9 Chinese children’s films to be showcased at the 8th annual San Diego International Children’s Film Festival Aug 27-29, 2010

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Following the successful first visit from the Chinese children’s film delegation in 2009 that brought us eleven feature films screened at the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival, nine films will be showcased this year on August 27-29. There are two location for this year’s festival.

Aug 27 and 28
Balboa Park’s Hall of Nation (west of the Organ Pavilion). 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

Aug 29
AMN Healthcare Auditorium. <12400 High Bluff Drive, San Diego, CA 92130

This year’s movies are even better than last year’s.  I am honored to be asked as one of the judges and vote for the awards that will be given at the gala on Aug 28.

Several films this year are about a person (a teacher or a child) adapting in an unfamiliar place.  My favorite film is “The Rain in the Spring.”

(4 out of 5 starfish)

A teacher’s wish is to teach kids who will grow up to be better than the teacher.  That is exactly the case for Mr. Zhou, a physics teacher and headmaster in a village in Shandong province who captivated his middle school students with fun experiments.  The school had no wall in the back, so animals and thieves could get in.  Every night, someone stole his physics “magic box” and hid it behind the school.

Mr. Zhou found out that a teenage sheep herder from the neighboring village was the “thief,” the son of Mr. Zhou’s own classmate who died of a car crash from years ago.  The kid, whose name was Guyu, had to drop out of school to support his grandmother.  Mr. Zhou helped Guyu return to school and treated him like his own son, hoping that someday, Guyu will exceed him.  Guyu became a physics champion at Chinese Physics Olympics Competition under Mr. Zhou’s rigorous teaching.

In China, spring rain is a metaphor, because in the spring, the rain helps grass grow just like a teacher helps kids succeed.

This film is riveting and moved me to tears.  I give it 4 starfish.  It is about hard work, perseverance, and a teacher’s devotion.  It has rich characters (main and supporting characters), interesting storyline, and powerful moral.  The acting, especially by the teacher Mr. Zhou, is superb and compelling, which gives the character personality.

Some flaws in this film: it is strange that even though Guyu herded sheep every day under the hot sun, he didn’t have a tan and didn’t look like a village kid.  I noticed that after 10 years, Mr. Zhou’s wife never aged!

A great teacher can nourish children like a spring rain nourishes crops.

My second favorite is “Nima’s Summer.”

(4 out of 5 starfish)

In this awesome live action meets Chinese anime film, Nima, a teenage yak herder from Tibet, finds himself transplanted to a metropolis middle school.  He is a new bunk-mate with his nerdy classmate, Gulu.  Nema develops a passion for soccer and sees everyone as his friend.  The problem is that he doesn’t realize that the schoolyard bullies, Feiyang and his sidekick, do not see him as a friend.  In the end, Nema overcomes many obstacles and winning the hearts of his teachers and fellow students (including his foes).

I give the film 4 starfish. It is “Perrific,” with an interesting storyline and tidbits of hilarious animation woven into it.  I also wish there were more live action scenes of Tibet and Nema herding Yaks.  It would show more contrast with Nema’s city life.  One flaw: How can a soccer and physical education teacher teach kids to be fit if he is overweight and unfit himself?  An actor in better shape would improve the film.

Another movie about school kids and a new teacher is “A Village So Far Away.”

(3 out of 5 starfish)

Yingzi, a young woman finds a job after graduating from an art school to teach at an elementary school at Nuo Deng, a remote, minority area.  The school had been there for hundreds of years.  Even preschoolers started fires to cook their own lunch.  Some may think that is odd and dangerous, but it is quite common in the poor areas of China.

Yangzi is the replacement for an old teacher named Mr. Huang who passed retirement age, but stubbornly tries to keep his job.  He is so argumentative that he will even argue with the government (often unsuccessfully) to save the ancient culture and architecture.

Everyday in Nuo Deng is a struggle for Yingzi, and everyday brings new surprises.

I give the film 3 starfish. I think the main characters (Yingzi and Mr. Huang) are fairly rich and well-developed, but the supporting ones appear weak and need a lot more work.  Comparing to Mr. Zhou in “The Rain in the Spring,” Yingzi does not have that level of interactions with the kids.  I keep wanting to know more about Yingzi’s roommate/ fellow teacher and her students.  Also, the transitions of scenes are not smooth.

Last year, the filmmakers from China included those who made films that my mom loved watching as a young girl.  I really enjoyed meeting them and sharing my thoughts about Chinese and American movies, as well as speaking at the VIP reception for the Chinese film delegation.

I hope many families and lovers of film and Chinese culture will come and enjoy the festivities this year on Aug 27-29.

A filmmaker panel discussion on Aug 27 at 3 pm about how US filmmakers can get their films co-produced and distributed in China will be held at Balboa Park’s Hall of Nations (same venue as film screening).  All San Diego filmmakers are welcome to attend.  All film screenings and panel discussion are free and open to public.  Enjoy!

Detailed listing of films and screening time:


At 10, Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning entertainment critic, TV personality, Annie Awards presenter, filmmaker/animator, and radio host, reviewing movies with his trademark kids-friendly starfish from a child’s perspective.  Perry became a national sensation on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and National Public Radio (NPR) with Liane Hansen, and a frequent star on the red carpet at film festivals and premiers.  He is the youngest columnist for the San Diego Entertainer Magazine.

Read all of Perry’s reviews and upcoming events on his website

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