Before I had kids, I would see a dozen movies every year at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). As a mom, that just isn’t possible. But SIFF is the largest film festival in the United States; and among the more than 400 films it screens, there are quite a few family-friendly offerings. In fact, this year, families get a head start on the festivities with a SIFF Films4Families preview on Saturday, May 14 (the full festival runs May 19–June 12). Here are seven reasons for families to get excited about SIFF.
1. The Angry Birds Movie and SIFF Films4Families preview on May 14
Whet your family’s appetite for the rest of the fest with a free screening of The Angry Birds Movie. The screening includes a sneak peek at SIFF 2016's Film4Families programming. Parents will appreciate the adult beverages at SIFF Cinema Uptown’s snack bar.
Details: Saturday, May 14 at 3:30 p.m.; SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N.; preregister for free tickets.
2. Films4Families screenings from around the world
Although many of SIFF’s films are appropriate for families, the festival saves parents time by curating a special all-ages program. Films4Families is a selection of top-quality children’s films from around the world, which screen during the earliest time slot on each weekend day of the festival.
This year France is especially well-represented in the program. Look forward to Belle and Sebastian, the Adventure Continues (you did know the twee indie band was named for a French children’s story, didn’t you?), arctic adventure movie Long Way North, an animal-focused documentary called Seasons, and from the Academy Award-winning team behind the delightful A Cat in Paris, a new animated superhero adventure titled Phantom Boy. Other highlights include Rainbow, an Indian film about two children on a quest to meet superstar Shah Rukh Khan.
Details: The single ticket price for most screenings is $13 (though those that occur before noon daily will be $6–$8). You can also save money with six-pack and 20-pack ticket bundles. Looking for something family-friendly outside the F4F program? Try Kedi, a movie about the free-roaming cats of Istanbul.
3. Crash course in filmmaking
Why just watch movies when you can make them? Crash Kids is a non-competitive movie production challenge during which children go from concept to movie screening in one day. Teams of kids aged 9–12 work with a professional media educator to create a short film in just eight hours. The program is offered throughout the year, but there are two workshops associated with the festival – on Saturday, May 7 and Saturday, May 14.
Details: Registration is $50 and scholarships are available.
4. Catch the FutureWave
FutureWave, SIFF’s youth education arm, focuses on digital literacy and offers youth education programs year-round, but during the festival FutureWave is also a film program of special interest to teens. The selection of films is eclectic, ranging from misfit road-trip movie Microbe and Gasoline to Before the Streets, a redemption story about a young man’s return to Native traditions. It is the first film set among the Atikamekw communities of Québec and features an indigenous cast speaking in their native language. Also during the festival, the FutureWave Youth Juries (seven students between 8–12 years old, and seven between 13–18 years old) get to be “the Academy” and select the recipient of a Best Film award in their respective program. This year’s juries have already been selected, but all festival goers are invited to rate each movie they attend and cast their ballot in the Golden Space Needle Awards.
5. Virtual SIFF
A four-day miniature festival within the festival, SIFFX explores and celebrates virtual reality (VR) and the technology that makes immersive storytelling possible. While many of the events are geared towards filmmakers and tech nerds, there’s plenty for families to get excited about, starting with a screening of 360º documentaries at Pacific Science Center’s Laser Dome on Thursday, June 2. (A warning: Even though the medium is thrilling, the subject matter can be heavy; one of the films is The Crossing, Susan Sarandon's immersive video diary about the Syrian refugee crisis.)
The next day, the Pacific Science Center Laser Dome will screen the stereoscopic VR documentary Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart. June 3–5, explore the X Gallery, a showcase of artistic expression that ranges from a VR interpretation of Alice in Wonderland to a memoir about growing up in a war zone.
6. Celebrating African films
SIFF’s film program "Celebrate Africa" helps audiences become more informed about the diverse wonders and challenges of life on Earth’s second-largest continent using films you won’t have a chance to see anywhere else. Movies like Eye of the Storm, which deals with child soldiers, and Action Commandante, the story of a 20-year-old martyred in the fight against apartheid, are eye-opening for teens.
Younger siblings will engage with Lamb, the story of a 9-year-old boy trying to keep his pet from becoming a religious sacrifice, and all ages will get a kick out of the short film Alive & Kicking: The Soccer Grannies of South Africa.
Not officially part of the program, but great for kids, Naledi: A Baby Elephant's Tale, tells the true story of an orphaned baby elephant raised by the men of a rescue camp. (Sunday, June 5, 4:30 PM SIFF Cinema Egyptian, Monday, June 6, 6 p.m., Kirkland Performance Center.)
7. For short attention spans
Most kids have no problem sitting through a movie — as long as it’s one they like. When you’ve gone to the trouble of buying tickets and hauling the whole family to a theater, it’s nice to be able to tell a wiggly kid, “Hang on, a new movie is starting in a couple minutes.” SIFF has two short film events especially for families. The Family Picture Show is a playful set of animated, live action, and documentary short films curated especially with young viewers in mind. (Saturday May 28, 11:30 a.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater); and FutureWave Shorts – The Best of NFFTY collects short films by filmmakers 18 and under from around the world. (Monday, May 30, 3:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater). The Wavemaker Award for Excellence in Youth Filmmaking will be presented at this screening.
If you go ...
Box office: The festival box office opens Thursday, May 5. Buy online or by phone at 206-324-9996, and in person at any SIFF venue box office.
Locations: If you haven’t been to SIFF since you moved to the suburbs, you might be surprised to find the festival at a theater near you. In addition to theaters all over Seattle, SIFF has screenings at Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue, at Kirkland Performance Center, Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center and Shoreline Community College.
Showtimes for Films4Families and other family-friendly SIFF screenings
Belle and Sebastian, the Adventure Continues
d. Christian Duguay | France 2015 | 97 min
Friday May 20, 4:30 p.m. Majestic Bay Cinemas
Sunday May 22 11:00 AM SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
Saturday May 28 1:00 PM Shoreline Community College
d.Stuart McDonald | Australia 2016 | 93 min
Saturday May 28 1 p.m. Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
Saturday June 4 11:30 a.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
Sunday June 5 1 p.m. Ark Lodge Cinemas
Long Way North
d. Rémi Chayé | France, Denmark 2015 | 81 min
Saturday May 21 11 a.m. Pacific Place Cinemas
Sunday May 22 1 p.m. Lincoln Square
Sunday May 29 1 p.m. Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
d. Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol | France, Belgium 2015 | 84 min
Monday May 30 11 a.m. SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Thursday June 9 6:30 p.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
d. Nagesh Kukunoor | India 2015 | 103 min
Monday May 30 1 p.m. Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
Saturday June 4 1 p.m. Kirkland Performance Center
Sunday June 5 11:30 a.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
d. Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud | France, Germany 2015 | 95 min
Sunday May 29 11 a.m. Pacific Place Cinemas
Tuesday May 31 7 p.m. SIFF Cinema Egyptian
(not part of Films4Families)
Saturday May 21 11 a.m. SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Saturday May 28 3 p.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
Monday May 30 noon SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
Microbe and Gasoline
d. Michel Gondry | France 2015 | 105 min
Saturday May 21 1 p.m. Majestic Bay Cinemas
Monday May 23 7 p.m. SIFF Cinema Egyptian
As You Are
d. Miles Joris | USA 2016 | 105 min
Thursday May 26 9 p.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
Friday May 27 4 p.m. Pacific Place Cinemas
Morris From America
d. Chad Hartigan | USA 2016 | 89 min
Wednesday June 1 7 p.m. SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Thursday June 2 4:30 p.m. SIFF Cinema Egyptian
First Girl I Loved
d. Kerem Sanga | USA 2016 | 90 min
Thursday May 26 7 p.m. Pacific Place Cinemas
Saturday May 28 4:15 p.m. Pacific Place Cinemas
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
d. Taika Waititi | New Zealand 2016 | 93 min
Friday June 3 6 p.m. Kirkland Performance Center
Saturday June 4 8:30 p.m. SIFF Cinema Egyptian
d. Rosemary Myers | Australia 2016 | 77 min
Wednesday May 25 7 p.m. Pacific Place Cinemas
Saturday May 28 noon SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
Before the Streets
d. Chloé Leriche | Canada 2016 | 97 min
Saturday June 4 8:30 p.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
Sunday June 5 noon SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
d. Clay Liford | USA 2016 | 101 min
Friday May 20 4 p.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater
Saturday May 21 8:30 p.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater