Children’s Film Symposium: angels and eggs, Disney and dreams

The Center for the Humanities and Program in Film & Media Studies, both in Arts & Sciences, will host the Fourth Annual Children’s Film Symposium Thursday and Saturday, Nov. 15 and 17.

Presented in conjunction with Cinema St. Louis, the event will feature a keynote address by Neal Gabler, author of “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” (2006) and a Q&A with Marion Comer, writer and director of the film “48 Angels” (2006). Screenings will include a series of Disney shorts and three feature-length children’s films, including “48 Angels” as well as “Of Love and Eggs” (2004) and “Mahek” (2007).

The festival will open at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in the auditorium of the Saint Louis Art Museum with the lecture by Gabler, cultural historian and film critic as well as a senior fellow at the University of Southern California. The first writer to gain complete access to the Disney archives, Gabler reconstructs Disney’s life in meticulous detail, with particular attention to the development of the Disney studio and management of early hits such as “Fantasia” and “Pinocchio.”

Newsweek praises the book as “the definitive Disney bio.” Gabler’s previous books include “An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood” (1990), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and “Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity” (1994), named nonfiction book of the year by Time magazine.

The festival continues at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, in Brown Hall Auditorium with “Of Love and Eggs.” This warm comedy, the fifth feature by Indonesian director Garin Nugroho, is set in a working-class Jakarta market during the Muslim holiday of Lebaran. The interwoven storylines — classroom problems, the efforts to build a new cupola for the local mosque and a variety of intrigues involving eggs — broach sensitive religious, social and generational issues with subtlety, insight and gentle humor.

At 1 p.m., “48 Angels” is screened, followed by a Q&A with director Marion Comer. Set in present-day Northern Ireland, “48 Angels” tells the story of Seamus, a 9-year-old boy diagnosed with a serious illness. In search of a miracle and inspired by tales of the 6th-century St. Columcille, Seamus sets off to find God in a small boat without oars or sail. Yet his path collides with those of James, a 14-year-old runaway traumatized by the death of his father, and Darry, a recently released prisoner once again fleeing the police.

Comer, a native of Ireland, began her career as an actor in the United Kingdom and began writing and directing short films before attending London’s Saint Martins School of Art. Her directorial debut, “Boxed,” was one of the “Ten Best Films of 2003” by the Chicago Reader and won “Best Feature” at the 2003 Boston Irish Film Festival. She is a directing fellow at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

The festival concludes at 3 p.m. with “Mahek.” Directed by Kranti Kanade, “Mahek” was named “Best Feature Film Award” at the 2007 Arpa International Film Festival in Hollywood. It tells the story of bright 12-year-old girl who daydreams of being the best at everything but doesn’t really know where her talents lie. Yet with the help of magic-less fairy godmother, she sets out to rein-in her imagination and unlock her true strengths and abilities.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call the Center for the Humanities at 935-5576.