Though the Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children is still a month away, it's time to buy tickets.
In fact, the sooner the better for this premiere event, which will be held April 24 to 26 at two locations. You know how popular children's events are in Toronto and how well-done they are, so this is sure to be well-attended.
Take note: These aren't films that rely on gimmicks. Or goofiness. Or Hollywood overkill.
They take their cues from life, and treat their subjects with intelligence, insight and imagination.
The 14 films that form the collection for this younger version of the annual 10-day Toronto Film Festival explore how youngsters deal with bullies, learn about romance, experience the trauma of being uprooted, and the adventure of the Middle Ages.
"These are absolutely the best family films outside North America," said Jane Schoettle, festival director, who previewed 400 films to choose those that will be shown. "They are meant for the whole family to enjoy. For adults to have something to talk about with their children."
Many of these films have received awards at previous festivals. All will be screened in their original language, with subtitles.
Besides that, a narrator, who stands at the back of the theater, will read the subtitles so that children can keep up with the story.
"It works like gangbusters," said Ms. Schoettle. "After a short period of adjustment, the dialogue just floats past the children's ears."
Some of the films that will be shown include:
"Naran" (Japan), the story of a 7-year-old boy who is in a boarding school, but returns each summer to the Mongolian steppes with his nomadic family. It is described as lyrical and visually stunning. (Shown at 10 a.m. April 26.)
"Eye of the Eagle" (Denmark) is set during the Middle Ages and tells of a young prince, who is studying Latin under an evil bishop and who is forced to escape the castle and stop a plot to overthrow his father. (10:30 a.m. April 26.)
"The Purse Snatcher" (The Netherlands). Alex's happiest hours are spent with his grandmother at a museum of natural history. After two young thieves steal her savings and Alex's clarinet, he also is bullied into stealing. Eventually he and his grandmother find a way out of their dilemma. (10 a.m. April 25 ).
"Benjamin Dove" (Iceland). Four boys form an Order of Knights to fight injustice, but when one of them forms a rival group, petty squabbles turn into war. (7 p.m. April 25 ).
"Imuhar: A Legend" (France/Niger). An 11-year-old boy who lives in Paris is taken to live with his father in Africa after his mother's death. Beautifully photographed, the story explores intergenerational relationships and nomadic culture. (1 p.m. April 26.)
"Kayla" (Canada). Set in Quebec in the 1920s, it's the story of a crucial winter in the life of a fatherless boy and the dog he befriends. (12:30 p.m. April 26.)
"Long Live the Queen" (Netherlands). Sara is not doing well in school until she finds a book in which a fairy tale queen invents the game of chess for her bored king. Sara's imagination transports her into the palace, where she learns the strategies of chess. (3 p.m. April 25.)
"Kalle Blomkvist -- The Master Detective Lives Dangerously" (Swedish). It tells the story of how a small town's rival gangs go into battle over the possession of a mysterious stone. While hiding the precious stone, someone stumbles over a corpse in an abandoned barn. The mystery baffles everyone, except Master Detective Kalle Blomkvist. (6:30 p.m. April 25.)