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Find Joy and Celebration at This Year’s Children’s Film Festival Seattle

Virtual and IRL feature films and shorts bring joy when we need it

Published on: February 04, 2022

Still shot of animated film Best Birthday Ever by Michael Ekbladh part of 2022 Children's Film Festival Seattle
Scene from the animated film “Best Birthday Ever” featured in the Children’s Film Festival Seattle 2022.

We all could use some good news right now, and exhausted families are desperate for uplifting, joyful experiences that are also safe. Generally speaking, we’re sick of screen time. But the Children’s Film Festival Seattle is not your everyday mindless media binge. Far from it.

The festival fills its screens (and yours) with media content for kids that reaches higher artistic standards and tells deeper stories than a lot of people seem to think kids deserve. For the 17th annual Children’s Film Festival Seattle, festival organizer Northwest Film Forum promises more than just high artistic standards and deep stories. This year families can count on a celebratory vibe.

The 2022 festival runs Feb. 11–20, with in-person and virtual screening options.

Still from Toil and Trouble short film part of the 2022 Children's Film Festival Seattle
A still from the short film “Toil and Trouble,” part of the Magic in the Air shorts program at CFFS.

The festival includes more than 150 animated, live-action and documentary films from 43 nations. Every selection will tell a story authentically centered on the experiences and challenges of childhood, but always with an element of joy and celebration.

A hybrid festival

Reflecting the uncertainty of fluctuating pandemic numbers and in consideration of families whose children are not all old enough to be vaccinated, CFFS is being presented in a hybrid format this year. Each film and shorts program will be presented at least once in the theater, and there will be special in-person events like the opening night celebration and workshops.

But many of the workshops will also be offered virtually, and all of the film programs will be available online, on-demand throughout the festival. In addition to accomodating legit safety concerns, this also means these incredible films can reach families all across Washington — and beyond.

First up, some highlights among the feature films and shorts programs included in the 2022 festival. Scroll down for some of the great special events that also make up this year’s programming.

Still from the film The Dukkha part of the 2022 Children's Film Festival Seattle
A still from the film “The Dukha” part of The World Through Our Eyes shorts program at CFFS.

Feature films

The festival screens eight full-length films that each celebrate difference. Of these, the only one rated for all ages is “Weaving a Symphony,” a documentary from Singapore (in English) that follows children with special needs as they become more independent through music.

The Norwegian film “Hello World,” celebrates out-and-proud youth. It’s rated for 13+ because some featured teens swear and talk about sex. Other documentaries explore the challenges of punk rock stardom (“Yung Punx”) and high-level sports competition (“Kids Cup”).

Fictional features humorously celebrate artists in all their eccentricities (“The Strangest Girl in the World” and “My Dad is a Sausage”) and, in one case, the art itself, as one of Rembrandt’s paintings comes to life and befriends a little girl (“Jackie and Oopjen”). All of these movies are rated for tweens, but the content warnings are very mild and are primarily given because, except for “Yung Punx,” they require reading skills to keep up with subtitles. Don’t let that put you off, though — it’s amazing how much reading kids are willing to do when the story is engaging.

Still from the film My Dad is a Sausange part of the 2022 Children's Film Festival Seattle
A still from the film “My Dad Is a Sausage” part of the 2022 Children’s Film Festival Seattle.

Short film programs

The bulk of independent children’s films are shorts, which can be hard to find outside of a film festival, but are well worth making an effort to watch. In honor of its 17th birthday, the festival is screening 17 short film programs this year. Two of them are perfect for all ages: “Musical Moments,” and “Icing on the Cake.” The in-person screening of “Icing on the Cake” on Sunday, Feb. 13, is sensory-friendly.

Programs in Spanish and French are perfect for language students and families that speak those languages at home. (They still have subtitles for the rest of us, though.)

CFFS continues the tradition of presenting shorts collections with environmental and LGBTQ+ themes, as well as two programs highlighting youth-made films. “The World Through Our Eyes” celebrates cultural traditions around the world while “Oddballs” celebrates individuals who don’t follow tradition at all. 

Kids Run the World” and “Adventure Awaits!” show kids’ power, whether that means gaining confidence climbing a tree or learning how to help others in need. Programs like “All the Feels” and “Borders, Boundaries, and Home” don’t shrink away from harder subjects, but do so by celebrating the resilience, grace and humor that help people of all ages deal with them. Visit the CFFS website for a complete listing of shorts programs. Age guidance is provided but thorough information is included so parents and caregivers can use their own judgment.

Still from the film Cracked part of the 2022 Children's Film Festival Seattle
A still from the short film “Cracked,” part of the Promise to the Planet shorts program at CFFS.

Special events

If your family is comfortable with in-person events, the festival’s opening night celebration kicks things off on Friday, Feb. 11. Starting with Seattle ReCreative’s craft time in the lobby, the party moves into the theater. Footage of celebrations around the world has been curated by Scarecrow Video’s Children’s Hour, and a special episode of the award-winning local children’s show “Look, Listen, and Learn” will play.

The next day, Saturday, Feb. 12, at noon, “Grammy and Me” author (and KOMO news anchor) Tyrah Majors hosts a story time and workshop where kids can make their own books. That afternoon, kids and their caregivers can learn about shadow puppetry or learn how to make a documentary on Saturday, Feb. 19.

Or on Sunday, Feb. 13, kids can learn how to make a film without a camera. The all-ages Ink-and-Tape workshop will be presented both in person or online. Sockz Theatre offers an online found-object puppetry workshop on Sunday, Feb. 20.

Attendees for the festival’s closing night birthday party on Sunday, Feb.20 will start by making party hats and watching the awards ceremony in the lobby, then ticket-holders watch the all-ages animated feature “Best Birthday Ever” in the theater.

A still from the film “Girl of the Wind” part of the Children's Film Festival SEattle 2022
A still from the short film “The Girls of the Wind,” part of the Magic in the Air shorts program at CFFS.

How to watch

Passes: There are three types of festival passes families can purchase: virtual, in-person or hybrid. A virtual pass gives families online access to all films for the duration of the festival and costs $100–$150 on a self-selecting sliding scale. Watch when you choose.

An in-person pass, $100–$150 per person on a sliding scale, or $190 for a parent-and-child pass, gives access to all in-person screenings. You will need to show up early to the films you want to see, however, as a pass does not guarantee seating. (A portion of seating at each screening is held for pass holders.)

A hybrid pass gives you both.

Individual screenings: Purchase tickets to in-person feature film or shorts program screenings at Northwest Film Forum through the links on the site for each film or program. Adult tickets are $13 and youth/student tickets are $10. To watch a single film or shorts program online from home, register for access and pay a self-selecting sliding scale fee of $5–$25.

Workshops: In-person and online workshops are pay-what-you-can. Register soon as these are filling quickly.

Northwest Film Forum members receive a discount for passes and tickets. Theater seating will be limited to 50-percent capacity. At press time, proof of vaccination and double-masking for ages 5 and older are required for in-person attendance. Stay up to date on the festival’s safety protocols online.

If you go in person...

Where: In-person screenings of the 2022 Children's Film Festival Seattle take place at Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave. in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

When: The 2022 festival runs Feb. 11–20.

Pricing: See detailed pricing options above. Individual tickets to in-person screenings cost $10–$13.

Age recommendations: Each film or shorts program includes an age recommendation and details about content making it easy for families to choose something best suited to their crew.

Parking at NWFF: Metered street parking in this neighborhood can be hard to find. The parking lots at the Greek Orthodox Church at 13th and Howell and Seattle Central College’s Harvard Garage usually have available spaces.

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