TIFF Kids 2017: Our Review of ‘Not Without Us!’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, TIFF Kids 2017 by - April 06, 2017
TIFF Kids 2017: Our Review of ‘Not Without Us!’

Sigrid Klausmann’s latest documentary Not Without Us! follows children from all over the world as they go about a regular day in their life. Observing the kids as the travel to school by foot, ski, subway, donkey, boats, skateboards and other methods of transportation, the film aims to show how similar their concerns and fears about the world are despite their differences. Not even teenagers yet, many speak frankly about their concerns surrounding heavy issues such as terrorism, the environment, prostitution, and war to name a few.

Starting out following seven individuals from five continents, the roster quickly expands to sixteen by time the film is done. This inadvertently exposes the inherent flaw in Klausmann’s film. While the kids are charming, and wise beyond their years, she never lingers long enough on any of them to get in-depth insight. This creates a strange juxtaposition in terms of how the film navigates giving their various hardships equal weight. Individually they all have compelling stories, but together it feels uneven.

This is not to say that a child living in isolation in the lush Austrian Alps cannot be as compelling as an HIV positive child in South Africa. However, one walks away from the film with only a surface understanding of its subjects. At one point a girl from Jordan speaks about how the influx of Syrian refugees has overwhelmed the school system; an interesting topic that, like most of the stories in the film, is treated like a footnote in a crowded pool of underdeveloped ideas. Since these children dream of being doctors, police officers and artists, it would have been nice had Not Without Us! delved deeper into the environments that are shaping their future, for better or worse.

Not Without Us! is playing on Sun April 9th at 12:45 PM; Tues April 11th at 12:15 PM; Thu April 13th at 10:00 AM; Sun April 16th at 2:00 PM; and Fri April 21st at 12:30 PM at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

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Courtney has been sharing his thoughts on film online since 2006. The founder of Cinema Axis, he frequently celebrates diversity in cinema as one of the co-hosts of the Changing Reels podcast on Modern Superior. A regular on the Regent Radio program Frameline, Courtney has contributed to several publications including Black Girl Nerds, Comix Asylum Magazine and The Grid Does TIFF. He is also a member of both the Canadian Association of Online Film Critics and the Online Film Critics Society.