Jury Coordination and Notes

Archive for March, 2021

Francesco * Wonderfully Complex Film Showcasing Pope Francis’s Thoughts on Modern Issues

Sunday, March 28th, 2021

Through his work on climate change, immigration, religious tolerance and other issues, the Pope has embodied the meaning of inspired leadership. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Heather S. comments, “Francesco is a wonderful and complex film that showcases one of the world’s most famous figures. The audience has a clear visual of Pope Francis’s thoughts about modern issues. With exclusive interviews and audio recordings, this documentary is not to be missed.” See her full review below.

Francesco
By Heather Suarez, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Francesco is a wonderful and complex film that showcases one of the world’s most famous figures. The audience has a clear visual of Pope Francis’s thoughts about modern issues. With exclusive interviews and audio recordings, this documentary is not to be missed.

Francesco is a documentary composed of rare videos, interviews, tweets and audio tape recordings about Pope Francis and his ideas about contemporary problems. The issues addressed are refugee camps in Lesbos, migrants and he also talks about his ideas on homosexual marriage.

There’s so much to learn from this film. It really gives insight on how the Pope thinks and how he has changed ideas for the Catholic religion. Giving his opinion on homosexual marriage is a huge statement; he believes they are entitled to have a family like any other person. This shows how he has come to embrace everyone with open arms. Pope Francis stands out from popes before him, which is why this documentary is so important. He isn’t just a figurehead; this film shows how relatable he is as well. He is well aware of his impact on the world, such as how he helped the Muslim refugees in Greece. The film shows that Pope Francis doesn’t see religion, race or sexual orientation as barriers, he just sees people. I loved seeing so many never before seen videos and recordings in this film. We see the Pope in Lesbos helping out whoever he can, and see how a woman thanks him for his help.

This film shows that not everyone is as they first appear to be. The media often portrays the Pope in a godly manner. In this film we see that he does not think that of himself. He seems to be like any other guy, just doing the work of God. There are no triggers for this film, but mature topics discussed include immigration, religion and homosexual marriage.

I give Francesco 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages (13 to) 18 plus adults. It releases on DVD March 28, 2021.

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Us Again * Beautiful And Lively Short That Will Get You Up And Dancing!

Sunday, March 21st, 2021

An elderly couple regains their youth in the rain. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Us Again is a beautiful and lively animated short film that will surely have you up and dancing! The choreography of the animated characters, the intricate details, and the underlying message all combine to make this a lovely watch.” See his full review below.

Us Again
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Us Again is a beautiful and lively animated short film that will surely have you up and dancing! The choreography of the animated characters, the intricate details, and the underlying message all combine to make this a lovely watch.

The seven-minute short film follows an elderly man and his young-at-heart wife living in a vibrant metropolis with echoes of New York City. The man is ever-tired and only wants to sit on his lounge chair reading the newspaper, while his wife yearns to explore the world outside. One rainy, magical evening, their ages truly seem just a number, and the couple re-discover their passion for dancing, salsaing their way across a landscape of memories. It’s a beautiful story told through rhythm and movement.

The animation in Us Again is truly stunning; the design taps into emotions, encapsulating the excitement and hubbub of a huge city, with neon lights, beautiful textural details on the water, and even on the tiny black umbrellas people carry walking down the street.   Us Again shows us Disney’s future; extreme detail in animation. The two main characters of this short also have lots of expressive features, and you can tell that Disney’s animation technology has gone to the next level when light details like crow’s feet are added in. Even their dance steps convey emotion!

Speaking of the dancing, acclaimed choreographers/dancers Keone and Mari Madrid were crucial to the process of creating Us Again because they came up with all of the dance steps, which flow so smoothly and naturally in animated form. There are no jerky movements at all, and it’s as if you’re watching an animated version of Dancing With The Stars. The background score (though it really does push its way to the foreground) also adds so much to this short. Something I noticed in the seven-minute film:  Keep an eye on the puddles, because the characters’ reflections show the characters as their older selves throughout the film, even in scenes where the characters traverse through memories from ages ago. This demonstrates the incredible attention to detail in Us Again.

The message of Us Again is to never let go of your passions (and your youth), and, if you do, be sure to make an effort to rekindle the fire in your heart. It’s an apt message for a time like the one we’re living in now, when we have the time to follow our passions and pursue new hobbies.

I give Us Again 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. Us Again will be shown before Disney’s latest film, Raya and the Last Dragon, only in theatres, and it will be available on Disney+ in June of 2021.

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The Father * Psychological Horror Movie, Depicting the Decaying Psyche of an Old Man

Friday, March 12th, 2021

A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comment, “The Father commits itself to depicting dementia through often surreal ripples in the consciousness of its protagonist. The first sign that things are amiss in Anthony’s flat is a quite alarming moment and so, so well-executed.  What happens is a slight, but perceptible alteration to what we’ve been told by Anthony’s daughter about why she’s come to see her father, that becomes a dire sign for what’s to come.” See his full review below.   

The Father
By Benjamin P., Kids First! Film Critic, Age 15

The Father is practically a psychological horror movie, depicting the decaying psyche of an old man, battered by dementia. Yes, The Father tends to be pretty grim, but its excellent lead performance from Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins and the film’s structural fluidity set it apart from similarly bleak dramas about the deteriorating mental functions of a senior citizen.

The story follows Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) who, at first glance, is an ordinary elderly man in the waning years of his life, pacing around his apartment, awaiting his daughter’s arrival (Olivia Colman) to discuss her new living arrangements. This all serves as a prelude to the mental and emotional fireworks to follow. From there, everything becomes a lot less concrete. Faces of loved ones morph; the layout of Anthony’s apartment shifts; Anne gains a husband; and Anthony is introduced to an in-home care person who bears a striking resemblance to his youngest daughter who may or may not be dead. As dementia wreaks havoc on his brain and mind, Anthony’s only attachment to reality becomes a watch he keeps misplacing, an almost perfect metaphor for Anthony’s spiraling-out-of-control sense of reality.

The Father commits itself to depicting dementia through often surreal ripples in the consciousness of its protagonist. The first sign that things are amiss in Anthony’s flat is a quite alarming moment and so, so well-executed.  What happens is a slight, but perceptible alteration to what we’ve been told by Anthony’s daughter about why she’s come to see her father, that becomes a dire sign for what’s to come.  A miniscule shift in our perception of events, as filtered through Anthony, balloons into far more concerning and substantial lapses in memory that we witness through Anthony’s point of view.

Anthony Hopkins’ performance is a consistently surprising lead performance, representative of a film that is just as unpredictable. He doesn’t play it too big, even in the very erratic and sporadic launches between an almost effortless effervescence and the prickly, defensive edge that comes to the surface whenever his self-sufficiency comes into question. Hopkins not only has to channel a frequently changing demeanor, but also a changing frame of mind. He goes from distant—resigned in his cloud of seemingly eternal confusion—to “in-your-face,” saying truly cruel things to his daughter to finding himself reduced to tears, calling out for his mother. Hopkins’ performance stays in line even in its frequent transformations in his mind and mood. Everything feels of a piece with that character and  what we know about him.  And he is just as compelling when he putters down a hallway as when he explodes at his daughter, the person who cares for him most.

I give The Father 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18 for some language. You can see The Father in theaters March 12, 2021, and it will be available on Video On Demand platforms starting March 26th.

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The Orphanage * Message of Hope, Despite All Circumstances

Sunday, March 7th, 2021

Set in late Soviet-era Afghanistan, this coming-of-age tale from Shahrbanoo Sadat follows her acclaimed debut Wolf and Sheep, and is the second film in a planned pentalogy based on the diary of writer Anwar Hashimi. Protagonist Qodrat returns, now a 15-year-old boy who is sent to a state orphanage after getting caught selling black market cinema tickets. Coping with bullies, friendship and a nascent romance, Qodrat finds escape in Bollywood-esque song-and-dance fantasies that delight him – and the audience – even as his homeland starts to fall apart. Sadat captures the innocence of late 1980s Afghan youth with pleasing and nostalgia-tinted charm, while remaining keenly aware of the violence that history would soon thrust upon them.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Erin M. comments, “The message of this film is about the importance of hope, despite all circumstances. The protagonist, Qodrat, remains hopeful and looks for positive routes of escapism throughout his struggles of growing up without a family, and his struggles at the orphanage. You should be aware that the film contains strong language and minor adult content.” See her full review below.

The Orphanage
By Erin M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

The Orphanage is a stellar film conveying the need for true heartfelt cinematic experiences. Beautiful cinematography creates a transcendent movie experience, with a script based on the unpublished diaries of Anwar Hashim, who plays a supporting role in the film. Acclaimed director Shahrbanoo Sadat uses personal experiences to convey an uplifting message.

Wolf and Sheep, the prequel to The Orphanage, premiered in 2016. Like its predecessor, The Orphanage is based on real life experiences in Afghanistan. The movie chronicles the main character, Qodrat (Qodratollah Qadiri), who spends his days trying to survive by illegally selling overpriced movie tickets and key rings. He is then brought to a Russian-operated orphanage along with other teenage boys, where he is given the opportunity to get an education alongside his peers. The Orphanage details his experiences in the orphanage and how the quarrels between roommates of the dorms are dealt with by the director Anwar (Anwar Hashimi). All throughout a war torn country in 1989, Qodrat remains hopeful, through fantasy sequences shared with the audience.

The cinematography is what truly stands out in this film. Directory of photography, Virginie Surdej captures the beauty of the country while adding to the heartbreaking story. My favorite part of this movie is the performances by the young people, including Qodratollah Qadiri, who gives rare insight into real life in Afghanistan, as they are all natives of the country.

The message of this film is about the importance of hope, despite all circumstances. The protagonist, Qodrat, remains hopeful and looks for positive routes of escapism throughout his struggles of growing up without a family, and his struggles at the orphanage. You should be aware that the film contains strong language and minor adult content. There are also two graphic descriptions of war and violence. There is also some references to sex and pornographic images (very far away from the screen, but still visible) that are unsuitable for younger kids.  

I give The Orphanage 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18, plus adults. This film is available March 2, 2021 on Amazon Prime.

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Stray * Brilliant Documentary That Makes You See The Value Of Stepping Up For What You Believe In

Friday, March 5th, 2021

The world of Zeytin, a stray dog living life on the streets of Istanbul. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carlee S. comments, “Stray is a brilliant film about three beautiful dogs living on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey.  Director Elizabeth Lo gives a unique perspective that allows viewers to venture into dogs’ lives and learn a lot about the country of Turkey and the people there, as well. Through the eyes of the dogs we learn about their lives on the streets and the lives of others they interact with.” See her full review below.

Stray
By Carlee S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Age 16

Stray is a brilliant film about three beautiful dogs living on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey. 

Director Elizabeth Lo gives a unique perspective that allows viewers to venture into dogs’ lives and learn a lot about the country of Turkey and the people there, as well. Through the eyes of the dogs we learn about their lives on the streets and the lives of others they interact with.  We gain a better understanding of the people as we overhear conversations the citizens are having which tell us a lot about the personal lives of the people there and the living conditions. For both the dogs and some of the people, there is danger and the struggle to survive.  There are also touching moments. It is an unforgettable film that helps people understand a different part of the world, the people and animals that live there, and that they all have the same basic needs of food, shelter, and friendship. 


This documentary follows three dogs named Zeytin, Nazar and a puppy named Kartal. The camera follows the dogs at their level which is a very ingenious and a creative touch. As the camera rolls, we follow along and see how these dogs interact with other dogs and the humans they encounter. Not only do we get to experience a stray dog’s life, but the lives of a young group of boys also living on the streets. The dogs in Istanbul are allowed to roam around the city freely since the citizens fought to save them. We’re taken into these dogs’ lives and live it with them, seeing all the sights and sounds they see. 

One of my favorite scenes in Stray is when Zeytin is in the park and notices another dog approaching. You can tell from the beginning, when we first get to know Zeytin, that she is a sweet dog. She doesn’t seem to mind the other dogs she comes in contact with and is friendly towards them. Watching Zeytin and the other dogs in the park was very enjoyable. I just loved watching them run around and being very playful. It is a scene that could have been in any part of the world.  I also enjoyed watching the puppy, Kartal. The puppy’s expressions are very sweet and, the way people react to Kartal, it adds a nice touch to the film.

The message in this film is to step up for what you believe in. The citizens of Turkey made sure their voices were heard, so that dogs can freely roam, and are not to be held captive or destroyed. Every life is worth something. The dogs provide comfort to many people there. There are some warnings. Some scenes can be graphic that go with life on the streets. Some of the topics and language spoken by some of the people is also for older viewers.

I give Stray 5 out of 5 stars. I was glued to the screen and I am now a much bigger fan of documentaries after watching this film.  I plan to watch more in the future. I recommend this film to ages 13 to 20. Magnolia Pictures will release Stray in theaters and On Demand on March 5, 2021.

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Archibald’s Next Big Thing * Cute Series That Makes It Okay To Be Curious And Learn From Your Mistakes

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Archibald’s Next Big Thing is an American animated comedy streaming television series created by Tony Hale for Netflix. The plot revolves around Archibald Strutter, a positive chicken who often goes astray from home, but eventually always finds his way back home. Season 3 debuts on the Peacock Channel. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calee N. comments, “This cute series makes it okay to be curious and encourages children to learn from their mistakes. Archibald is far from perfect, but the theme of acceptance and compassion guides him through the process of solving his problems. Being a silly chicken turns out to be a lot of fun.” See her full review below.

Archibald’s Next Big Thing 
By Calee Nowak, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Archibald’s Next Big Thing is a unique animation series filled with adventure and kid-friendly humor.

In this season of Archibald’s Next Big Thing, Archibald goes on all kinds of wacky adventures with his siblings, Loy, Finly and Sage. Being a chicken and living in an egg shaped house with neighbors of all different species, Archibald finds himself making multiple mistakes and learning valuable lessons through his experiences. From damaging a doctor’s office to body switching and even shrinking himself, you never know what situation Archibald will be in. Now matter what, with the help of his friends and family he is able to solve his problems in unusual ways and also with a happy ending. 

Tony Hale’s, Archibald’s Next Big Thing is the next chapter for Archibald Strutter. Producers Eric Fogel and Tony Hale continue to make Archibald a likable character with a great sense of humor. The talented voice-overs of the lead characters Archibald (Tony Hale), Loy (Chelsea Kane), Finly (Jordan Fisher) and Sage (Adam Fally) make the characters believable and bring life to the series. The music, produced by Matthew Janszen, seamlessly transitions the scenes and creates a silly and fun atmosphere. The art director, Sierra Lewis and visual effects directors, Karla Monterrosa and Jessica Oh, are to be commended for designing an animated series adapted from the book and staying true to the original book. The animated drawings and visual effects easily tell the stories of Archibald’s never-ending curiosity while being visually engaging.

This cute series makes it okay to be curious and encourages children to learn from their mistakes. Archibald is far from perfect, but the theme of acceptance and compassion guides him through the process of solving his problems. Being a silly chicken turns out to be a lot of fun.

I rate Archibald’s Next Big Thing 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 10. Archibald’s Next Big Thing is available now on the Peacock Channel and Netflix.

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Own the Room * Heartfelt Journeys of Young Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

Own the Room chronicles five students from disparate corners of the planet as they take their budding business ventures to Macau, China, to compete in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. Santosh is from a small farming town in Nepal; Alondra works the register at her family’s bakery in Puerto Rico; Henry is a programming wiz from Nairobi; Jason is a marketing machine from Greece; and Daniela, an immigrant fleeing the crisis in Venezuela, is taking on the chemical industry from her lab at NYU. In the uplifting film, each of the business hopefuls has overcome immense obstacles in pursuing their dreams, from hurricanes to poverty to civil unrest. As they represent their countries as the top student entrepreneurs, the high-stakes global finals are their opportunity to win worldwide attention and the coveted $100,000 grand prize to make their life-changing business ideas a reality and transform the world. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Dominic D. comments, “…an uplifting movie that has us digging into our “emotional toolbox” as we follow the heartfelt journeys of young entrepreneurs bringing change for future generations. The optimism of these individuals is so incredible and can certainly be appreciated by anyone working hard to pursue their dreams.” See his full review below.  

Own the Room 
By Dominic D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11


Own the Room is a new feature documentary from National Geographic Documentary Films directed by Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster. This directing duo delivers an uplifting movie that has us digging into our “emotional toolbox” as we follow the heartfelt journeys of young entrepreneurs bringing change for future generations. The optimism of these individuals is so incredible and can certainly be appreciated by anyone working hard to pursue their dreams. 

Own the Room follows the paths of five young innovators from across the globe who showcase their business plans to “change the world one big idea at a time.” These individuals overcome cultural obstacles and push the limits in order to reach the top.  Santosh, Alondra, Henry, Jason and Daniela have each qualified to represent their country at the annual Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in Macau, China. Each has the dream of taking their business to the next level to become the world’s most influential change-maker. Aside from setting their eyes on the prize of $100,000, each hopes to raise awareness that “no matter where you come from, it does not define where you are going.”  They are each proud of their culture, their family support, and the chance to represent their country. 

https://youtu.be/ZBCdk9REkrs

I enjoyed the emotional conversations in which the students share their cultural backgrounds and find their words to be genuine and spirited. Their determination, confidence, and fearlessness kept me wanting to see more. Costantini and Foster are clever to include the lifestyle, family background and the obstacles that each of these students face. That allows viewers to appreciate the students’ journeys even more and perhaps to gain a better understanding of each of the young entrepreneurs’ business ideas. The cinematography is fantastic, taking us into five areas of the world and showing viewers a variety of ways of life. The society in which you live does indeed partly shape you as an individual, and yet this documentary proves that it doesn’t have to hold you back. 

Own the Room delivers many messages and mainly demonstrates how determination is at the root of all success. If you are determined, you will be driven to work hard to achieve no matter how many obstacles confront you. Challenges serve to strengthen us. It is this determination that we see in each of the student entrepreneurs and which becomes so inspiring to viewers.  Given the current state of the world right now, an inspiring film such as Own the Room is exactly what we need. 

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