The Children's Film Festival Seattle running Jan. 24-Feb. 3, is back at Northwest Film Forum for its eighth year of animated and live action film from all over the world. This year 120 films from over 35 countries will be screened. This is the largest film festival of its kind on the West coast and if your family loves watching movies you don't want to miss it.
Picks for younger kids
Most of the films are appropriate for ages 8 and up although there are a number of films for younger children, most notably Krish, Trish, and Baltiboy, an animated film from India (Feb. 2, 5 p.m.), the short film China Fantasia (Jan. 26, 29 and Feb. 2), and Captain January (Jan. 27 and Feb. 3), an old silent movie featuring early child star Baby Peggy that's being presented with a new score performed live by Leslie McMichael.
For the very little kids there is a program of animated shorts called Short and Sweet (Jan. 27 and Feb. 3, 11 a.m.) and a series of animal-themed animations titled Noah's Ark (Feb. 1 and 2, 11 a.m.). Parents should note that the films occasionally come with subtitles -- although for the presentations for younger children lack of ability to read is not necessarily a barrier to their enjoyment.
For kids 8 and older there is a lot to choose from and in my opinion this is where the international lineup really brings value to the experience. Because these films are coming from different cultural backgrounds, the storytelling presents perspectives that can challenge and enlighten young audiences typically raised on the standard Hollywood fare.
The opening night feature Zarafa, for example (Jan. 24, 7 p.m., and Feb. 3, 1 p.m.), which follows the journey of an escaped slave boy and baby giraffe from Africa to Paris, inspired an interesting debate in our family.
On the surface the film resembles the highest quality Disney animation but its powerful themes of loss, commitment, and redemption were difficult for our son, who is very empathic toward suffering in any form. Our 10-year-old daughter on the other hand, who has recently developed an appreciation for drama, was tearful at the tragedy but ultimately uplifted by the hope and courage of the characters. This is not a discussion I would expect to have walking out of something like Hotel Transylvania.
Other notable features for older kids include a full-length German adaptation of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, (Jan. 27, 5 p.m., Jan. 28, 7 p.m.), the magical realist film Maria’s Tightrope from Brazil (Jan. 27, 7 p.m.), and one of my personal favorites, the remarkable Taking Chances from The Netherlands (Feb. 2, 3 p.m.), about an imaginative 9-year-old girl who devises a plan to help her father, a doctor in a war zone, increase his chances of survival.
In addition to the films there will be a variety of special events, including:
- A wildly popular opening weekend pajama party and Caspar Babypants show on Friday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. ($10; $38/family of four)
- A pancake breakfast and short film Smorgasbord on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 9:30 a.m ($14; $50 family of four)
- Throughout the festival there will be a drop-in animation clinic in the Film Forum lobby hosted by British animator Charlotte Blacker.
- On Sunday, Feb. 3 at 11 a.m., the Sponge Language School will run an interactive Mandarin-language lesson based on one of the Taiwanese short films screening that day.
- The Festival has also expanded this year by partnering with Seattle Children's Hospital. In addition to screening short films made by Children's Hospital patients as part of the festival they will provide screenings and educational workshops in hospital wards. There will also be a patient-led children’s jury, which will award special prizes to festival short films.
If you go ...
Where: Most events and screenings are held at Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., Seattle.
Tickets: Individual tickets can be purchased online, and are $7 for students, seniors, and children 12 and under, $10 for adults, and $6 for Film Forum members.
General passes for the festival are $180 or $90 for Film Forum members. Passes include all screenings and events except for festival opening night (Thursday), Friday pajama party and Saturday pancake breakfast.
About the author: John Kubalak is a writer, teacher, volunteer coordinator, raconteur, and scalawag. He does not publish science fiction under the pseudonym Jonathan Black but he does publish a monograph on fatherhood, The Eclectic Dad. He has a son, a daughter, a beautiful wife (and a little dog too!) who are adorable, maddening, zany, and brilliant all at the same time.