We attended the Framed Family Film Festival at the Barbican last week to watch a sneak preview of French film Zarafa.
This rich, multi-layered story told in stunning animation follows the journey of Zarafa, the first giraffe to arrive in France during the time of King Charles X.
But the heart of the film belongs to Zarafa’s companion Maki, a runaway slave boy who insists on travelling with Zarafa after making a promise to the giraffe’s dying mother.
Led by Hassan, who is transporting Zarafa as a gift to the French king (in the hope that France will help Egypt against the invading Turks), Maki and Zarafa find themselves on a daring adventure across the ocean via hot air balloon.
It’s refreshing to see an animated hero from Africa and we were all totally swept up in this story. So much so that close to the end, when a tragic event happens, my poor 6-year-old burst into tears and was inconsolable even after things took a more upbeat turn.
I had a long chat with Ezra afterwards about how he felt and why sometimes it’s good to let yourself experience sadness because it means you’re connecting to a story. But this is a cautionary note for parents of super sensitive kids — there are some moments that might be hard to watch.
It’s in French subtitles so my 3-year-old, who couldn’t read, had a little distance from the plot even though he sat pretty absorbed for most of it. NB: You can hire English audio headphones from Barbican staff for any of their foreign subtitled screenings.
On the whole, I think it was absolutely worth my boy’s pain (harsh mama!) as Zarafa is a visually breathtaking, emotionally engaging film that offers something different from the typical cartoon/CGI fare in cinemas.
The Barbican also kindly sent us a screener of another festival flick, Lotte and the Moonstone Secret (U).
This charming animation from Estonia has a unique style and is much more light-hearted. It’s the story of Lotte and her Uncle Klaus who find themselves in possession of a precious stone that’s sought after by lunar rabbits who need it to get back to the moon!
It’s filled with all sorts of eccentric characters, strange but wonderful concepts (e.g. fishing for pancakes fried by little sea people), odd bursts of song and a warm, fuzzy ending.
Framed Family Film Festival 2012 was the first in a new, annual showcase of the cream of international cinema aimed at children. Highlights of the festival included a workshop offering an insider look at the workings of Aardman animation (Wallace & Gromit fame) and graffiti-themed Gimme the Loot, aimed at teen audiences.
Framed Family Film Club is held every Saturday morning at the Barbican, offering a fresh selection of kids’ films, plus a pre-film workshop once a month.
Catch The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists this Saturday (Dec 1) at 11am!
Visit www.barbican.org.uk for more info on Framed Film Club, 11am, £2 per ticket (Sats) at Barbican Centre, Silk St, EC1 (Barbican tube)