Art house: Cool Kids Don't Cry

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 9:12am

The international film festival held annually in Rotterdam is well-regarded in film circles but the Netherlands is one of those countries whose cinemagoers favour Hollywood blockbusters - some of which have either had Dutch directors such as Paul Verhoeven ( RoboCop; Starship Troopers) at the helm or have featured Dutch thespians such as Rutger Hauer ( Blade Runner) and Famke Janssen ( X-Men).

In recent years, however, two types of Dutch films have done well at the local box office: those with a multicultural feel (such as Hush Hush Baby and Schnitzel Paradise - both comedies with Dutch-Moroccan main characters); and family films, especially adaptations of well-known children's novels.

Zambian-born director Dennis Bots' Cool Kids Don't Cry is one of those works that falls squarely into both categories.

A hit adaptation of a children's novel by Jacques Vriens (who makes a cameo appearance as a bicyclist in the film) with fans in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany as well as the Netherlands, this child-centric drama tells the story of Akkie (Hanna Obbeek), a soccer-obsessed eighth grader whose life dramatically changes after she is diagnosed with leukaemia.

A popular girl in her class at Martin Luther King School (in the Netherlands), the blue-eyed blonde is surrounded throughout the film by a number of interesting characters.

Although she could be said to be something of a tomboy, Akkie's friends are mostly female. Her circle also includes the artistic Laurens (Bram Flick) and the shy but loyal Brammetje (Amin Belyandouz).

Akkie's relationships with various grown-ups, including perky teacher Miss Ina (Eva van der Gucht), the genial "Dr Moustache" (Loek Peters) and motherly, Surinam-born ward nurse Afida (Chrisje Comvalius) at the hospital where she is treated are noteworthy. The adults never talk down to the young girl, who acts her age rather than coming across as too precocious to be true as is sometimes the case with child characters.

The world depicted in Cool Kids Don't Cry can be on the idealistic side. There aren't any truly nasty people in the film. On the other hand, the filmmakers and the writer don't shy away from depicting serious illness, often painful treatment and side effects.

Viewers looking for a happy ending should be warned that this film has a bittersweet conclusion.

This has not prevented this 2012 film from winning a number of awards at home and at children's film festivals in Toronto and Vienna. The Norwegian remake rights have been sold and the Americans seem interested in it, too.

Cool Kids Don't Cry is a touching offering, which can elicit tears from adults as well as children, cool or not. Cool Kids Don't Cry , July 19, 7.30pm, July 27, 11am, July 28, 7.30pm, Hong Kong Film Archive. Part of the International Children's Film Carnival 2013