Directed by: Simone van Dusseldorp | 80 minutes | family | Actors: Hiba Ghafry, Matheu Hinzen, Jashayra Oehlers, Felix van de Weerdt, Mimoun Oaïssa, Birgit Schuurman, Mariana Aparicio Torres, Fabian Jansen, Rene van ‘t Hof
If anyone knows how to put themselves in the perspective of children, then it is screenwriter and director Simone van Dusseldorp. The television series ‘Otje’, after the famous character created by Annie MG Schmidt, was critically acclaimed, as were her films ‘Kikkerdril’ (2009) and ‘Life according to Nino’ (2014). Van Dusseldorp, in whose films often play a prominent role for animals, is a welcome guest at the Cinekid children’s film festival. For the Cinekid 2016 edition, Van Dusseldorps ‘Uilenbal’ (2016) was selected as the opening film. A youth film according to Van Dusseldorp’s proven success recipe, so including songs that seem to be made up spontaneously on the spot, but also with a leading role for animals. Not just the owl from the title,
‘Uilenbal’ is about eight-year-old Meral (Hiba Ghafry), who has just moved. She wants to play with the children from her new neighborhood, but making new friends is not easy. Desi (Jashayra Oehlers) and her Velcro friends are not easy to approach. And Jason (Matheu Hinzen), who is in a wheelchair because he broke his leg, is more interested in nature and the small animals around them. Only shy Vito (Felix van der Weerdt) is interested, but he has a lot of rules for their friendship. During the first night in her new room, Meral discovers that she is the little mouse Piepiep, with whom she befriends. The next day Meral goes to her new school, where she sees the neighborhood children back in class. The new class is busy with preparations for the upcoming school camp. Of course Meral would like to come along. On the day Meral goes to school camp, her mother (Mariana Aparicio Torres) discovers the mouse and wants to start spreading poison. To save her new boyfriend, Meral secretly takes Piepiep with her.
Meral is placed in the same room as Desi, Vito and Jason, who soon discover her secret boyfriend. However, the shared secret brings them closer together and they decide to befriend. But when they go into the woods to play, Piepiep is suddenly caught by an owl. Sad and angry, Meral blames her new friends for believing that the mouse cannot be saved. This is not what Meral wants to hear. She leaves alone in the woods to look for Piepiep …
The set-up of ‘Uilenbal’ is fairly standard: a girl has to find her way around a new environment. She eventually finds friendship with those children with whom she initially seems to have little in common. Friendships are crucial for children, especially when they are new somewhere. Children with characteristics that initially seem negative to you can help them in certain situations. This dynamic can be seen most strongly between Meral and Desi. The newcomer opposite the popular ‘Queen Bee’, who has a swarm of followers around her who copy all her gestures and movements. Add to that the timid Vito, who makes anyone interested in becoming friends with him sign a contract stating, among other things, that they should be no more than five meters away from each other,
And for children of about eight years old, a school camp in the woods, where they are away for a few nights without their parents for the first time, is of course a great adventure. The film was largely shot in the woods and dunes near Schoorl, which produces beautiful pictures. Nature, which plays such a prominent role in Van Dusseldorp’s oeuvre, comes into its own so well. And for eight-year-olds, there really is still plenty to discover in the woods. The songs, which worked so infectiously in ‘Kikkerdril’, also now hit the mark (although they are not all sung equally cleanly). The lyrics are funny and stick well. ‘Uilenbal’ is not as original as ‘Kikkerdril’, but this film by Simone van Dusseldorp also offers more than enough entertainment for a rainy afternoon.