So it’s the final day of GameCity 6 and I thought I’d share some of my personal highlights of this year’s festival. There has been a lot to see over the past few days and unfortunately I’ve been unable to catch every event that’s been on offer. However on Thursday night I was lucky enough to attend the UK premier of the Czech film entitled ‘Kooky’. Before GameCity6 had begun I was completely unaware of this movie, so going into the screening I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that it told a story about a toy bear trying to find his way home and that the characters were all puppets. I was intrigued by the premise and after seeing the film I was very impressed and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a fantasy adventure.
The film follows the character Kooky who is a toy bear that belongs to a young boy with an extravagant imagination. The boy is very attached to the bear and keeps him close at all times, much to the dismay of his mother who dislikes the bear because of the dust it collects and transfers to her son, who suffers from some form of asthma. The mother tells the boy that the bear is old and must be thrown away, claiming that he acts more like a baby than a school boy. So the bear is disposed of and eventually arrives at a landfill where his journey begins. This is where we see Kooky come to life for the first time; he must escape the evil rubbish fiends that inhabit the landfill who are hunting him. Kooky manages to escape and enters a magical forest where he befriends some highly entertaining and quirky characters who help him on his journey back home.
The dialogue in the film is really quite fun and charismatic which surprised me because before the film I assumed that there would be subtitles; it being a Czech film. So when the film began and I heard dubbed English voice actors I was a little disappointed. The director made a very smart and interesting decision though; he chose to use English voice actors that had Czech accents. Once the film got going I really appreciated this decision and actually thought it added to the charm of the film. I normally despise dubbed films (except corny martial arts movies) and prefer to have the original language with subtitles present, but Kooky really changed my mind and showed that it is possible to have dubbed audio that works; it really was amusing.
The art direction was very unusual but in the best possible way. The characters all had a very organic look and texture to them (except the rubbish fiends) and this really combined well with the forest environment that is the setting for much of the film. The characters are really tiny so the camera shots were focused on minute areas of the forest which showed off the detail and beauty of what from a human’s view looks merely like a piece of dirt or a few wet leaves, when in fact there is so much there to see when the time is taken to look a little closer. There are some truly sublime shots and natural vistas on display in this film that at times made me question whether they’re real or just computer generated. The film really comes together at the end and reaches a satisfying conclusion that merges Kooky’s world with the boy’s reality in a rather interesting way that I won’t spoil. I particularly enjoyed the underlying message in the film, which at least for me seemed to be a comment on how in certain ways parents discourage children’s imaginative and fantastical thoughts in favour of making sure they are behaving and staying safe. I think Kooky is trying to shine a light on that imaginative potential inherent in all children and encourage parents to be more forgiving and ultimately encourage wherever a child’s mind wanders.
Being a film premier I also had the pleasure to sit through a Q&A with the writer/director and the designer of the film afterwards. There were some great questions from the audience that unearthed some of the inspirations and challenges relevant to the film’s creation. I learned that the film was actually inspired by the writer’s own experiences playing with his son and his own toys. Probably the most impressive fact I discovered about the film was that there is only one shot in the whole movie that includes cgi, which really surprised me. There are so many beautiful shots and pieces of action but the writer said that all the puppetry was done for real and the majority of the technical talent was dedicated to compositing certain shots in post-production.
I didn’t really plan on reviewing this film but I guess this has turned into one; I’ll just end by saying this is a splendid film that will probably go unnoticed by most people, but I encourage children and adults who enjoy fantasy storytelling to give it a chance because in many ways it really is quite unique.