Sunday, February 12, 2012

Berlinale Film Review: 'Die Kinder vom Napf'

"Die Kinder vom Napf," a film about kids growing up in rural Switzerland, screened at the Berlinale. (Photo courtesy of the 2012 Berlinale.)
Opening on a group of school children trudging through the dark, in the snow, with what looks like miner's flashlights on their foreheads, the first scene in "Die Kinder vom Napf" reminds me of that old parental admonition: When I was your age, I walked uphill to school in the snow. Both ways!

Well, if you're these kids, who live in the village around Mount Napf in Switzerland, you wouldn't exactly be lying.

Director Alice Schmid followed several Napf children, who live in the municipality of Romoos, for a year, documenting how they lived -- their days at school, their chores at home and the cable car one girl rides to get to and from the classroom.

While this lifestyle seemed so foreign on screen, the charming children reminded CC and me of what's universal for families and kids -- namely, for CC, making cookies, which is what the kids did in school. Although, as CC said, "We can't make cookies at preschool because they have sugar." Score one for Napf.

Watching the film, I found it fun listening to Napf's version of "Kids Say the Darndest Things." Some choice quotes included: "We catch mice only six days a week," says a 10-year-old Thomas. "Never on Sundays or holidays." and "We should make Romoos more famous," says Carolin, also 10. "Like Hollywood."

The young boys and girls of the village, which is dwindling in population, are hard workers. They help cut grass using a scythe, help with slaughtering animals, groom cattle and deal with such rural issues as wolves on the loose and hawks snatching up chickens.

It was amazing to see their work ethic and adorable to hear their voices. While the film included English subtitles to translate the Swiss-German dialect, it was hard for CC to stay focused -- namely because she can't yet read, and two, because of some serious jet lag. But she said she liked the film, the cookie-making standing out as a highlight.

A cute coda to the film was when four of the kids came up on stage, in their Swiss best, to show the audience a bit of their culture. So cute!

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