The Black Stallion (1979)

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Editor’s Note: This review, originally published on theskykid.com site in August of 2008, was written by Guest Reviewer Ikarus. Thirteen years later we felt the quality of the review merited that it be republished to bring it to the attention of the many new readers of our site. We also felt that, for our long time readers who may have read it when it was originally published, it was worth another read. Enjoy!

Hello, dear visitors of theSKYKID.com!

Today I would like to present you with a personal review of the famous film, The Black Stallion, by Carroll Ballard. I guess this film has to be a real classic to some of you guys already. Personally, I first stumbled on this film a few days ago, while I was in the city to do some Christmas shopping. Beware! There could still be some mistakes (I’m German), but I double-checked for spelling mistakes, et cetera!

So, how to start? I think it would be best to summarize the storyline briefly so that those of you who do not know this flick will have a better overview. And, the corresponding storyline is introduced rather quickly here: we can see how a young boy named Alec (Kelly Reno) is on a boat trip with his father.

One day, he notices a big black horse held in captivity by some men on the ship. He brings him some pieces of sugar; however – there is not much time left for an animal friendship to develop since it seems like the boat hit a reef and is rapidly sinking. Unfortunately, the boy gets separated from his father and is about to drown, when the black horse comes into play. Together they finally strand on a lonely island, somewhere in the middle of nowhere… and this is where the story actually begins.

theblackstallion01Kelly Reno plays the young boy who strands on an island

And to state it: this film really IS an unusual overall experience – in a very positive way. The first and most important aspect that is so remarkable about it is the stunning cinematography and manner of filming.

We have beautiful nature shots and landscapes in which the boy and the horse are moving around, slowly becoming friends with each other. We have many scenes where no words are spoken, and not even simple sounds are to be heard – just a calm musical tone in the background. This leads to the effect that the film totally absorbs the audience and from the optics in general – one can get a really good feeling for the (generally desperate) situation that this boy is in.

Of course, I do not know much about the production background here. Unfortunately, there has not been any “making of” on the German DVD that I bought. I’d like to ask [the creative people] HOW they shot the whole thing in general. Because the horse obviously is a real one, which seems to be kind of wild and full of temperament – and has a lot of contact with the actor Kelly Reno, even when there is a lot of movement in the scenes. It’s just remarkable. However, I am sure that they took a lot of safety precautions here.

But one thing that most viewers would overlook: the whole thing seems to be as real as it can get. Such as for the camera handling – there are a lot of great shots. And, special for this period of time, a rather fast edit process as well. But it is not too hectic at all. However, Kelly Reno just did an outstanding job here. It is his performance that makes this film work like it does.

The Black Stallion ( 1979) Trailer

A deep friendship between a boy and a horse is developing…

The film is separated into two parts… the first is set on the island, and the second focuses on the times when Alec comes home again, of course WITH the horse, which leads to further situations – whether they are funny, melancholic or difficult ones. The only thing I have to mention negatively is that I would have wished for a slightly longer part on the island – by showing where they got water, food, how Alec may have discovered the island, et cetera.

Kelly Reno
Kelly Reno

So I found that the first half of the film really IS extraordinary, while the second kind of comes across as rather common. Still, not as common as in all those new films (from the ’90s and after 2000) involving children’s friendships with animals (mostly dogs) – of course! No, much to the contrary – it is just fascinating to see how the horse gets tamed more and more, being prepared for a great running contest. Maybe this feeling that the first part was much more intensive, subliminal, stunning (and totally timeless!) can be attributed to personal taste.

However, be prepared for a not so surprising but very moving ending…

All in all, I am giving this piece an 8.9 out of 10 point rating. Highly recommended for both an adult and a young audience! Or even better: something for a nice evening with the whole family. A beautiful portrait of a boy’s friendship with a horse, with lots of universal meanings and great music.

It’s a Coming-of-Age story about a boy and his horse. The Black Stallion is a movie about the power of friendship, loyalty, and trust.

Yours’s truly, Ikarus.

The Black Stallion (1979)
In short
It's a coming of age story about a boy and his horse. The Black Stallion is a movie about the power of friendship, loyalty, and trust.
Character/Acting
Score/Soundtrack
Cinematography
Storyline/Screenplay
Production
Direction
Reader Rating3 Votes
4.2
Our rating
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Run Wild, Run Free (1969)

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Run Wild, Run Free (1969)As a child actor, Mark Lester looked the part. He so looked the part of Oliver Twist that he was cast in the lead role of the 1968 musical film despite having no singing voice to speak of.

In 2004 the UK’s Mail On Sunday, with Lester’s consent, broke one of the film industry’s hitherto best-kept secrets: his singing parts in Oliver! had been skilfully dubbed by an uncredited Kathe Green, the then 20-year-old daughter of the film’s musical director. Many fans who for years had admired “his” moving soprano renditions of Where is Love? and Who Will Buy? felt cheated by this revelation – but, hey, it was brilliantly done and, after all, what is cinema about if not illusion and suspension of disbelief?

Mark Lester
Mark Lester

So he couldn’t sing, but Mark Lester was still a talented boy. He moved well on screen and had a face that could tell a thousand stories. In the wake of the commercial and critical success of Oliver! he was a hot property. Within two years, he had starred in no fewer than seven full-length features: Run Wild, Run Free (1969), The Boy Who Stole the Elephant and Eyewitness (1970), Melody, Black Beauty, Whoever Slew Aunty Roo and Night Hair Child (all in 1971).

Only Run Wild, Run Free earned him critical acclaim, which feels cruel with hindsight. It’s hardly surprising that his later performances were lacklustre; one can only cringe at the thought of the pressure the poor kid was under.

Scene from Run Wild, Run Free (1969)
Scene from Run Wild, Run Free (1969)

By 1973, the adolescent Mark, now yesterday’s adorable moppet, was finding it hard to get any more good roles. The following few years offered only a series of commercial flops and unkind comments from the critics. He quit acting at 17 and went back to school, which may have been a blessing in disguise. He went on to train as an osteopath and now runs a successful practice in England; a happier outcome than that of his original co-star and close friend Jack Wild, who struggled to cope with the pressure of fame’s limelight and whose career, personal life and health were tragically wrecked by alcoholism.

Mark Lester, Photograph Taken in London , 1976 by Allan Warren
Mark Lester, Photograph Taken in London, 1976 by Allan Warren

Although Mark Lester’s debut in Oliver! was the pinnacle of his short acting career, his performance in Run Wild, Run Free was by far his best. Based on his novel The White Colt, David Rook’s screenplay tells the tale of ten-year-old Philip. He’s a troubled young soul, both terrified and fascinated by the world around him, who can’t relate to his peers or (least of all) his parents. Indeed, he’s been inexplicably mute (or perhaps just refused to talk) since infancy. No explanation is offered as to why he should be this way, though he would probably have been labelled autistic had the film been made today.

Mark Lester as Philip in Run Wild, Run Free
Mark Lester as Philip in Run Wild, Run Free

This role could have been made for Lester, whose haunting expression captured the range of a disturbed boy’s confusion, fear, rage and wonderment to perfection.

Philip’s predicament is made worse by his being an only child, with parents (Sylvia Syms and Gordon Jackson) who seem clueless about his needs. They live in an isolated house on a beautiful but sometimes bleak Dartmoor in the south of England. Since he was first able to toddle, the boy has habitually wandered off into the moors and his own inner world, where he seems to take solace in nature.

Mark Lester and John Mills in Run Wild, Run Free (1969)
Mark Lester and John Mills in Run Wild, Run Free (1969)

The nearest neighbour befriends him: a kindly retired colonel played admirably by John Mills.

This older man shares Philip’s love of nature and wildlife and takes the boy under his wing. For the first time, it seems, Philip begins to engage with another person.

Then one day, he sees a wild pony out on the moors. Colt and boy take an immediate shine to each other, and eventually, the pony follows Philip home. Philip names the colt after himself, seeing the shy, solitary, independent animal as a kindred spirit. His condition starts to improve as he tries (in vain) to explain the joy he derives from the pony to his parents.

Run Wild, Run Free
Run Wild, Run Free

Tragedy strikes one night during a storm when the pony becomes startled and runs off, not to be found, leaving Philip distraught. Comfort is at hand, though, through another of the colonel’s young friends (this was a more innocent age: there are no sinister overtones to the tale!). Diana is a girl around Philip’s age and the proud owner of “Lady,” a pet falcon. Seeing the boy’s distress, she offers to gift the magnificent bird to him. With the colonel’s help, they train Lady together (no one really owns a falcon!), and a genuinely moving bond develops between the two children.

There are obvious parallels here to a better-known film about another troubled boy whose eyes are opened through falconry, which may be hard to put down to coincidence. Barry Hines’s timeless classic Kes (unquestionably a better film than this one) was released in the same year. But anyone accusing Run Wild, Run Free of being a rip-off should note that David Rook’s novel The White Colt was published in 1967: the year before Hines’s A Kestrel for a Knave.

Fiona Fullerton
Fiona Fullerton

Diana is played by Fiona Fullerton, who went on to a successful adult acting career. She made a strong debut here. Although her role was less demanding than that of Philip, her portrayal of the girl’s loyalty to and affection for the strange boy is one of the film’s highlights and guaranteed to melt the most cynical of hearts, especially in the climactic scene.

Run Wild, Run Free can’t fail to make an impression with themes and performances like these. It is a memorable film. It’s not, however, a great one. It’s unforgivably formalistic, even for its era. As I’ve mentioned, it’s of the same vintage as the similarly-themed Kes: a gritty, realistic, wholly unsentimental opus. This one uses children and animals to go straight for the viewer’s emotional jugular. It’s brimming with stereotypes: the neurotic, overprotective mother and the emotionally distant, overbearing father (who, naturally, come to learn lessons about themselves as well as their child by the end); the flawed, avuncular adult friend; the young girl whose strength lies in her emerging maternal instinct. And, of course, the disturbed child with hidden depths and abilities. Mark Lester showed such insight into Philip’s condition that I find it a shame he wasn’t given the material to develop the character further.

Sylvia Sims and Mark Lester
Sylvia Sims and Mark Lester

No spoilers here, but it must be said too that the film’s climax, which uses the heart-wrenching cheat of placing children in mortal danger, is overblown and overplayed. For me, the most powerful thing about it was how young Fiona Fullerton’s performance was left to save the day, though I’m sure that wasn’t the director’s intention.

Not having read the book, I can’t say whether these issues are specific to the film or inherent in the original narrative. Either way, they left the story’s undeniable impact feeling rather hollow for me.

Nonetheless, this is an unforgettable family film that is still apt to capture the hearts of viewers of all ages. Like most of Mark Lester’s post-Oliver movies, it fell into obscurity and for many years was commercially unavailable. Re-released on DVD, it’s now up for a spare change from the major online retailers. I’m glad about that. For all its faults, it’s well worth watching, particularly for the two young stars’ outstanding performances.

Run Wild, Run Free (1969)
Summary
An unforgettable family film that is still apt to capture the hearts of viewers of all ages. Though far from perfect, it is memorable and well-worth watching.Despite a strong adult cast, the kids stole the show in this vintage family film.
3.8
OUR RATING
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Acting Advice for Child Actors

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 Child ActorChildren and adolescents often have to go on auditions for commercials, films, music videos, television programs, and other types of productions. There are several tips that young actors might want to keep in mind when they are performing in front of the camera for the first time.

They must show their best self on screen. It is also important that they dress appropriately for the occasion if they know what to wear ahead of time and, if not, it should be something comfortable. Camera angles can make your appearance more flattering, so it might be wise to take a picture of yourself ahead of time from all angles, so you know what you will look like in the audition.

Acting Tips for Teen Actors

Every child actor has to learn how to act in front of a camera and handle different situations that come up on set. For instance, reacting to someone’s sudden appearance or doing a dramatic reading when the camera cuts out. Unlike theatre or film acting, there is a definite difference, and an actor needs to know which skills are required for on-camera work.

Acting tips

Another reason child actors need to know how to act in front of a camera is they do not have a live audience as in theatrical performances. There are many tips that child actors need to know to be successful on camera. For example, they should ensure that they are not too close or too far from the lens. They also need to understand that their body language can ruin the scene and be subtle.

One of the most common complaints about young actors is that they can’t seem to keep themselves from fidgeting when they’re on stage, and the goal is to stay within the frame of the camera while remaining calm and in control. That said, it’s not a good idea to look robotic, so be sure to convey enthusiasm and conviction.

An essential thing is gaining experience. Through community theatre, courses, improv training, or auditions, people may explore their creative talents. People often think that it’s about how much talent they have, but that’s not true. A creative career consists of hard work and dedication, as well as time to experiment and explore.

The key thing that they need to remember is that their performance needs to be believable and not over the top. Remember: having fun is essential. Don’t force yourself to book gigs if you don’t enjoy your work. Do it because you enjoy it. If you do not love working on scripts and coming up with entertaining characters, your audition will reflect this.

Introducing Robert Levey II

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Robert Levey II
Robert Levey II

Robert Levey II is a 12-year-old boy who loves to sing. He started playing the piano at age five and has been taking vocal lessons since the age of three. His YouTube channel features cover songs that he does remarkably well.

“Oh Darling” cover by Robert Levey II.

In the age of YouTube and streaming services, many young people discover their talent and pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Robert Levey II is one of these people. At the age of 11, he began creating music videos on YouTube by performing popular songs from artists like John Legend, Ed Sheeran, and Michael Jackson.

The way he sings is one of a kind. He really shows passion and manages to switch his tone often, which adds an extra dimension of skill. He has picked excellent songs to cover, and his notes linger gently as he performs. When one watches his videos, it is impossible not to notice how much he enjoys performing, which makes them fun to watch.

“Ben” cover by Robert Levey

The music he plays is chilled, making it easy to relax. When watching his videos, you can tell that he is truly enjoying what he is doing, which comes from the heart. This adds a different depth as his music moves beyond words and directly touches people’s emotions.

He has always loved being in front of the camera and has already had the opportunity to participate in several film projects, with his ambition being to land a larger role in the future.

You can find more songs by Robert Levy II on his YouTube Chanel and on Instagram.

 

Classic Coming of Age Movies That Every Black Kid Should Watch

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The Coming-of-Age film genre has grown exponentially in recent years, with the increase of more representation and validation of people of color. It was not until recently that films like Moonlight and Get Out were recognized by the academy as Best Picture nominees. These films are important for their ability to show the struggles, triumphs, and uncertainties that come with being a black child in America.

Moonlight: Directed by Barry Jenkins
Moonlight: Directed by Barry Jenkins

As a black kid, I think these movies really shaped my view of the world and how I interacted with it. We can’t be perfect all the time, and these movies helped me understand that. I watched a lot of Coming-of-Age movies in my teens to help me get through some tough times. These movies helped me deal with family issues, mental health issues, and everything in between. Here are some classics that I think every black kid should watch:

Roll Bounce (2005)

X (Bow Wow) just wants to hang out with his friends and skate in this Coming-of-Age comedy based in the 70s. When his manhood and skating skills are challenged, he doesn’t fail to step up to the plate.

The film follows Bow Wow as he navigates the confusing and sometimes devastating world of being a teenager. He is faced with difficult choices that will ultimately shape his future.

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete (2013)

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete (2013)
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete (2013)

This film is a Coming-of-Age story that follows two young boys living on their own in one of New York’s toughest neighborhoods. The film, which was screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and debuted on HBO in September 2013, has been praised for its gritty portrayal of street life and powerful performances from its young leads.

George Washington (2000)

George Washington (2000)
George Washington (2000)

Summer isn’t what it used to be. Nowadays, any kids who still live in the rural South have a whole season’s worth of responsibilities and hard questions to deal with. An ambitiously constructed, elegantly photographed meditation on adolescence, the first full-length film by director David Gordon Green, George Washington features remarkable performances from an award-winning ensemble cast.

LUV (2013)

 

LUV (2013)
LUV (2013)

An 11-year-old boy took a crash course to learn what it means to be a man, while spending a day with the former criminal uncle he admired. He will be given a crash course in masculinity, with such things like how to drive a vehicle, how to fire a weapon, and how to conceal a reserve. But where will it all end?

Hardball (2001)

 

Hardball
Hardball

Hardball is an American sports comedy-drama film that follows a troubled youth (Damon Wayans) who is given the opportunity to turn his life around by playing on a Little League team coached by former major league player Jimmy Dugan.

Black movies have always been a huge part of film culture, but they are not usually associated with the Coming-of-Age genre. In fact, they are usually given a different category for recognition, such as “urban.” These Coming-of-Age films show that it’s okay to be different and that you should never stop trying to find yourself. The films tell the stories of Black children and their struggles growing up in America. They show the importance of family, friends, and finding your own identity.

134 (2019)

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We have often featured Coming-of-Age films dealing with gender identification here on the theskykid.com site. The film of reference of this subgenre of the Coming-of-Age cinema is My Life in Pink (Ma Vie en Rose). Still, since its release, a couple of full-length films have been released: Rebekah Fortune’s 2017 intense Coming-of-Age family drama, Just Charlie, and Anne Fontaine’s 2017 drama Reinventing Marvin. Also, there have been various short films such as Fragile and Barbie Boy. These are all prime examples of excellent cinematic portrayals of a challenging period in one’s self-identification.

Sarah Jane Drummey’s short film 134, released in 2019, does not bring many new ideas to the sub-genre, as most of the characters are clichéd – from the disappointed, rude father figure through the compassionate mother and a boy whose only desire is to be who his heart tells him to be. Yet aside from some odd choices of songs in the score, the film is shot intriguingly – with temporal leaps and flashbacks that greatly enhance the story’s impact.

Bill Cornally’s performance is notably good in the role of Jack, a young dancer who identifies as a girl, as are the performances of Freddy Cornally and Lewis Kraiem, who portray Jack in different stages of his life.

Unfortunately, the ending is clichéd as well, and that’s probably why I would hesitate to extend my wholehearted recommendation of the film. Focusing on gender identification in movies does not have the aura of a taboo it once had and, because of that, I expected a bit more of an effort on the part of the screenwriters.

 

 

134 (2019)
In short
An Irish couple struggle to cope with their child's gender identity.
2.9
Our rating

The Fire That Burns (1997)

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The Fire That Burns (1997 TV Movie)“God grants us the grace…to love someone.”

No one makes as poignant and as powerful a movie about adolescent love better than the French directors. Jean Delannoy`s 1964 classic This Special Friendship (Les amitiés particulières) is a prime example supporting that argument.

This is a review of a similarly themed film:  Christophe Malavoy`s The Fire That Burns (original title: La ville dont le prince est un enfant).

Adapted from the 1969 three-act play (later to become a novel) The Boys, by the French author Henry de Montherlant, the film relates the story of the passionate romantic relationship between two young pupils of a Catholic boarding school in France and the jealousy of a teacher (the Abbé de Pradts).

The narrative of the film is so close to that of This Special Friendship that it must be noted that the author of the play found inspiration in his own life as a student in a Catholic boarding school. That, and his friendship with Roger Peyrefitte (the author of This Special Friendship), could explain why the two novels’ stories (and their screen adaptations) share so many common traits.

Scene from The Fire That Burns (1997)
Friends Forever:  A scene from The Fire That Burns

Sixteen-year-old Sevrais (Naël Marandin) and 11-year-old Souplier (Clément van den Bergh) share a special friendship. They meet in secret and exchange small tokens of friendship, little gifts and romantic words in letters — always marked with “to be burned“ – aware that, while their relationship is not uncommon, it’s frowned upon and forbidden by the strict school authorities. To make matters worse, one of the teachers, the Abbe de Pradts, sees the young Souplier as his protégé (and fixation) and doesn’t want his own influence on the affectionate youth to be being interfered with.

Sevrais (Naël Marandin) being observed
Sevrais (Naël Marandin) being observed

When Abbe de Pradts discovers the relationship between his pupils, his jealousy is awakened, and he starts plotting a cruel plan to stop it.

Initially screened on French TV back in 1997, The Fire That Burns was then released as a DVD in 2003. The film’s cinematographic and aesthetic qualities are so high that they generate a desire for a repeat viewing of the entire film or scenes from it.

A choir performance, and acceptance of Sacramental bread, the flight of a paper plane or an intimate moment and passionate kiss – regardless of the nature of the scene the director chooses to focus on — they are filmed in such a professional manner that it makes the story feel more true to life than ever.

Sevrais and Souplier
Sevrais and Souplier

When it comes to cinematography, the attention to detail makes the difference.  Small props and imaginative use of lighting, shades, and reflections create a sense of depth or intimacy that intensifies the essential natures of the young actors’ character development throughout the story.

Regarding an evaluation of the actors’ performances, the fact is that the story manages to capture — not only the attention of but also the mind of — the viewer of the movie. It inspires strong emotions of sympathy (or anger or antipathy) for the film’s protagonists.

Clément van den Bergh, who plays young Souplier (fans of the Coming-of-Age genre may recall his lead role in Class Trip), delivers an authentic performance. Thanks to his emotive facial expressions, one is truly able to recognize the mischievous nature of his character as well as provide him with the playfulness, innocence and vulnerability for which children of his age are known.

The same comment is also valid for Naël Marandin (with whose character I have more reason to identify) – whose friendliness, love, anger and agony are easily recognized and felt by the moviegoer.

The film’s director, Christophe Malavoy, undertakes the film’s third main character – Abbe de Pradts. His character acts as an antagonist to the young pupils in love but observing his actions as right or wrong, the viewer attains a moral lesson – of what God and love really are.

Loving affection
Loving Affection

The Fire That Burns portrays young love, characterized by intensity, exclusivity, and intimacy that few other films offer. Although there are no inappropriate scenes in the entire film, some people (sadly) would find its story controversial.

When Sevrais and Souplier ardently gaze at each other, such a gaze is rare in today’s cinema. Modern films follow strict guidelines of what is and what is not acceptable to portray (which often results in fear, bullying and stigmatization).

DVD Trailer

Friendship, love, rivalry, obsession are among the issues addressed in The Fire That Burns. Both Sevrais and Abbe de Pradts want to be seen as role models for the young Souplier to positively influence his growth and development. Despite the best intentions, the disastrous consequences seem inevitable (then and even more so nowadays).

A must-see film by all means!! I was not able to identify a single flaw in the storytelling – cinematographically or otherwise.  That is why I highly recommend the film to audiences of all ages.

Production photos of the 1971 theatrical play are available at ASP@sia

The Fire That Burns (1997)
In short
Friendship, love, rivality, obsession are among the issues addressed in The Fire That Burns. A "must see" film!!
Character/Acting
Score/Soundtrack
Cinematography
Storyline/Screenplay
Production
Direction
Reader Rating1 Vote
5
OUR RATING
Where to get

Interview with Screenwriter Lars Hubrich

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Here at TheSkyKid.com we have always strived to be the site of reference when it comes to Coming-of-Age narratives and young talent in music and the arts. With regards to the films we review,  we try to offer an inside look into the movies we feature and are thankful when a filmmaker agrees to share with our readers his vision and wisdom. Noticing the rise of the Coming-of-Age genre in German productions, and after having featured a review of the 2020 film, Rival, we have approached one of the film’s screenwriters – Lars Hubrich.


 

Hello Lars, and welcome to TheSkyKid.com. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

Georgi Krastev: Before we get into discussing the outstanding drama you co-wrote with Marcus Lenz, could you give the readers of theskykid.com some idea of your background and how you decided to get involved in the filmmaking business?

Lars Hubrich: Thanks for having me! I’ve always been a huge film fan, and I spent a good amount of my childhood and teenage years in movie theaters. I grew up in Germany but moved to the United States to study architectural history and media studies.

My love for film never went away, though, so I started making short films while in college and then applied to the Radio/TV/Film department at Northwestern, where I spent four years working on my MFA. I then moved back to Germany and spent some years working for agencies, shooting videos. About 15 years ago, I started writing screenplays, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Georgi Krastev: Rival is a fascinating Coming-of-Age drama. I have read that the story is based on real people, and I found myself associating with the characters (not always for the right reasons) as the story developed.

What motivated you to tell the story of a young boy growing up in an odd and dreary atmosphere?

Lars Hubrich: Marcus is also a documentary filmmaker, and he told me about a moment he witnessed while working on a documentary. It also involved a young boy, a mother, and an older man.

We started talking about that moment and soon realized that we had a great starting point for a fictional story.

Film`s director Marcus Lenz and Yelizar Nazarenko on the set of Rival
Film`s director Marcus Lenz and Yelizar Nazarenko on the set of Rival

Georgi Krastev: As we’ve established, you co-wrote the script of Rival in collaboration with the film’s director, Marcus Lenz. What are the benefits of collaborating as opposed to writing solo?

Lars Hubrich: The benefits are that things can move faster and that you always have a second pair of eyes proofreading quickly. It also makes things less solitary – writing is such a lonely activity, it’s nice to have some company now and then.

 

Georgi Krastev: In my review of Rival, I referred to the acting of the young Yelizar Nazarenko as one of the most powerful performances in a character-driven Coming-of-Age drama I’ve seen. As a screenwriter, what was your feeling seeing your character come alive through Nazarenko’s performance? How was it working with him?

Lars Hubrich: I was really happy when I saw the boy acting out our scenes. Marcus had an interesting approach: he never showed Yelizar the screenplay. He would just describe the character’s situation and then let Yelizar improvise his reaction. Since we had a very tightly plotted screenplay, a lot of times he would what we imagined, but other times, he would really surprise us with a reaction we didn’t see coming. I love the rawness and vulnerability of his performance.

Great Coming-of-Age films coming out of Germany
Great Coming-of-Age films coming out of Germany

Georgi Krastev: In recent years, I have seen many great Coming-of-Age films emerging from Germany. Simon Says Goodbye to His Foreskin, A Handful of Grass, and The German Lesson are a few of those that we have reviewed on the site and, of course, your film Rival. Do you think there is a revival trend in the Coming-of-Age narrative and youth-focused films in Germany and Europe as a whole?

Lars Hubrich: I believe coming-of-age films always find an audience. They tell universal stories that a lot of people can relate to, so I don’t think they ever went away. As a matter of fact, I wrote an adaptation of a coming-of-age novel, called Tschick (English title: “Goodbye Berlin”), which Fatih Akin directed in 2016. It’s a bigger budget, more mainstream film, that I am really proud of. It’s very different from “Rival” but worth checking out.

Tschick (2016) Screenplay by Lars Hubrich
Tschick (2016) Screenplay by Lars Hubrich

Georgi Krastev: Was there anything you found particularly challenging while writing Rival?

Lars Hubrich: The biggest challenge was telling the story only from the boy’s perspective. We didn’t want the audience to know more than the boy, but we also wanted to clearly relate the plot. So we worked hard on balancing that.

 


Georgi Krastev: The final scene of the film is quite sudden. What do you hope that viewers will take away from the film`s story and what is your take on open-ended finales in films as opposed to set ones?

Lars Hubrich: I feel that an open-end can be satisfying if it gets you thinking. My hope is that the audience will imagine what happens next, that it will make them think about the film. Open endings can be frustrating if there are open plots and too many unanswered questions, but in our case, I believe that the ending comes naturally.

Georgi Krastev: I want to address distribution. It’s one of the questions that the readers most frequently ask me on my site — where can they find the films that we feature? Rival has been chosen for international distribution by Pluto Film. But I would like to know your take on content distribution these days. Do you think that fans of a particular genre can acquire a movie easier now than in the past?

Lars Hubrich: That’s a great question. There are so many streaming services these days that a lot of people think they have access to more films than ever before. The reality is that the average video store probably had more films than any of the streaming services combined. I still buy a lot of physical media, because there are a lot of films that you simply cannot find online. I also still really like going to the theaters. However, it’s also nice to have a film on something like Netflix, knowing that people all over the world can access it. In our case, I would be very happy to see a theatrical release followed by some streaming service that is accessible globally.

Scene from Rival
A scene from Rival

Georgi Krastev: As TheSkyKid.com mainly focuses on Coming-of-Age films, it would be interesting to know if you have a favorite Coming-of-Age film that you can recommend to people reading this interview.

Lars Hubrich: I have to name more than one! Stand By Me, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Once Upon a Time in High School, and, of course, 400 Blows 


We would like to thank Lars Hubrich for agreeing to give this interview to the readers of TheSkyKid.com.

You can find other exclusive interviews with people involved with the Coming-of-Age Genre by visiting our dedicated Interviews in Cinema Page.

Rival (2020)

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Some people argue that Coming-of-Age narratives are alike across all movies.

Nothing can be further than the truth, and Marcus Lenz‘s 2020 Coming-of-Age drama, Rival, is a perfect example of that.

Featuring a story that focuses entirely on its nine-year-old protagonist, Roman (Yelizar Nazarenko), the film explores themes such as jealousy, rivalry, illegal immigration, and growing up in an odd and dreary atmosphere.

 

The Story

A scene from Rival (2020)
A scene from Rival

After the death of his grandmother, with whom he had been living, Roman goes to live with his mother in Germany. His mother had been caring for an older woman who has just died. The surviving husband of the deceased, an elderly German man named Gert Schwarz, has fallen in love with Roman’s mother. Still, while the man has opened his home to the son of the woman who works for him, when Roman senses there is something more than an employer-employee relationship going on, the young boy feels betrayed. He begins seeing Gert as a rival competing for the attention of his mother.

Cinematography

Cinematographically, Rival is a masterpiece. The skills of Cinematographer Frank Amann in controlling the lighting in the scenes, the subtle changes of focus and the depth of field — effectively emphasizes the characters and their emotional state.

Musical Score

The film’s musical score and overall sound design are executed capably. There is no voice-over commentary, and the music that accompanies some of the scenes effectively cues the viewer to an emotion. Uplifting classical music is utilized to boost the euphoric atmosphere in some of the scenes, while in others it highlights the characters’ internal turmoil.

Acting

Yelizar Nazarenko
Yelizar Nazarenko is brilliant as Roman

The dialogue is partly in Russian, partly in German and, while that helps in character development, the emotive expressions and posture of the young Yelizar Nazarenko are essential — as a significant part of the storytelling is seemingly achieved by pointing the camera at him.

Trailer

A young boy sitting on the ground, hugging his knees – is a great example of a posture that doesn’t show his emotions but highlights how he is dealing with them. Emotions create a prevailing mood, while his posture and body language create a dynamic that allows the viewer to understand the trials and tribulations the young boy has to face.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Roman; Yelizar Nazarenko is in just about every scene of the movie resulting in one of the most powerful acting performances in a character driven Coming-of-Age drama you will ever witness.

Reflections

If you come from an immigrant background (like myself), associating with the story’s young protagonist will not be difficult to achieve. The challenge starts when one has to determine with whom his/her own sympathies lie. One can empathize with Roman for his young age and innocence, but when we get to know his mother or her elderly German employer, we see that, as in life, things are never really in black and white, and one should never be in a rush to pass judgment.

Rival has the undeniable flair and atmosphere of independent European cinema. It tells a story of real people realistically. And even the sudden and cruel finale contributes to the overall impact of the picture by allowing the viewer to interpret the outcome of one boy’s loss of innocence, in his/her own manner.

Rival (2020)
In short
Rival is a Coming-of-Age film exploring themes such as jealousy, rivalry, illegal immigration, and growing up in an odd and dreary atmosphere.
Character/Acting
Score/Soundtrack
Cinematography
Storyline/Screenplay
Production
Direction
Reader Rating1 Vote
5
Our rating

The Djinn (2021)

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The 2021 American thriller, The Djinn, is a perfect example of a full-featured movie that could be much more effective as a short film. However, its good-looking poster artwork and enticing tagline, “what is done cannot be undone”,  promised much more than the film was able to deliver to its audience.

The flick’s premise is simple, with its cliché ridden–plot, props, and production design as a whole. Dylan Jacobs (Ezra Dewey) is a twelve-year-old mute boy who has recently moved into a new house with his father (Rob Brownstein).

Left alone one night, Dylan starts exploring the house and stumbles upon a weird antique book with the peculiar title:  Book of Shadows. In the book, Dylan reads a passage that promises that if one completes a simple ritual, it will summon a demonic spirit of desire known as Djinn, who will grant one wish for anyone who manages to survive an hour in his presence. Curious and enthralled, Dylan decides to give it a try hoping that the Djinn can fulfil his greatest desire and grant him a voice of his own.

Dylan Jacobs (Ezra Dewey)
Dylan Jacobs (Ezra Dewey)

From this moment on in the film, viewers should buckle up alongside Dylan as he experiences an evening of fright and survival. Or at least that’s what one would hope for and expect anyway. But, unfortunately, the many flaws in the film soon become apparent. The story drags on and on, the space in which the action takes place is very confined, and the happening itself causes a sense of boredom, which is not even salvaged by the filmmaker’s predictable attempt at waking up the viewer with the help of jump scares.

The only redeeming quality of the film is the acting of the young Ezra Dewey, who practically carries the whole movie, appearing in just about every scene and showcasing his acting talent by portraying a mute boy relying on the emotions reflected on his face.

But, unfortunately, it all feels like a game of Hide and Seek with the Djinn, which could have worked in a 15-minute film, but was utterly boring in the 82 minutes of screen time devoted to the plot.

The Djinn feels like an R rated Home Alone, but the truth is you’d be better off watching Home Alone once again rather than wasting your time watching this film.

Trailer

 

The Djinn (2021)
In short
Despite superb acting by its young protagonist, The Djinn is a too long attempt at being scary that would have been better as a short film.
Character/Acting
Score/Soundtrack
Cinematography
Storyline/Screenplay
Production
Direction
Reader Rating2 Votes
2
Our rating
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