Kauwboy will represent the Netherlands in the competition for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Academy Awards and there is not a more deserving film for this accolade. The title is literally translated as jackdaw boy and is about Jojo, a ten year old boy who is struggling to deal with his mother’s absence and his father’s rage. His security guard father works long hours and leaves Jojo to fend for himself emotionally and physically. One day Jojo finds a baby jackdaw that has been thrown out of the nest and, after unsuccessfully trying to return it, he invests all his energy into looking after the vulnerable bird. The young boy quickly develops a friendship with the bird and this helps him come to terms with the changes to his family unit.
This is a tender coming of age film with an outstanding performance from Rick Lens as Jojo. The story is an emotional rollercoaster and it is refreshing for a film to be unafraid of not having happen what the audience would want. This is completely unpredictable with an unforeseen twist or two and extremely realistic reactions and performances from all the characters.
Reminiscent of Kes (1969), also featuring a young boy befriending a bird, Kauwboy still feels fresh and exciting. This film will appeal to younger audiences but it has such emotional depth it will reward older audiences too. Beautifully shot, the film features majestic scenes of flight and close ups of Jojo’s curious face. Moving images become still as we see snapshots of moments, allowing the audience to digest the emotional significance of them. Blue tones and green hues are emphasised in the visuals of the film giving a melancholic feel to the story and focusing on the contrast of the manmade environment and the natural one.
Jojo’s blossoming friendship with the jackdaw also coincides with him befriending a human, a blue bubble-gum blowing girl on his water polo team; Yenthe (Susan Radder), which adds another dimension to the story. Jojo’s problematic relationship with his father becomes more complex as we learn more and we begin to see things from a different perspective. This is a multi-layered film which plunges its audience below the surface and allows you to become emotionally involved at every point.
The film premiered at Berlin Film Festival 2012 where it won the award for Best First Feature and the Generation Kplus Grand Prix and also won the first European Young Audience Award, an award hoped to encourage younger audiences to watch more European films. This is a magnificent film to introduce young people to the joys of European arthouse cinema.
The young boy’s performance in this film is incredible and the father, played by Loek Peters, is equally believable. The film has a very real feel to it and it is easy at times to forget you are watching a feature film rather than a documentary. Moving and joyous Kauwboy is a short but perfectly formed film that stands out as an honest portrayal of growing up and dealing with loss and sorrow.
Kauwboy is being screened at the Barbican on Saturday, 24th November. For more details check out the link http://www.barbican.org.uk/education/event-detail.asp?ID=14037
Director: Boudewijn Koole
Writers: Jolein Laarman, Boudewijn Koole
Stars: Rick Lens, Loek Peters and Cahit Ölmez
Runtime: 81 mins