This year, Children's Film Festival Seattle, which runs from Thursday, January 22 to Saturday, February 7 at Northwest Film Forum, celebrates its 10th anniversary. From its earliest days, the festival has aimed to engage kids with film, teach them about filmmaking and give them a glimpse of the wider world. From a festival that started by screening only around 50 mostly short films, it's grown into the largest and most respected chlidren's film festival on the west coast with a reputation that is expanding around the world.
This year's festival is showing more than 175 films from 58 countries and will include live performances, animation, features, shorts, and hands-on filmmaking workshops — all designed to inspire a new generation of filmmakers.
When the festival began ten years ago it only took about four months to pull together. Now it is a year-round effort. The films are judged by juries of children, including a special jury made up of patients from Seattle Children's Hospital. This year, three of the festival's regular judges were invited to participate on the international jury of the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy.
The expanding reputation of Seattle's festival has also led to the submission of higher-quality films. For example, two of the animated films in the short programs, The Dam Keeper and Me and My Moulton, have just been announced as Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short Film.
The festival also participates in the creation of new films for children. Several years ago it was invited by the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company to be part of a jury that selected scripts to be produced. This year the festival will host the world premiere of Sally's Way, a film the festival helped bring to life.
The great value of the Children's Film Festival is that kids have the opportunity to not just see movies but to meet fillmmakers, learn how films are made and develop a broader understanding of world cultures. Many of the films included this year show kids how they have the power to change the world, not just when they grow up, but right now. Films like Lola on the Pea and Havana Curveball introduce kids to how messed up and complex the world can be but how, in spite of numerous obstacles, they can succeed.
Here are a number of events and films at the festival we particularly recommend, but please take time to peruse the schedule yourself to see what might interest your family. It is hard go wrong! The schedule includes excellent age recommendations.
Top film and event picks for every age
Opening-night screening of Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Thursday, January 22, 7 p.m.
The opener of the festival is a screening of the physical-comedy-rich Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill, Jr., which tells the story of an accident-prone and bookish son who must help his burly, steamboat captain father save his business from a rival tycoon. Seattle musicians and composers Miles & Karina will perform a new score for the film.
Pajama Party with Caspar Babypants
Friday, Jan. 23, 7 p.m.
Ages 3 and up
Break out the footie PJs: Seattle's favorite kids' artist will peform and there will be cupcakes and dancing as well as a sneak peek of the festival.
Pancake Breakfast and Short Film Smorgasbord
Saturday, Jan. 31, 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, 1804 13th Ave., Seattle
Ages 3 and up
Another great pick for younger kids: Enjoy all-you-can eat pancakes, followed by a special screening of Fantastic Journeys, a magical program of new animated and live action shorts from eight countries.
Saturday, January 24, 5 p.m.
Ages 12+. In French with English subtitles
A 17-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who needs to bond with his father brings his family together by hatching a plan to have his father help him through the Ironman triathalon.
Sunday, January 25, 5 p.m.
Monday, January 26 at 7 p.m.
Ages 11+. In English and Spanish, with English subtitles
A documentary about a boy who wants to send baseball equipment to Havana and discovers that doing something good is not always easy.
On the Way to School
Saturday, January 24, 7 p.m.
Ages 9+. In French, Swahili, Maasai, and Spanish with English subtitles
A documentary about four children from Kenya, Morocco, India and Patagonia and the remarkable journeys they make just to go to school. Not to be missed.
Clara and the Secret of the Bears
Saturday, January 24, 1:30 p.m.
Ages 10+. In German with English subtitles
Equal parts ghost story and nature adventure set in the spectacular Swiss Alps, the film tells the story of a girl named Clara who much find a way to remove an ancient witch's curse. This film premieres in Seattle.
Wave of Wonder
Thursday, January 29, 5 p.m.
Saturday, January 31, 1 p.m.
Ages 9+ (65 min)
The short film programs are all worthwhile, with Wave of Wonder as a good example. A collection of marvelous painterly animation shorts including the Oscar-nominated The Dam Keeper.