“Wendy” Turns “Peter Pan” Inside Out

Director Benh Zeitlin took 8 years to make another film after his critically-acclaimed first feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild. You’d think that a man who won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and received 4 Oscar nominations, then landed a first-look deal with Fox Searchlight would have cranked out a new movie within a few short years. But Zeitlin took his time to develop a project near and dear to his heart, a reimagining of the classic children’s tale Peter Pan, but told from Wendy’s perspective.

In addition to his long development process, Zeitlin worked with the same directorial approach as his last film, and used unprofessional child actors and real locations, in this case a Caribbean island with a live volcano. It was an intense, grueling shoot that took two months. He turns the wild nature of the place into a separate character, terrain that informs the children’s own wild behavior, which is as much a part of the landscape as the volcano and capable of the same explosive intensity.

Ben Zeitlin, director of "Wendy"
Director Ben Zeitlin

Zeitlin’s magical-realist style is on full display with Wendy, for which he creates an adult-free utopia where anything can happen. But the biggest change comes through the depiction of his determined protagonist, as Wendy is a girl with real agency who takes charge of the story’s direction.

Don’t miss this special advance screening of Wendy, only at the Grand lake Theatre in Oakland, Thursday February 20, shown with two short films, The Last Day of Autumn and We Are One. Buy your tickets here!

“Gum and Sauce Go to Skill School” Brings the Funny

Many of our films have high artistic or thematic intent, and those are fantastic reasons to make a film. But to quote Mary Poppins, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” and cartoon creators have long known that humor is an excellent tool for imparting life lessons.

"Gum and Sauce" still image
Sauce and Gum, from Gum and Sauce Go to Skill School

Gum and Sauce Go to Skill School fits right into the long tradition of humorous cartoon shorts, the kind you watched after school or on a Saturday afternoon. Main characters Gum and Sauce are a boy and girl who act exactly as promised: Gum is able to stretch into different shapes, and Sauce can act as a liquid. Yet this story’s focus isn’t their semisolid malleability, but instead aimed at the rough spots in their friendship, specifically Gum’s inability to apologize after playing a prank on Sauce.

The animation is crisp and fun, and the voice work fits the characters. It’s easy to imagine this being a series. We meet one other speaking character, Counselor Clump (who might be a hairball or a dust bunny), and her existence hints at a wider world peopled with others made of various substances.

Let’s hope this gets picked up as an ongoing show — we’re looking at you, Nickelodeon! You can watch this at BAICFF 2020 as part of Shorts All Ages: Program 2.