I missed the first half of the Children's Film Festival at Northwest Film Forum because I had some sort of walking-pneumonia situation, the most alarming but least painful symptom of which was a weird swollen-gland lump on my neck, which installed that antismoking commercial from the '90s on a permanent loop in my head. ("Now I have emphysema, which left me with this fat face and a HUMP on my NECK.") Anyway, now that my neck hump has receded, it's time to get to the kids' stuff.
JUMP! (Wed Jan 28 at 7 pm, Sat Jan 31 at 3:30 pm)
It is so fucking crazy when a person will just, like, do a flip. Oh, you were just standing there and now you are doing a flip? WHILST JUMP-ROPING? Why don't you just do a normal thing, like sit in a chair? Or walk around? Must you make the rest of us feel like sedentary hippos? JUMP! is a documentary about children involved in competitive jump-rope, which means all kinds of crazy shit. Though lacking in dramatic tension—you're not rooting for any particular team, and they all like and support each other so much it's hardly a competition—spazzy kids and feats of physical impossibility are never not entertaining.
The Red Jacket (Thurs Jan 29 at 7 pm, Sat Jan 31 at 5:30 pm)
The Red Jacket—a 2006 film about Chinese villagers, unconditional love, and moaning until you get what you want—would be a quiet, lovely thing, if it weren't for the goddamn moaning. And I cannot imagine a child watching it for one single toasty hot second. I mean, not a modern child. Maybe a Victorian child who has never seen such witchery as the miniature Chinamen who move and talk inside this curious box of wonders. The film takes place in a foggy mountain village: saggy clouds, craggy paths, crumbling stone walls, a bunch of balloons tied to a bicycle—every shot is beautiful. A cute little girl really, really wants a red jacket. She runs around. She sings a song. She whines. It's almost too slow for me to pay attention to, and foggy mountain villages in faraway lands are probably my number-three favorite thing of all things.
Speedy Delivery (Sun Feb 1 at 3:30 pm)
This documentary chronicles the life of one David Newell, aka Mr. McFeely, Fred "Mister" Rogers's lifelong friend, sidekick, and on-air mailman. Through interviews with Newell, his family, his tailor, and the cast of characters left orbiting the gaping Rogers-shaped void (following his death from stomach cancer in 2003), Speedy Delivery portrays Newell as a sweet, generous, slightly awkward man—playing with his dogs, feeding the fish, eating quiche, and touring the country in his Speedy Delivery uniform to deliver Rogers's message of acceptance. "[Mister Rogers] never talked to anybody. He talked with people. He cared about everyone. Every day." Oops, here they come. Here come the emotions.