prestigious IT company) when his parents sign him up for summer camp. The overarching aim of this summer camp? A competition to see which group of campers shows unity, teamwork and creativity. Throughout the camp, Dronya grows as a person and develops an appreciation for Ukrainian culture... but then he realizes that not all is as it seems.

There are so many plots and subplots in this film, but fortunately the director and screenwriter Katerina Balabay manages to isolate each one and provide them with equal amounts of depth. From the internal and external conflicts of the characters to the overarching camp storyline, every element of Dronya's Artifices is captured perfectly. I do not speak Ukrainian, but the script design and overall messaging of the characters are deep enough to not be hindered by the exceedingly-literal closed captions.

The cinematography in this Ukrainian film is of very high quality. I could see some of the camera shots in this film being used in a Hollywood movie. There are no dimly-lit shots; all of the colors are perfectly balanced and the camera's focus is maintained throughout the film. I especially love the bokeh effect added to the smooth transitions between scenes. For example, in one shot, when the characters run off-camera, the camera descends into a field and focuses on a single blade of grass. When the characters are learning to paint in the style of Petrykivka, the emphasis placed on the plates and the many colors by the cameras is pleasing to the eye. I also love the style of filmography in many of the bike-riding shots, as they emphasized the vibrant surroundings, but also the movement of the characters.

For the most part, the children wear clothes that we would see in 2020. My favorite costumes are the traditional Ukrainian blouses and tunics which Mariana, a villager, and her family make and wear and then gifted to the kids. All of the costumes are relevant to the storyline and time period. Dronya's Artifices is set primarily in the Petrykivka region of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast (Province) in central Ukraine, but also contains some scenes from a large city, which appear to be Kyiv, the capital. The setting is very unique and brings a rarely seen angle to the film. The quaint Ukrainian huts, intricate paintings and beautiful countryside enhance the viewing experience greatly.

The music of this film really drives the action and can be seen as a marker of each plot point. The music is a mix of electro music and pop. Some songs have a horror element to them, and some have a more traditional Ukrainian feel to them. I love the soundtrack, although the audio quality dims slightly for a few minutes after each song. Voices and applause also seem a bit muffled. Katerina Balabay is the screenwriter, songwriter, producer and director of the film. Her screenwriting skills really show in this film. Boris Sevastyanov is the composer of the soundtrack of this film and Yurii Krasiuk is the director of photography.

Dronya is played by Stepan Kravets whose believable acting and strong delivery make his performance an enjoyable one. Sashko is played by Zachary Savelyev, and you can't help but want him to be your friend by the end of the movie. Julia Konik plays Ira, a camp counselor that is desperate to make her mother, Larissa Alexandrivna, head of the camp. Her performance is possibly the most emotionally compelling of all.

This film has so many positive messages. Throughout the film characters promote the idea of unity, cooperation, never giving up, trying new things, being resourceful, companionship and always having an appetite to learn. It shows us so much about Ukranian culture, folk music and Petrykivka paintings. I particularly benjoyed the section about the Petrykivka paintings. The setting is gorgeous, the song associated with it is great, and I enjoyed learning more about the UNESCO-certified decorative painting style.

I give Dronya's Artifices 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 8 to 18, plus adults. Besides being a multicultural film, Dronya's Artifices is enjoyable to watch because of the high production quality and believable acting. Reviewed by Eshaan Mani, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:



This title is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
PASSION MAKES SCHOOL
PASSION MAKES SCHOOL - ALFONSO CACCIOLA
Series: FOREIGN FEATURE, AGES 10-18
Description - Ivan is a 12 year old boy who wants to make a documentary. He is looking for a topic that involves him and he interviews his classmates to find it. When spring arrives he is attracted by the beauty of nature and, with his video, he wants to participate in a competition. But together with his school he is involved in a race where you have to ride on static bikes to produce clean energy. In the classroom they talk about environmental crises and energy problems. During the holidays Ivan is more attentive to environmental problems and when he goes to the sea he tries to clean up a beach full of plastic. Back in school, he no longer thinks about competitions and discovers the importance of teamwork. There is no time to lose: the challenge for him and for the other kids is to believe in a possible solution for a problem that affects everyone but, above all, their future.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - I enjoyed watching Passion Makes School because of its impactful message and beautiful cinematography. Even though the film drags in some parts, namely during the long panoramic shots, it addresses a topic that we all need to be aware of - global warming and climate change - addressing it quite gracefully, I might add. The camera work will surely stun you, as it adds many more layers to the already-deep storyline.

Passion Makes School is a documentary film by Alfonso Cacciola about climate change. The film follows Ivan, a 12-year-old boy from Cernusco sul Naviglio, Italy. He wants to make a documentary, but isn't sure what to base it upon. So, he interviews his classmates and talks with his teachers. When the beautiful season of spring dawns upon Lombardy, Ivan discovers his passion for preserving the environment and natural beauty and decides to learn more about what he can do to counteract climate change, as a kid, by creating a film.

The content is critically important and Cacciola delivers a hard-hitting and effective message with his film. This film succeeds in being unique, in that it can hold your attention and entertain you, while educating you about an important topic. The script facilitates this unique, appealing approach.

The cinematography greatly impressed me. Though it is a father-son film, the camera work by Alfonso Cacciola looks and feels organic and professional. There are some shaky shots, but those add a 'real' angle to the documentary. I especially liked the bokeh shots in the wheat fields and on the beaches - the camera work truly speaks volumes. The costumes suit the time period and the storyline. The cast wear clothes typical of what people wore in 2017 (when this film was created). The Cacciolas filmed in Milan and Cernusco sul Naviglio, a small town near Milan. The school which the film focuses on is the Istituto Comprensivo "Rita Levi Montalcini." Many of the shots are taken in the camps, parks, plazas and streets of Milan and Cernusco. The hike up Grignetta Mountain is magnificent and majestic, but most enrapturing are the scenes in the Gargano Peninsula. Che bello! In Milan, several scenes focus on the famous Duomo di Milano, the Church of St. Maurice in Major Monastery and the Poldi Pezzoli Museum. The school orchestra of Istituto Comprensivo "Rita Levi Montalcini" play all the songs in this film, ranging from established Italian classics like 'Bolero' to totally new songs such as 'Open Your Eyes.' The soundtrack provides a dynamic feel and a lighter tone to the film that brings a breath of fresh air to the ever-serious documentary. The sound effects seem to be from a stock pack, but they are functional and work as section-dividers for this film. Some basic animation as well as fun overlay effects are utilized. These effects enhance the viewing experience and allow the reader to visualize exactly what Ivan, his teachers and his friends speak about. They also act as dividers for each section of address in the film.

Alfonso 'Rino' Cacciola is the director, writer and producer of the film and his son Ivan Cacciola plays Ivan. Rino Cacciola's years of expertise in filmmaking and the study of theatre are evident in the production quality of Passion Makes School. His son Ivan also has great prowess in acting. It's especially commendable how Ivan modulates his tone of voice for every serious, light or 'in between' scene. I love how Ivan grows throughout the process of making his documentary. Not only does he learn more about climate change and global warming, but he also learns how to work in a team. Most important of all, he finds his passion! Several prominent climate activists such as Germano Gemini and some professors from the University of Milan appear in this film.

Climate change is a real issue, and it's happening right now. The message of this film is that we need to take action - right now or, as they say in Italian, adesso.

I give Passion makes School 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, plus adults. This film explores a very important topic for children and families living in the 21st Century and thus I highly recommend it for the KIDS FIRST! Film Festivals.
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I enjoyed watching Passion Makes School because of its impactful message and beautiful cinematography. Even though the film drags in some parts, namely during the long panoramic shots, it addresses a topic that we all need to be aware of - global warming and climate change - addressing it quite gracefully, I might add. The camera work will surely stun you, as it adds many more layers to the already-deep storyline.

Passion Makes School is a documentary film by Alfonso Cacciola about climate change. The film follows Ivan, a 12-year-old boy from Cernusco sul Naviglio, Italy. He wants to make a documentary, but isn't sure what to base it upon. So, he interviews his classmates and talks with his teachers. When the beautiful season of spring dawns upon Lombardy, Ivan discovers his passion for preserving the environment and natural beauty and decides to learn more about what he can do to counteract climate change, as a kid, by creating a film.

The content is critically important and Cacciola delivers a hard-hitting and effective message with his film. This film succeeds in being unique, in that it can hold your attention and entertain you, while educating you about an important topic. The script facilitates this unique, appealing approach.

The cinematography greatly impressed me. Though it is a father-son film, the camera work by Alfonso Cacciola looks and feels organic and professional. There are some shaky shots, but those add a 'real' angle to the documentary. I especially liked the bokeh shots in the wheat fields and on the beaches - the camera work truly speaks volumes. The costumes suit the time period and the storyline. The cast wear clothes typical of what people wore in 2017 (when this film was created). The Cacciolas filmed in Milan and Cernusco sul Naviglio, a small town near Milan. The school which the film focuses on is the Istituto Comprensivo "Rita Levi Montalcini." Many of the shots are taken in the camps, parks, plazas and streets of Milan and Cernusco. The hike up Grignetta Mountain is magnificent and majestic, but most enrapturing are the scenes in the Gargano Peninsula. Che bello! In Milan, several scenes focus on the famous Duomo di Milano, the Church of St. Maurice in Major Monastery and the Poldi Pezzoli Museum. The school orchestra of Istituto Comprensivo "Rita Levi Montalcini" play all the songs in this film, ranging from established Italian classics like 'Bolero' to totally new songs such as 'Open Your Eyes.' The soundtrack provides a dynamic feel and a lighter tone to the film that brings a breath of fresh air to the ever-serious documentary. The sound effects seem to be from a stock pack, but they are functional and work as section-dividers for this film. Some basic animation as well as fun overlay effects are utilized. These effects enhance the viewing experience and allow the reader to visualize exactly what Ivan, his teachers and his friends speak about. They also act as dividers for each section of address in the film.

Alfonso 'Rino' Cacciola is the director, writer and producer of the film and his son Ivan Cacciola plays Ivan. Rino Cacciola's years of expertise in filmmaking and the study of theatre are evident in the production quality of Passion Makes School. His son Ivan also has great prowess in acting. It's especially commendable how Ivan modulates his tone of voice for every serious, light or 'in between' scene. I love how Ivan grows throughout the process of making his documentary. Not only does he learn more about climate change and global warming, but he also learns how to work in a team. Most important of all, he finds his passion! Several prominent climate activists such as Germano Gemini and some professors from the University of Milan appear in this film.

Climate change is a real issue, and it's happening right now. The message of this film is that we need to take action - right now or, as they say in Italian, adesso.

I give Passion makes School 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, plus adults. This film explores a very important topic for children and families living in the 21st Century and thus I highly recommend it for the KIDS FIRST! Film Festivals.
Juror Recommended Age: 10-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:



This title is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
DOLPHIN ISLAND
DOLPHIN ISLAND - SHAKED BERENSON
Series: INDIE FEATURE, AGES 7-18
Description - After losing her parents, fourteen-year-old Annabel lives with her fisherman grandfather on a Caribbean island paradise. She is surrounded by an extended family of loving, but quirky, oddballs and her best friend, a dolphin named Mitzy. Everything changes when her maternal grandparents arrive with a shifty lawyer to bring her back to New York. It's up to Annabel and Mitzy to save the day and prove that love conquers all.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - I stayed engaged for the entire film because of its unique storyline. The plot twists make Dolphin Island intriguing. The only part that comes up a bit short is the acting, as some moments seem awkward and unnatural. A teenage girl, Anna, lives at a dolphin research center with her grandfather after her parents pass away. Her maternal grandparents believe that Anna would live a better life with them in New York, where she could live a more normal city life.

The story line is different from other dolphin films. I didn't know where the story was going or what was going to happen next. Although there are many characters involved in the story, the storyline is easy to follow.

The cinematography is beautiful and skillfully executed. All the drone shots and camera angles display the beauty of the island. The costumes fit the story line and have a specific function, mainly to distinguish people based on their financial situations. When Anna's grandparents come over to visit, they stand out because they are dressed formally all the time. Meanwhile, the residents of the island are dressed in casual beach wear. The sets and locations look realistic and have a lot of depth. At one point, people are searching the entire island to find Anna, and the island's buildings are very detailed. Nothing looks bare or made of low quality. I also love how colorful all the buildings are. The music definitely helps set the different moods throughout the film, but it's not particularly noteworthy. The color grading makes all of the different buildings pop and the ocean and sunsets look absolutely stunning on screen. Peter Woodward, who plays Anna's grandfather, stands out to me the most. His appearance fits his character and he has two sides to him. He is a caring grandfather, but at the same time can get violent and overprotective when need be. I love the part where the dolphin, Mitsky, brings a boy's hat to Anna. It is really cute how Mitsky is being a wing-woman to Anna.

The message of this film is that money alone isn't what makes someone happy. Family, friends and experiences are the things that makes someone happy and that is what success really means. Be aware that there are some instances of kids doing risky things that kids might imitate. There are some fights where punches are thrown and, at one point, Anna attempts to run away on a boat which is very dangerous.

I give Dolphin Island 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, plus adults. It is definitely family friendly and highlights the importance of family. Anna sets a good example of a child who is caring and loving. Reviewed by Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I stayed engaged for the entire film because of its unique storyline. The plot twists make Dolphin Island intriguing. The only part that comes up a bit short is the acting, as some moments seem awkward and unnatural. A teenage girl, Anna, lives at a dolphin research center with her grandfather after her parents pass away. Her maternal grandparents believe that Anna would live a better life with them in New York, where she could live a more normal city life.

The story line is different from other dolphin films. I didn't know where the story was going or what was going to happen next. Although there are many characters involved in the story, the storyline is easy to follow.

The cinematography is beautiful and skillfully executed. All the drone shots and camera angles display the beauty of the island. The costumes fit the story line and have a specific function, mainly to distinguish people based on their financial situations. When Anna's grandparents come over to visit, they stand out because they are dressed formally all the time. Meanwhile, the residents of the island are dressed in casual beach wear. The sets and locations look realistic and have a lot of depth. At one point, people are searching the entire island to find Anna, and the island's buildings are very detailed. Nothing looks bare or made of low quality. I also love how colorful all the buildings are. The music definitely helps set the different moods throughout the film, but it's not particularly noteworthy. The color grading makes all of the different buildings pop and the ocean and sunsets look absolutely stunning on screen. Peter Woodward, who plays Anna's grandfather, stands out to me the most. His appearance fits his character and he has two sides to him. He is a caring grandfather, but at the same time can get violent and overprotective when need be. I love the part where the dolphin, Mitsky, brings a boy's hat to Anna. It is really cute how Mitsky is being a wing-woman to Anna.

The message of this film is that money alone isn't what makes someone happy. Family, friends and experiences are the things that makes someone happy and that is what success really means. Be aware that there are some instances of kids doing risky things that kids might imitate. There are some fights where punches are thrown and, at one point, Anna attempts to run away on a boat which is very dangerous.

I give Dolphin Island 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, plus adults. It is definitely family friendly and highlights the importance of family. Anna sets a good example of a child who is caring and loving. Reviewed by Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
Juror Recommended Age: 7-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:



This title is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
RAISING GLOBAL CITIZENS
RAISING GLOBAL CITIZENS - JOEL PRIMUS
Series: DOCUMENTARY, AGES 5-10
Description - A couple with two young children decide to embark on a year long journey across the world, travelling through Argentina, Colombia, The Yukon, Vietnam and Lebanon, in hopes of learning how parenting and world travel combine, and what it means to be a citizen of the world.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - Raising Global Citizens serves as a reminder for all of us to be accepting toward, appreciative of, and willing to explore new cultures. The many picturesque settings and the unique family dynamic depicted herein make this short film an enjoyable family watch. The Primus Family - Joel, Janna, Quinn and Romyn - embark on a year-long journey across Argentina, Colombia, The Yukon, Vietnam and Lebanon. Over the course of the trip, they endeavor to strengthen their bond as a family, learn more about where family and travel intersect and define the phrase 'global citizen.'

Many travel documentaries have drearily humdrum plots that seem to be snail-paced. Raising Global Citizens, on the other hand, excites, enthralls and intrigues viewers. The unique destinations, fun yet insightful narration and cool activities shown in the film all work together to make this film a masterpiece.

The cinematography feels professional and simultaneously quite organic - two terms that are normally diametrically opposed. The footage in this film isn't overly doctored or edited to the point where it is obvious this concept was thought out beforehand. This film feels like a family documenting their travels, and I love that! My favorite shots are the macro pan of the ruins of Baalbek and the scenes in Ho Chi Minh City's busy markets (mesmerizing!), as well as the bokeh shots thrown in throughout the film.

This film is shot in multiple locations across the globe. All of the locations are one-of-a-kind and lend a "je ne sais quoi" of their own to the viewing experience. The natural beauty of the Canadian bush, the serenity of the Mekong River and pure magnificence of the Baalbek ruins enhance Joel's narration. In Vietnam, the Primus family dresses in traditional Vietnamese clothes for many shots. It is obvious the production crew has put lots of thought into the background score for this film. In Argentina, Colombia, Vietnam and Lebanon, traditional music underscores the goings-on. I find the addition of this type of music helps immerse the viewer into the locale. When I watched the film, I felt as if I was right beside the Primus family on their adventures. I love the portion of the film in Lebanon. The Primus family's take on the nation is very apropos of current events and the overall camera work will wow viewers.

Connor Moran directed and wrote the film, together with Joel Primus. Joel and his wife Janna worked with Adam Besse as co-producers. Joel Barrow took the lead on videography. Joel, Janna and their daughters Romyn and Quinn are the stars of this film. They are not actors, which makes the film feel very real and personal - an element that is difficult to find in modern films.

The message of the film is about how acceptance, awareness and appreciation of other cultures and nations is crucial to our status as global citizens. You might want to know that gunshots are heard at one point.

I give Raising Global Citizens 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 8 to 18, plus adults. This film is masterfully created, educational and a great family watch. Reviewed by Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Raising Global Citizens serves as a reminder for all of us to be accepting toward, appreciative of, and willing to explore new cultures. The many picturesque settings and the unique family dynamic depicted herein make this short film an enjoyable family watch. The Primus Family - Joel, Janna, Quinn and Romyn - embark on a year-long journey across Argentina, Colombia, The Yukon, Vietnam and Lebanon. Over the course of the trip, they endeavor to strengthen their bond as a family, learn more about where family and travel intersect and define the phrase 'global citizen.'

Many travel documentaries have drearily humdrum plots that seem to be snail-paced. Raising Global Citizens, on the other hand, excites, enthralls and intrigues viewers. The unique destinations, fun yet insightful narration and cool activities shown in the film all work together to make this film a masterpiece.

The cinematography feels professional and simultaneously quite organic - two terms that are normally diametrically opposed. The footage in this film isn't overly doctored or edited to the point where it is obvious this concept was thought out beforehand. This film feels like a family documenting their travels, and I love that! My favorite shots are the macro pan of the ruins of Baalbek and the scenes in Ho Chi Minh City's busy markets (mesmerizing!), as well as the bokeh shots thrown in throughout the film.

This film is shot in multiple locations across the globe. All of the locations are one-of-a-kind and lend a "je ne sais quoi" of their own to the viewing experience. The natural beauty of the Canadian bush, the serenity of the Mekong River and pure magnificence of the Baalbek ruins enhance Joel's narration. In Vietnam, the Primus family dresses in traditional Vietnamese clothes for many shots. It is obvious the production crew has put lots of thought into the background score for this film. In Argentina, Colombia, Vietnam and Lebanon, traditional music underscores the goings-on. I find the addition of this type of music helps immerse the viewer into the locale. When I watched the film, I felt as if I was right beside the Primus family on their adventures. I love the portion of the film in Lebanon. The Primus family's take on the nation is very apropos of current events and the overall camera work will wow viewers.

Connor Moran directed and wrote the film, together with Joel Primus. Joel and his wife Janna worked with Adam Besse as co-producers. Joel Barrow took the lead on videography. Joel, Janna and their daughters Romyn and Quinn are the stars of this film. They are not actors, which makes the film feel very real and personal - an element that is difficult to find in modern films.

The message of the film is about how acceptance, awareness and appreciation of other cultures and nations is crucial to our status as global citizens. You might want to know that gunshots are heard at one point.

I give Raising Global Citizens 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 8 to 18, plus adults. This film is masterfully created, educational and a great family watch. Reviewed by Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
Juror Recommended Age: 5-10 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:



This title is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
IF I COULD RUN
IF I COULD RUN - DONALD MILLER
Series: FEATURE, AGES 11-18
Description - A young girl in 1960 loves to run and joins a boys running team. Setbacks, bullying and ridicule face her. Finding a lost, injured dog proves out to be her strength and salvation. An inspiring, heartwarming story for the entire family!
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - If I Could Run takes a nostalgic look at a young girl growing up, dealing with the trials and tribulations of youth, including bullying, and finding support from a stay dog she takes in. It's a bit slow moving, but has a heartfelt message that most people will relate to. It also has great music. Kudos to the filmmaker for making such excellent selections. They really resonate with the time period and bring you into it in a quiet way.

The story travels back in time to follow a young girl's grandmother when she was a girl dealing with bullying and discouragement at school. Her dog plays a critical role, helping her in many ways, including training for the cross country team.

I like how the dog, Shadow (Ranger Welling) interacts with Kelly (Preslee Tucker) and how he helps her throughout the film. Production wise, this movie has some very interesting camera angles. I love the scenes of the town, which looks beautiful and peaceful. I also like the use of multiple angles. There is a scene where Kelly and her dog are playing and the camera moves beautifully in sync with their movements. Another shot that I really like is during the credits. It showing Kelly playing outside in the fog. The film takes place in 1960s. The costumes fit the time period well, particularly Kelly's school attire. She wears a tucked in shirt with a long skirt down to her knees. This is certainly different from what girls wear to school today. The location shots show lots of outdoor scenes, which gives it a harmonious feel. There is a lot of music throughout the film. It is joyful and seems authentic to the time period.

This film stars Preslee Tucker as Kelly. Her acting is quite believable; she personifies the young girl quite well. Furthermore, the drone photography is quite amazing, and probably my favorite part of the film. Actually, all the photography is quite professionally executed. This movie reminded me that perseverance and practice are key to everything in life. It inspired me to keep working hard. My favorite part is when Kelly finds out she can keep Shadow (the dog); she is so happy and it gave me joy. I also really like when Shadow helps Kelly in her race. Shawn S. Welling, the film's director and actor is known for movies such as, If I Could Talk, If I Could Run and Hidden In The Woods. He handles this film with a tender touch, showing us the behind the scenes of a normal, rural family with a head-strong daughter that you have to admire.

This movie has multiple messages - perseverance is key; having confidence is another; lastly, practice is essential. You should know that it does show the girl doing risky things that kids might imitate. Kelly disobeys her parents and hides a dog she finds and uses the tractor after being told explicitly not to.

I give If I Could Run 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults.

Reviewed by Ginebra Q. and Julie S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic and KIDS FIRST! Reviewer
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - If I Could Run takes a nostalgic look at a young girl growing up, dealing with the trials and tribulations of youth, including bullying, and finding support from a stay dog she takes in. It's a bit slow moving, but has a heartfelt message that most people will relate to. It also has great music. Kudos to the filmmaker for making such excellent selections. They really resonate with the time period and bring you into it in a quiet way.

The story travels back in time to follow a young girl's grandmother when she was a girl dealing with bullying and discouragement at school. Her dog plays a critical role, helping her in many ways, including training for the cross country team.

I like how the dog, Shadow (Ranger Welling) interacts with Kelly (Preslee Tucker) and how he helps her throughout the film. Production wise, this movie has some very interesting camera angles. I love the scenes of the town, which looks beautiful and peaceful. I also like the use of multiple angles. There is a scene where Kelly and her dog are playing and the camera moves beautifully in sync with their movements. Another shot that I really like is during the credits. It showing Kelly playing outside in the fog. The film takes place in 1960s. The costumes fit the time period well, particularly Kelly's school attire. She wears a tucked in shirt with a long skirt down to her knees. This is certainly different from what girls wear to school today. The location shots show lots of outdoor scenes, which gives it a harmonious feel. There is a lot of music throughout the film. It is joyful and seems authentic to the time period.

This film stars Preslee Tucker as Kelly. Her acting is quite believable; she personifies the young girl quite well. Furthermore, the drone photography is quite amazing, and probably my favorite part of the film. Actually, all the photography is quite professionally executed. This movie reminded me that perseverance and practice are key to everything in life. It inspired me to keep working hard. My favorite part is when Kelly finds out she can keep Shadow (the dog); she is so happy and it gave me joy. I also really like when Shadow helps Kelly in her race. Shawn S. Welling, the film's director and actor is known for movies such as, If I Could Talk, If I Could Run and Hidden In The Woods. He handles this film with a tender touch, showing us the behind the scenes of a normal, rural family with a head-strong daughter that you have to admire.

This movie has multiple messages - perseverance is key; having confidence is another; lastly, practice is essential. You should know that it does show the girl doing risky things that kids might imitate. Kelly disobeys her parents and hides a dog she finds and uses the tractor after being told explicitly not to.

I give If I Could Run 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults.

Reviewed by Ginebra Q. and Julie S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic and KIDS FIRST! Reviewer
Juror Recommended Age: 11-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:



This title is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
CANDLE & THE CURSE, THE
CANDLE & THE CURSE, THE - ANUJA GANPULE-SHEOREY
Series: INDIE FEATURE, AGES 7-18
Description - A Princess. A Prince. True Love's First Kiss. "You too shall lose your true love!" When a witch places a curse on the day-dreaming, stubborn Princess Savitri (Ashwini Ganpule), she must grapple with her deep-seated belief in the magical reality of the curse, which is diametrically opposed to her true love Prince Satyavan's (Miles Tagtmeyer) staunch belief in fact-based inquiry. When it turns out that the curse is real, Savitri must act quickly to save her true love - before it's too late!

With the help of her best friend, JinJie (Hayden Lam) and her fearless guide Kaeia (Darnell Rhea), Savitri must quickly journey to the Underworld to beg the Lord of Death for her true love's life back. Along the way, she learns about the plight of all the people under her rule, including the long-oppressed Forest People, and eventually learns that the curse can only be broken once she abandons the long-standing traditions of her royal family and rule fairly and justly over all peoples of the land.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - The unique storyline and high production quality make The Candle & The Curse an enjoyable watch for viewers of all ages. The plot intertwines several mythological elements from all corners of the world, especially focusing on beliefs of the Hindu religion. The incredible cinematography, editing and special effects involved enhance the beauty of the film.

The storyline follows a headstrong and stubborn girl, Princess Savitri, who is adamant that magic exists. When a witch places a curse upon the princess and she faces the loss of her true love, Savitri's beliefs are confirmed. She journeys to the Underworld with her guide Kaeia and friend JinJie to save her true love before it's too late! Along the way she encounters goblins, ghouls and other monstrous beings.

The Candle & The Curse provides a fresh take on a literary trope (the existence of magic, a curse being put upon a lover and an odyssey prompted by the resultant death). And the snappy, witty character of Savitri and her complex character arc add a zesty element to the film that proves hard to find other fantasy films.

The cinematography had me spellbound. I especially like the shots when the characters travel through the woods. It is quite remarkable how, even in dimly lit settings, clarity is maintained - probably the perks of a great camera like the RED 4K! All of the costumes suit the time period and storyline of the film. The intricate attention to detail in the design and production of the garments is evident. Many of the costumes seem to be sewn from traditional Indian or Chinese clothing.

The sets are incredibly believable and vivid; and seem to be alive! I felt as if I was with Savitri, JinJie, and Kaeia in the dark, sinister forests, whimsical kingdoms and the incredibly intricately imagined Underworld.

Music and sound effects play a large part in this film. They help amplify actions, plot stages, and character progressions. I especially like the sound effects in this film as they truly help enhance the fantastic visuals and push the storyline along. I love the special effects! The orbs signifying the consciousness of those who died and the golden pulses emanating from the palms of the characters when they wield magic rendered me speechless. Everything looks and feels magical! Director, writer and producer Anuja Ganpule-Sheorey leads the effort in creating this magical film. Kseniya Yorsh also acts as a producer in this film. Ashwini Ganpule plays Savitri, Hayden Lam plays JinJie, Miles Tagtmeyer plays Satyavan and Darnell Rhea plays Kaeia. Of all the characters, Savitri and Kaeia have the most depth and seem to be the most nuanced. However, in some scenes, the delivery - from all characters - seems a bit forced. My favorite character is Savitri. She does not just take a physical voyage, but a mental one and matures as the film progresses. It's quite incredible to compare minute twenty with minute ninety.

The message is that justice, true love and goodwill will always prevail. You should be aware that the film does promote some negative behavior and shows kids doing risky things that kids might imitate. At points, kids defy their parents. There are also scenes connoting death, but they're pretty benign.

I give The Candle & The Curse 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, plus adults. It is entertaining and a great watch, with a multicultural and spiritual slant.

Reviewed by Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The unique storyline and high production quality make The Candle & The Curse an enjoyable watch for viewers of all ages. The plot intertwines several mythological elements from all corners of the world, especially focusing on beliefs of the Hindu religion. The incredible cinematography, editing and special effects involved enhance the beauty of the film.

The storyline follows a headstrong and stubborn girl, Princess Savitri, who is adamant that magic exists. When a witch places a curse upon the princess and she faces the loss of her true love, Savitri's beliefs are confirmed. She journeys to the Underworld with her guide Kaeia and friend JinJie to save her true love before it's too late! Along the way she encounters goblins, ghouls and other monstrous beings.

The Candle & The Curse provides a fresh take on a literary trope (the existence of magic, a curse being put upon a lover and an odyssey prompted by the resultant death). And the snappy, witty character of Savitri and her complex character arc add a zesty element to the film that proves hard to find other fantasy films.

The cinematography had me spellbound. I especially like the shots when the characters travel through the woods. It is quite remarkable how, even in dimly lit settings, clarity is maintained - probably the perks of a great camera like the RED 4K! All of the costumes suit the time period and storyline of the film. The intricate attention to detail in the design and production of the garments is evident. Many of the costumes seem to be sewn from traditional Indian or Chinese clothing.

The sets are incredibly believable and vivid; and seem to be alive! I felt as if I was with Savitri, JinJie, and Kaeia in the dark, sinister forests, whimsical kingdoms and the incredibly intricately imagined Underworld.

Music and sound effects play a large part in this film. They help amplify actions, plot stages, and character progressions. I especially like the sound effects in this film as they truly help enhance the fantastic visuals and push the storyline along. I love the special effects! The orbs signifying the consciousness of those who died and the golden pulses emanating from the palms of the characters when they wield magic rendered me speechless. Everything looks and feels magical! Director, writer and producer Anuja Ganpule-Sheorey leads the effort in creating this magical film. Kseniya Yorsh also acts as a producer in this film. Ashwini Ganpule plays Savitri, Hayden Lam plays JinJie, Miles Tagtmeyer plays Satyavan and Darnell Rhea plays Kaeia. Of all the characters, Savitri and Kaeia have the most depth and seem to be the most nuanced. However, in some scenes, the delivery - from all characters - seems a bit forced. My favorite character is Savitri. She does not just take a physical voyage, but a mental one and matures as the film progresses. It's quite incredible to compare minute twenty with minute ninety.

The message is that justice, true love and goodwill will always prevail. You should be aware that the film does promote some negative behavior and shows kids doing risky things that kids might imitate. At points, kids defy their parents. There are also scenes connoting death, but they're pretty benign.

I give The Candle & The Curse 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, plus adults. It is entertaining and a great watch, with a multicultural and spiritual slant.

Reviewed by Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
Juror Recommended Age: 7-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:



This title is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
MAGIC BOOK OF CRYSTALS, THE
MAGIC BOOK OF CRYSTALS, THE - LOU KRUISBERGEN
Series: FOREIGN INDIE FEATURE, AGES 8-15
Description - When Mandy moves to a new place, she is attracted to a magical house. A mysterious woman named Doret lives in this house, she's the last living guardian of an age old magic book. When a sword is stolen from the house, Mandy and Doret must join forces to fight the evil. From the Netherlands with dialogue in Dutch, English subtitles
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - The Magic Book of Crystals is a stunning film, lovingly made. From the opening scene to the end, the cinematography and storyline grabs you and keeps you engaged, although some transitions are a bit awkward.

The storyline is about a young girl (Mandy) , a mysterious woman (Doret) and a villain (Pieter). After the evil villain, Pieter steals a sword from Doret's magical house, Mandy and Doret undertake a mission to stop him. The plot is relatively simply and the execution is interesting.

The production values are excellent - from the camera work to the audio to the production design. I love the attention to detail in the props and costumes. Truly, the filmmaker has created a magical and mysterious movie. The props are very detailed, and the sets are beautiful to look at. The magic book in the film has a cool look and the magic sword is well crafted. The book is quite lovingly made and almost a character in and of itself. Doret's house and garden are beautiful, fascinating and magical. One of my favorite scenes is when Pieter picks up the magic sword's sheath from the ground and it magically floats right to his hand. That is a really cool maneuver.

The two lead female characters are well developed and have great facial and body expressions. There are a few transitions that don't quite make sense and the scene with Pieter showing Doret that he will cut her throat is a bit weird. Some of the talking characters (puppets) they encounter lack believability since they don't have full motion.

I give The Magic Book of Crystals 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 15.

Reviewed by Julie S., KIDS FIRST! Juror
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The Magic Book of Crystals is a stunning film, lovingly made. From the opening scene to the end, the cinematography and storyline grabs you and keeps you engaged, although some transitions are a bit awkward.

The storyline is about a young girl (Mandy) , a mysterious woman (Doret) and a villain (Pieter). After the evil villain, Pieter steals a sword from Doret's magical house, Mandy and Doret undertake a mission to stop him. The plot is relatively simply and the execution is interesting.

The production values are excellent - from the camera work to the audio to the production design. I love the attention to detail in the props and costumes. Truly, the filmmaker has created a magical and mysterious movie. The props are very detailed, and the sets are beautiful to look at. The magic book in the film has a cool look and the magic sword is well crafted. The book is quite lovingly made and almost a character in and of itself. Doret's house and garden are beautiful, fascinating and magical. One of my favorite scenes is when Pieter picks up the magic sword's sheath from the ground and it magically floats right to his hand. That is a really cool maneuver.

The two lead female characters are well developed and have great facial and body expressions. There are a few transitions that don't quite make sense and the scene with Pieter showing Doret that he will cut her throat is a bit weird. Some of the talking characters (puppets) they encounter lack believability since they don't have full motion.

I give The Magic Book of Crystals 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 15.

Reviewed by Julie S., KIDS FIRST! Juror
Juror Recommended Age: 8-15 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:



This title is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
LOUISA, AN AMAZING ADVENTURE
LOUISA, AN AMAZING ADVENTURE - STEPHEN COOKSON
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - January 1899 saw the worst storm at sea in living memory and the most astonishing lifeboat rescue attempt of the century
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - Wow! What a beautiful film. This is exactly the type of film that we love to feature at our KIDS FIRST! Film Festivals. Louisa, An Amazing Adventure is a stirring animated film by Ken Blakey that tells an amazing story based on the craziest storm at sea we can remember. This movie is an emotional rollercoaster filled with heartbreaking scenes and intense moments. It made me empathize with the characters on a really deep level and, knowing that the whole film is based on true events, made those feelings even stronger. The ocean screams and crashes throughout the film and the weather is really no joke. It snows unbelievably hard and the wind blows more than ever before.

The storyline is based on a true story about a lifeboat named Louisa, the coxswain of the lifeboat, and his daughter. On January 12, 1899, the boat launched from Lynmouth in Devon, England. The ocean and storm were much too rough though. The boat dragged as a result. Horses, the crew of the Louisa, and about 100 other people from the village took the boat across more than one thousand feet. It was extremely dark and they did this almost impossible task through the night without food. They went all the way to Porlock and then went out on their rescue mission.

First of all, the animation of this film, by Ken Blakely is simply superb! It is so realistic and has such interesting camera angles. I absolutely love it. The opening scene in itself is truly a work of art. The attention to detail is extraordinarily such as the close-ups that show intricate facial expressions. Celia Imrie, an award-winning actress, voices May Crocombe and truly brings the story to life with just her voice in a soothing and well-spoken way! Since the entire film is only narrated there aren't any other voice actors in the film. However, there is some remarkable talent such as Toby Dunham who is the composer. The music stands out a lot because it helps tell the story and gives it an extra push - from the depths of darkness to moments of light. My favorite is at the end when good things started blooming again.

The messages of this film are to never give up, be willing to help someone out even if it could affect you, listen to your parents and have hope. It promotes love, sacrifice and treating everyone appropriately.

I give Louisa, An Amazing Adventure 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. I think this would make an amazing addition to any KIDS FIRST! Film Festivals. Reviewed by Winter F., KIDS FIRST! Juror
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Wow! What a beautiful film. This is exactly the type of film that we love to feature at our KIDS FIRST! Film Festivals. Louisa, An Amazing Adventure is a stirring animated film by Ken Blakey that tells an amazing story based on the craziest storm at sea we can remember. This movie is an emotional rollercoaster filled with heartbreaking scenes and intense moments. It made me empathize with the characters on a really deep level and, knowing that the whole film is based on true events, made those feelings even stronger. The ocean screams and crashes throughout the film and the weather is really no joke. It snows unbelievably hard and the wind blows more than ever before.

The storyline is based on a true story about a lifeboat named Louisa, the coxswain of the lifeboat, and his daughter. On January 12, 1899, the boat launched from Lynmouth in Devon, England. The ocean and storm were much too rough though. The boat dragged as a result. Horses, the crew of the Louisa, and about 100 other people from the village took the boat across more than one thousand feet. It was extremely dark and they did this almost impossible task through the night without food. They went all the way to Porlock and then went out on their rescue mission.

First of all, the animation of this film, by Ken Blakely is simply superb! It is so realistic and has such interesting camera angles. I absolutely love it. The opening scene in itself is truly a work of art. The attention to detail is extraordinarily such as the close-ups that show intricate facial expressions. Celia Imrie, an award-winning actress, voices May Crocombe and truly brings the story to life with just her voice in a soothing and well-spoken way! Since the entire film is only narrated there aren't any other voice actors in the film. However, there is some remarkable talent such as Toby Dunham who is the composer. The music stands out a lot because it helps tell the story and gives it an extra push - from the depths of darkness to moments of light. My favorite is at the end when good things started blooming again.

The messages of this film are to never give up, be willing to help someone out even if it could affect you, listen to your parents and have hope. It promotes love, sacrifice and treating everyone appropriately.

I give Louisa, An Amazing Adventure 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. I think this would make an amazing addition to any KIDS FIRST! Film Festivals. Reviewed by Winter F., KIDS FIRST! Juror
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
MR. SOUL
MR. SOUL - CRITERION PICTURES
Series: DOCUMENTARY, AGES 10 - 18
Description - Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was Mr. SOUL. Ellis Haizlip ensures the Revolution will be televised with "SOUL!," America's first "Black Tonight Show." From 1968 to 1973, the public-television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of Black literature, poetry, music, and politics-voices that had few other options for national exposure, and, as a result, found the program an improbable place to call home. The series was among the first to provide expanded images of African Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement. With participants' recollections and a bevy of great archival clips, Mr. SOUL captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The documentary Mr. Soul! is entertaining and touching! It is remarkably interesting and makes you want to research more about Ellis Haizlip. He made a huge difference in the way African Americans were shown on television by creating his own show called "SOUL!. This movie focuses on African American music, dance and literature and how Mr. Haizlip used his program to show Black talent in positive ways.

Mr. Soul! is a movie about Ellis Haizlip's life as the creator, co-host and producer of an TV show featuring Black performers called SOUL!. It tells the story of Haizlip, the show, and the talent he showcased. You hear about his life and accomplishments from the performers he had on SOUL! and from his friends. You also see different footage from SOUL!, and pictures from Haizlip's personal life. The documentary also demonstrates how Haizlip went from being the producer of the show to also hosting it.

The main character is Ellis Haizlip. I love how kind he was and how he always made SOUL! fun for everyone. He gave so many different people opportunities to show off their talents on SOUL!. The director, Melissa Haizlip, is a talented storyteller. She uses different elements such as a narrator (Blair Underwood), videos from SOUL!, interviews from the shows' guests, and testimonies from his friends to tell Mr. Haizlip's incredible story. The movie includes great music from different Black culture genres such as Gospel and R&B. There are incredible dance numbers and bands shown that were also on the show. The film has some funny parts, and it will take you through different emotions, which makes it more interesting. I was incredibly surprised to learn that Mr. Haizlip was a television host before Oprah Winfrey and that he was a musician before he became a TV host.

The message of this film is that anything is possible and that sometimes you have to take risks to get where you want to be in life. For example, when Mr. Haizlip's friend decided not to host the show anymore, Mr. Haizlip took a risk and became the host and made history. Parents might need to look out for the use of the "N-word" in the beginning in a short video clip from one of the show's acts and mentions of suicide.

I rate Mr. Soul! 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids 13 to 18. Adults will love it as well! Reviewed by Tiana S., KIDS FIRST
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD, THE
PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD, THE - WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8 - 18
Description - A modern take on Charles Dickens's classic tale of a young orphan who is able to triumph over many obstacles.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - This new film adaptation of Charles Dickens's original story David Copperfield is one that nobody should miss! The costumes and sets are superbly designed to take you all the way back to the 1800s. The acting performances and storyline just add to the strengths of The Personal History of David Copperfield. The only weakness is that the plot is somewhat confusing and a bit hard to follow. But otherwise, this film is definitely a must-see.

David Copperfield (Dev Patel) is an orphan whose mother marries an evil man. David is forced to work in a bottle factory and live with poor Mr. Micawber (Peter Capaldi). The plot follows him as he grows up, makes friends, and goes through hard times.

My favorite parts of The Personal History of David Copperfield are the costumes and sets. Every costume that appears fits the time period, character, and suits the storyline. Even the hair styles, hats and shoes are spot on. Dora's (Morfydd Clark) hair style, in particular, matches her personality. A lot of scenes throughout the film take place in England, in locations such as London, Bury St. Edmunds and King's Lynn. The locations and sets also help make the time period clear, and express the general mood of the movie. Another thing that stands out is the acting performances. Tilda Swinton (as Betsey Trotwood) delivers my favorite acting performance, but the film is well-cast and most of the actors are strong in their roles.

One weakness that stands out to me is that the plot is a bit confusing. The storyline has a lot to give if only it could be more clear about what is going on. At times, I am not sure if what is being shown is his imagination, a memory, or if it is actually happening. Younger kids might not understand what is happening and might miss important elements of the story.

The message is to not judge someone by the amount of money they have. For parents to know, there is a little bit of physical fighting but not much. There are also a couple scenes and a bit of the storyline based around alcoholism and being drunk.

I give this comedy- and drama-filled film 4.5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 11 to 18 and adults. The Personal History of David Copperfield can be found in theaters beginning August 28, 2020.

Reviewed by Kyla C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
ONE AND ONLY IVAN, THE

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ONE AND ONLY IVAN, THE
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ONE AND ONLY IVAN, THE - WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - A gorilla named Ivan tries to piece together his past with the help of an elephant named Ruby as they hatch a plan to escape from captivity.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - With realistic computer-generated imagery and a profound message, The One and Only Ivan captures its viewers' hearts and minds. Throughout the ninety-four-minute feature, just about anyone will grow rather fond of Ivan and his pals. The film comprises a mix of human characters, settings and assets created with computer graphics that is both believable and intricate. The One and Only Ivan flows magically, and its power-packed message has been perfectly preserved and magnified from its literary inspiration.

The comedic feature film directed by Thea Sharrock is an adaptation of author K.A. Applegate's Newbery Medal-winning book by the same title. The title character, a silverback gorilla, headlines at the Big Top Mall Circus in Atlanta, GA. Ivan enjoys notoriety and popularity far and wide for his fa�ade of ferocity. He lives quite happily with his multi-species troupe of friends, including Mack, the ringleader, Stella and Ruby, the elephants, Henrietta the chicken and Bob, the dog. After experiencing a loss and then a new arrival, things at the Big Top take a turn. Ivan devotes himself to piecing together his past and, in the process, works together with his buddies to hatch a plan to escape from the circus.

Produced by Allison Shearmur, Angelina Jolie and Brigham Taylor, The One and Only Ivan does not disappoint when it comes to star power. Sam Rockwell voice-acts the part of Ivan, Bryan Cranston portrays Mack, and Bob is voiced by Danny DeVito. Sam Rockwell puts forth a compelling performance; his honest and emotional voicing of Ivan made me sympathize with the gorilla and hear his voice on a deeper level. Bryan Cranston puts on an inspiring and enthralling performance as Mack, the slightly hammy ringleader who isn't afraid to take risks. His delivery was on point, as well. And lastly, a veteran in the Hollywood film industry, Danny DeVito - his comic timing, as in his other eighty-nine performances, is impeccable. Bob adds a lighter air to the film, especially at some sad moments. The hilarious script by Mike White, expert cinematography and graceful, powerful music also work together to make the viewing experience even more enjoyable. My favorite part of this film is the final circus performance - you'll have to watch it to see why!

This Disney+ film gives us hope that we can all change the world and make a difference just like Ivan does - not only does he make a difference in his life but also in the life of his young responsibility. The One and Only Ivan is also a great film to show children as it teaches them empathy and promotes kindness and altruism. There is mention of death in The One and Only Ivan, and gunshots are heard.

I rate The One and Only Ivan 4.5 stars out of 5 and recommend the film to children ages 8 to 18. The One and Only Ivan is coming to Disney Plus on August 14, 2020!

Reviewed by Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
FATIMA

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FATIMA
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FATIMA - PICTUREHOUSE
Series: FEATURE, AGES 10-18
Description - Based on historical events, three young shepherds in F�tima, Portugal, report visions of the Virgin Mary, inspiring believers and angering officials of the Church and the government, who try to force them to recant their story.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Fatima is a definite must-see film for those of the Catholic faith. A phenomenal period masterpiece that pulls at your heartstrings. A film that should not be missed. Fatima brings light to a true story that many do not know.

Fatima tells the true story of three young children who met the Virgin Mary and were witnesses of "The Miracle of the Sun." The movie opens up with Professor Nichols (Harvey Keitel) as he visits Sister Lucia (Sonia Braga) in a nunnery in 1989. They talk about the happenings from Lucia's past in 1917 Fatima, Portugal. The film goes back and forth between both years. We see a young Lucia (Stephanie Gil) with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto (Jorge Lamelas and Alejandra Howard) meet the Virgin Mary (Joana Ribeiro). After that fateful day, the story breaks out and the children are faced with a harsh reality.

The true standouts of Fatima are its young actors. Stephanie, Jorge and Alejandra show the struggle of being called "liars" when telling the truth. The kids are called out by their parents and are given the cold shoulder by many in the village. This never stops them--they stand by the truth with faith in their hearts. The movie concludes with The Miracle of the Sun which happened on October thirteenth, 1917, followed by actual photos of that day. The makeshift monument that was built in the movie is an exact replica of the monument in the photograph. It is appealing to see how much filmmakers worked on small yet important details such as this one.

The lesson to be learned from the film is to always have faith and believe in your truth. Time and time again, Lucia faces anger from her mother, who believes her daughter is lying about meeting Mary. Not once does Lucia give up, however; and she always prays, standing by her word. The topic of the Catholic faith may disinterest some audiences who do not share the same views. Considering that Fatima features the Virgin Mary, Catholicism is front and center in the movie.

I give Fatima 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18 plus adults. It is available in theaters August 28, 2020.

Reviewed by Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 10-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
REBUILDING PARADISE

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REBUILDING PARADISE - ABRAMORAMA
Series: DOCUMENTARY, AGES 12-18
Description - The community of Paradise, California, a town in the Sierra Nevada foothills, attempts to rebuild after devastating wildfires in 2018.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Rebuilding Paradise is a surprisingly engaging documentary about the town of Paradise, California. This film shows the aftermath of a very recent wildfire event, and, maybe it's just because I live in California and vividly remember news about the fires, but I found this film to be quite personal.

The documentary details how Paradise was destroyed by the wildfires in 2018, how it affected the townspeople and their hopes of rebuilding the town. A majority of the runtime is spent following townspeople and the hardships they face due to losing their town. These scenes are very raw and emotional, which is good for a film like this. However, my only problem with this film and how the story is presented is that the documentary doesn't really have a thesis. Initially this didn't bother me, until I realized it is somewhat contradictory to have several scenes showing council meetings and the townspeople speaking out against the government's handling of the situation, yet no clear answer to the presented problems. Towards the end, it feels like they are trying to make viewers forget about all the financial issues and displacement the fires caused, by showing happy scenes of local festivals and high school graduation. Those scenes are then juxtaposed with the segment dedicated to how the destruction led to a poisoned water supply, which has never really been resolved.

Despite this lack of singular point of view, I did genuinely get emotional during a lot of the scenes focusing on the townspeople. I mentioned I live in California and have had to evacuate due to fires. Now, what I experienced was nowhere near as heartbreaking as what Paradise experienced, but it was certainly terrifying and hard to process since it was so sudden. So I truly felt awful for these people. Especially since they go into detail about the history and legacy behind Paradise, even showing old film footage from decades ago, which surprised and also fascinated me.

I also want to discuss the first eight minutes of the movie. It's all just phone call footage and news reports on the fire as it was happening. It truly gives a sense of scale of the event in real time, and puts you in the shoes of the townspeople. It's intense and quite heartbreaking at points, and perfectly sets up the rest of the film.

I give Rebuilding Paradise 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. It releases on July 31, 2020.

Reviewed by Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS

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WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS - ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12-18
Description - After getting expelled at his previous high school, Adam, a teenager diagnosed with schizophrenia who dreams of becoming a chef, strikes up a connection with Maya, who inspires him not to be defined by his condition. With the support of his family and his newfound romance, Adam becomes hopeful that he can be honest about what he struggles with and triumph over the challenges that lie ahead.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Words On Bathroom Walls portrays a wonderful example of schizophrenia in teenagers. It also adds a comedic essence to the illness, but it does not make fun of the disease. This movie is an eye-opener and a powerful phenomenon.

The story follows teenager Adam (Charlie Plummer) who is diagnosed with schizophrenia. He transfers to a Catholic school where he meets Maya (Taylor Russell). The two strike up a friendship immediately, and Maya tutors Adam. However, Adam is struggling with keeping the symptoms of his illness to a minimum.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which sometimes the person hears voices and has hallucinations. In Words On Bathroom Walls, we visually see a black cloud that torments Adam's mind. We meet three of the voices in his head which provide comedic relief with their big personalities: Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb), Joaquin (Devon Bostick), and the Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian). These comedic voices follow Adam and provide guidance along the way. We also meet Adam's mom and stepfather (Molly Parker and Walton Goggins) who help their son as best as they can.

Words On The Bathroom Walls, in its portrayal of Adam, definitely opens up a conversation that needs to be had amongst society: mental illnesses in teenagers. Adam feels as if there is no escape from his disease and as if he has to choose his sanity over his future. He feels pressured to be a perfect son, student and friend. He converses with his therapist throughout the movie and at one point he compares cancer and schizophrenic patients. He says when you're schizophrenic "people can't wait to make you someone else's problem." Adam feels as though his disease is a burden to himself and to his family.

The standout moral of the film is to not let your disease define you. Adam works hard to become a chef and he becomes frightened that he might not be able to graduate or work as a cook. However, he keeps working and overpowers his schizophrenia. He says that once he "was a bystander in his own life." In the end we see how he does not have any limits and how he now controls his life. Adam does not want to "end up on the bathroom walls," so we see him take the reins on his future. The depiction of this mental disorder might concern some viewers. A mature audience is advised.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. Words On Bathroom Walls is available August 21, 2020 in theaters.

Reviewed by Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 13-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
DRAGONS: RESCUE RIDERS: SECRETS OF THE SONGWING

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DRAGONS: RESCUE RIDERS: SECRETS OF THE SONGWING - NETFLIX
Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-13
Description - When a musical dragon with a beautiful voice hypnotizes the dragons and people of Huttsgalor, the Rescue Riders have to find a way to break the spell.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I really enjoyed this new, exciting film, Dragons: Rescue Riders: Secrets of the Songwing! The cast and animation are incredible!

The story follows Melodia (Ren�e Elise Goldberry), a songwing dragon who tries to hypnotize the town of Hudsgalore with her beautiful singing voice. When Aggro (Marsai Martin) and Zeppla (Cassidy Naber) are hypnotized, the dragon gang have to help stop Melodia's song. To the rescue come Winger (Zach Callison), Summer (Skai Jackson), Burple (Noah Bently) and Cutter (Andre Robinson) as they save their friends and the rest of the town of Hudsgalore. Alongside the dragons are brother and sister Dak (Nicolas Cantu) and Leyla (Brennley Brown) in this musical special that fans of Dragons: Rescue Riders will love.

The animation in this musical special is excellent, although there are some parts where the sound seemed that it was out of sync with the character's mouths a few times during the film.

The message of the story is that you shouldn't use one of your best qualities -- such as the gift of being able to sing like Melodia can -- to trance everyone else and make them do what you want.

I recommend Dragons: Rescue Riders: Secrets of the Songwing for ages 4-13, but it is a family-friendly film so adults will also enjoy it. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars as it is very enjoyable. You can find this film on Netflix on July 24th. Dragons: Rescue Riders: Secrets of the Songwing is definitely worth the watch!

Reviewed by Katie F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11
Juror Recommended Age: 4-12 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE

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JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE - MAGNOLIA PICTURES
Series: DOCUMENTARY, AGES 10 - 18
Description - Using interviews and rare archival footage, JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE chronicles Lewis' 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health-care reform and immigration. Using present-day interviews with Lewis, now 79 years old, Porter explores his childhood experiences, his inspiring family and his fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957. In addition to her interviews with Lewis and his family, Porter's primarily cin�ma verit� film also includes interviews with political leaders, Congressional colleagues, and other people who figure prominently in his life.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - There is an old African proverb: "When you pray, you move your feet." The proverb resonates powerfully in this quote from John Lewis' memoir, Walking in the Wind: "As a nation if we care for the beloved community, we must move our feet, our hands, our hearts, our resources to build and not tear down, to reconcile and not to divide, to love and not to hate, to heal and not to kill. In the final analysis, we are one people, one family, one house, the American house, the American family."

John Lewis is a powerful writer. I read Walking in the Wind several years ago, and it had a powerful impact on me. John Lewis: Good Trouble, the documentary, makes that same powerful impact: it brings his story to life! As in his memoir, the film reveals the man behind the legend.

I was moved to tears by the footage from the 1960s. I was beginning my teenage years back in 1963. Television was still a young medium, and it showed us all that was going on in the world daily. I was learning about the world and its ways in the '60s--the injustices, the fight for dignity, freedom, equality and decency. These were my middle school years, my high school years, formative years brought back to life as I watched this film.

History repeats itself until we learn. John Lewis: Good Trouble follows John Lewis throughout his young life in Alabama, working on his parent's farm, feeding chickens, picking cotton. Mr. Lewis' narration of waking up early, hiding under the porch to wait for the school bus, running onto the bus to get to school to his wonderful teachers where he says he read everything, is a powerful visual image. I love what one of his sisters says about John wearing a tie and carrying the Bible to school every day. John was a serious student. He wanted more in his life. Clearly, he wanted to make a difference in our country for racial justice for African American people. His tireless work and dedication started as a college student. From SNCC leader to Congressman from Georgia, John Lewis fought the good fight for voter's rights, for civil rights, for the right to eat at the same restaurant as white people, for integration, not segregation. His marches, his belief in nonviolence and commitment to the cause have continued for 65 years.

One story that Henry Gates Jr. tells about John Lewis' great-great grandfather getting his voting card back in the 1800s has a powerful twist. So many stories, so much history where he worked so hard from the time of Dr. Martin Luther King to President Barack Obama to now!

This inspirational documentary is a must see. John Lewis: Good Trouble weaves an important story about an exceptional man, shows us our history from the '60s to today, and demonstrates the part John Lewis played, and continues to play, as the fight for racial justice and equality is at a pivotal moment in time with the Black Lives Matter movement.

I give John Lewis: Good Trouble 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it for 9 to 18 year olds to learn about an effective leader and his plight - and to understand even further the times we are currently living through. I also recommend it to adults, to remember all that has transpired through the years, to reflect and act on how we can all move forward once and for all to make the change that is way long overdue. It will be released July 3, 2020 on Apple TV.

Reviewed by Terry S., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble delivers an extremely powerful message. It shows the heroism and courageousness of civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis, as well as many other African American people in this country. Subjects such as civil rights and equality for all races should be better discussed in this nation and, truly, always should have been, and now is the time to put these long-existing issues with racism to rest. John Lewis: Good Trouble encapsulated this moving lesson by telling the Congressman's story and what motivated him to take action.

John Lewis: Good Trouble is about the experiences he had and changes that occurred in his life. It discusses the racial segregation that existed for a very long time and how so many people spoke out against it. The film demonstrates how people aimed -- and still are aiming -- to resolve racial issues in America. Civil rights are an essential part of every government, and this documentary shows these racial inequalities through the life and actions of John Lewis. It communicates these important actions across the timeline of his life, interspersed with many interviews with people that know the Congressman--this gives the perspective of many individuals and shows how he has impacted them.

My favorite part of John Lewis: Good Trouble also happens to be the camerawork. Despite the fact that there is constant movement, the shots remain smooth and crisp in quality. Not all documentaries have the greatest camera operation, so it is nice to see the effort made to bring quality to the viewer's eyes. It makes watching the film more enjoyable for anyone.

The message of this documentary is that speaking up about issues yet to be solved can make others feel driven to help make a change. John Lewis: Good Trouble is definitely successful in portraying this message. Positive social behavior is promoted, and people treat each other appropriately. There isn't any bad language, either. Police brutality is discussed, and some footage of it shown, but nothing risky that children may imitate.

I give John Lewis: Good Trouble 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. It will be released on July 3, 2020.

By Ruby A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13
Juror Recommended Age: 10-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
AGATHE-CHRISTINE: NEXT DOOR SPY

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AGATHE-CHRISTINE: NEXT DOOR SPY - TRICOAST STUDIOS
Series: FEATURE, AGES 10-15
Description - Ten-year old Agathe-Christine, or simply AC, prefers to be on her own. AC fancy mysteries, and from the basement in the building, where she has just moved in, she has established a small detective bureau. AC's first mystery appears to be simple to solve, but before long AC finds herself involved in a much more complicated affair, than she could have ever foreseen.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Agathe-Christine: Next Door Spy is totally unique! The different style of this animated film from Denmark is not traditional, so it makes the film stand out. The storyline of the film is not like other animated films, either. Although the movie has some definite faults, it is sure to be a knockout because of its lead character Agathe-Christine (voiced by Simone Edemann Mogelbjerg).

This film centers around Agathe-Christine, a young girl who recently moved into a new neighborhood. Agathe, however, is not a standard girl of her age (10). She dreams of being a detective. As robberies occur in the town's kiosk, she takes the opportunity to uncover the mystery and prove she is a great detective.

Agathe, or AC, brings wonderful female power to the screen. She's brave and does not let anyone tell her what she can and cannot do. When the going gets tough, she stands strong and continues to prove that she can crack the case. She's very intelligent and creative, not letting her age drag her down. She proves that age is just a number and that the sky's the limit. She's a total powerhouse, and a character every young girl deserves to see in a film.

As for the film's faults, some of the characters are weak--Agathe is really the only strong character. The others are very obnoxious. Her mother is annoying and Agathe's pet, Varanen, is incredibly irritating. Their dialogue is a cookie cutter example of overly-simplified animated films for younger audiences.

The message of the film is to never let anyone give you boundaries, and that you can do anything you set your mind to. Agathe sticks to this message throughout the entire movie.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 15. There are some tiny warnings for this film. A few strong words are used, however, there are not any strong or sensitive topics dealt with. This animated motion picture is child-friendly for the most part. Agathe-Christine: Next Door Spy is available on various digital platforms June 16, 2020.

Reviewed by Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 10-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
FOUR KIDS AND IT (2020)

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FOUR KIDS AND IT (2020) - LIONSGATE FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Click to purchase directly from the producer
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-15
Description - A group of kids on holiday in Cornwall meet a magical creature on the beach with the power to grant wishes.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Inspired by E. Nesbit's 1902 serialized novel called Five Children and It, the movie Four Kids and It is a wonderful fantasy film for all ages that brings the story alive. The CGI seems so real that I believed the Psammead (the creature in the film played by Michael Caine) was actually alive and right there with the actors on the set.

Full of adventure, Four Kids and It is about two families. Each family has two kids and all four kids want their birth parents to get back together. When the two split families meet up for a vacation, the kids find out their parents are dating each other and they absolutely freak out. While being forced to play with each other and to get to know one another, they meet a magical sand creature called a Psammead who tells them that he can grant each of them wishes, but only one a day. Also, the wishes expire at sunset.

Throughout this movie the four kids get to know each other better, become much closer and start to bond more like a real family. There is a man named Tristan Trent (Russell Brand), who lives in a mansion on the island that they all go to for their vacation. For generations, Tristan's family were hunters of rare and unique living creatures on Earth. Tristan and his ancestors have been trying to find the legendary Psammead for decades. When the kids come to the island, he knows that he could use them to track the creature down. If he can lure out and capture the creature, he can finally add it to his family's collection of trophies...and hopefully get in a wish or two as well!

The scenes with the kids each coming up with their own magical wishes and living them out for the day are fun. It also made me wonder what I would wish for if I only had a day to experience a wish.

The message of this film is to be careful what you wish for, but also that sometimes change happens and no matter how bad it seems, that it can offer up new opportunities and maybe create something better than you ever had before.

I give Four Kids and It 5 out of 5 stars, and I recommend it for ages 6 to 18, and adults will love it too! I know my parents sure did.

The movie will be available on Digital, Blu-Ray, DVD and on-demand, as well as major digital platforms like Amazon Prime, Vudo and others, on June 30, 2020, from Lionsgate Film

Reviewed by Lindalee R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Directed by British filmmaker Andy De Emmony, Four Kids and It is inspired by the novel Four Children and It by Jaqueline Wilson, which is based in the 1902 book Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit.

This new story is modern and follows two families: the divorced parents are dating and the four kids--two from each parent--share a vacation together in Cornwall, England. The kids don't get along at the beginning, and they have to spend time together and accept their parents' relationship. At the beach, they discover a strange creature that emerges from the sand and grant wishes. One wish per day will be conceded to each kid each day. Despite things not necessarily turning out the way they expect, after each adventure, they discover the importance of bonding and family.

Four Kids and It combines fantasy, magic and drama. The plot is entertaining and there are so many beautiful moments but some things, doesn't work that well. Russell Brand plays Tristan Trent, an eccentric owner of a mansion who wishes more wealth and lives by the beach where the kids find the creature. That part of the storyline doesn't flow that well, and the way it intertwines with the main storyline is not that engaging. The talented Brand doesn't shine as usual and his character is not taken fully advantage of in those scenes.

Ashley Aufderheide and Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen carry the film. They play the two older daughters and their characters are pivotal to the story. Their acting is strong and is one of the greatest assets of the film.

As the voice of the creature we have Michael Caine, and the actor gives the creature, Psammead, the tone of elegance and wisdom that characterizes him. I found this creature adorable and the facial expressions mimic the actor's resemblance. The CGI is very well implemented, and all the scenes with Psammead are my favorite scenes.

The landscapes and cinematography are beautiful and the story is overall entertaining with magic, flying scenes and humor.

The message of the film is simple: be careful what you wish for, but, at the same time, show us that our deepest wishes may be granted within our real and simple life in the joy of family and friendship.

This is a great family movie that little kids and parents can enjoy together. I give Four Kids and It 4 out of 5 starts and recommend it to kids 4 to 14. Four Kids and It opens on all digital platforms on June 30, 2020.

Reviewed by Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11
Juror Recommended Age: 8-15 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:


KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
FEEL THE BEAT (2020)

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FEEL THE BEAT (2020)
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FEEL THE BEAT (2020) - NETFLIX
Series: FEATURE, AGES 10-18
Description - After failing to find success on Broadway, April returns to her hometown and reluctantly is recruited to train a misfit group of young dancers for a big competition.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Feel the Beat is the first feel good movie of the summer! It's a heartwarming light comedy about starting over, life choices, community, ambition and the importance of working together. All in under two hours of entertainment!

Feel the Beat starts when we see April (Sofia Carson) on her way to a Broadway dance audition where the choices she makes impact her future in an unexpected way. We feel her ambition as well as rejection and heartbreak. April leaves her life in New York City to return home to New Hope, Wisconsin. As she tries to hide in her hometown, April is pulled into the local community once again by her old dance instructor Miss Barb (Donna Lynne Champlin) who brings much light and laughter into the movie through her life coaching.

My favorite character is April; Sofia Carson is magical in this role. I love watching her dance throughout this movie as well how she expresses the emotion and humor of her character. My favorite scenes are at the National Dance Finals, but I don't want to spoil the story by disclosing why. Suffice it to say that there is a lot of gentle comedy during the various dance competition scenes throughout the film and the supporting cast of dancers and their parents really add to the comedy and story. April's love interest Nick (Wolfgang Novogratz) is sweet and supportive in his role and together they have great chemistry without embarrassing younger viewers.

Dance is an important character in this movie and Kevin Wilson and Hailee Payne, the choreographers, create some fun scenes in the various dance competitions. Costumes, under the supervision of Carol Wong, add to the depth of story as we see the New Hope Dance Team progress from competition to competition in skill, attire and confidence.

The message of this film is that your imperfections not only make you unique, but spectacular - and what a message that is. The movie also shows the importance of loyalty and commitment as we see April learn and grow throughout her journey.

I rate Feel the Beat 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18, and adults will enjoy it as well. This movie is on Netflix starting June 19, 2020.

Reviewed by Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 6-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media:



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