We are fortunate to have so many film festivals in the Pacific Northwest because they give us the opportunity to experience films – and cultures, languages and stories – we wouldn't otherwise be exposed to. The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), which runs from May 16 through June 9, is the largest film festival in the United States, and this year's program offers an interesting variety of family-friendly cinema.
In addition to special festival previews of big summer Hollywood movies like Epic and Monsters University, the Films4Families program at SIFF will screen features from France, Germany, and Japan as well as a large sampling of short films from all over the world – 20 movies, features and shorts in all.
To help you plan your family's movie-going fun we've organized our SIFF guide by the weekends when all the family films will be shown. There is a diverse mix of films in this lineup and we encourage you to go beyond your expectations and seek out something new (Ernest & Celestine) or old (Safety Last!)
SIFF family picks, May 18 and 19
May 18, 10:30 a.m., Pacific Place Cinemas
May 19, 4 p.m., Pacific Place Cinemas
The first weekend of the festival kicks off with a preview of Epic, the latest film from Blue Sky Studios, the people who brought us Ice Age and Rio. A girl finds herself magically transported to the world of tiny leaf people and caught in a battle between good and evil. It's based on William Joyce's book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. The Blue Sky folks have proven with films like Horton Hears a Who that they know what they're doing when they adapt a children's book, or create a compelling fantasy world, and Epic looks like it will continue this success.
Length and rating: 90 minutes. Rated PG for mild action, some scary images, and brief rude language
Ernest & Celestine
May 19, 10 a.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown
Ernest & Celestine is a French animated feature about a mouse who dreams of one day meeting a bear and the unlikely friendship that develops when her dream comes true. The hand-painted animation, evocative of a children's book illustration brought to life, is becoming increasingly rare in our 3D animated world. Ernest & Celestine is an opportunity to experience a charming story in a unique and engaging way.
Length and rating: 79 minutes. All ages, recommended for children over 6. In French with English subtitles.
Get animated workshop: Animation Workshop for Kids (ages 8-14)
May 19, 1 p.m., SIFF Film Center
Interspersed with film showings are several workshops for budding filmmakers, including this one. Using flipbooks, participants will gain the basic skills of stop-motion.
SIFF family picks, May 24, 25 and 26
Ernest & Celestine
May 24, 6:30 p.m., Egyptian Theater
79 minutes. All ages, recommended for children over 6. In French with English subtitles.
Shorts Program: The Family Picture Show
May 25, 11 a.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Family Picture Show is a program made up of 14 animation, live action, and documentary short films and is your opportunity to expose your kids to storytelling from all over the world that's unique, quirky, and very different from anything else they're likely to see on a Saturday morning.
Shorts include the live action short While You Weren't Looking, a hilarious Seattle production that is guaranteed to make parents laugh as much as the kids; a delightful animated short Hannah and the Moon, which integrates text into the animation as a graphic element as well as the narration of the story; and the film Macropolis, which uses an unusual combination of stop motion, CGI and time-lapse photography to create a compelling world and a very sweet story.
Length and rating: 87 minutes. All ages.
May 25, 1 p.m., Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
A German animated feature in English, based on the book by Tomi Ungerer. The man in the moon comes down to Earth and needs help returning to his home. The gentle themes, fanciful details, and broad satire make this film particularly well suited to younger children.
Length and rating: 95 minutes. All ages.
May 26, 11 a.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown
This is one of the all-time great comedies of the silent movie era originally released in 1923. You may not have seen a Harold Lloyd film before but there's a chance you've seen the iconic image of him hanging from the hands of a clock far above a real city street. A thrilling comedy classic.
Length and rating: 67 minutes. All ages.
Her Aim Is True
May 26, 4 p.m., Harvard Exit
May 27, 2 p.m., Harvard Exit
This documentary on the life of classic rock photographer Jini Dellaccio is perfect for tweens and teens who are exploring music and are interested in the bands and artwork that helped to define modern rock and roll.
Length and rating: Recommended for ages 12 and up.
SIFF family picks, June 1, 2 and 3
June 1, 11 a.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 3, 7 p.m., Egyptian Theater
This anime, directed by Mamoru Hosoda, about a single mother and her two werewolf children was a huge hit in Japan and should appeal to fans of Hayao Miyazaki. Parents should know, though, that the subject matter of this film is more sophisticated than Totoro and won't necessarily appeal to younger children. The death of the father is quite sad and the relationship between the mother, Hana, and the two very different children, Ame and Yuki, is the subtle and powerful heart of the film.
Length and rating: 117 minutes. Recommended for ages 8 and up, in Japanese with English subtitles.
June 2, 10 a.m., Pacific Place Cinemas
Length and rating: 95 minutes. All ages.
SIFF family picks, June 8 and 9
June 8, 7 p.m., Pacific Place Cinemas
June 9, 10 a.m., Pacific Place Cinemas
The family-friendly festival wraps up on the final weekend with another special festival preview of what promises to be one of the biggest movies of the summer. Pixar's prequel to Monsters, Inc. should be fun for the whole family although considering the college setting we have to assume that there will be some crude humor and innuendo despite the G rating.
Length and rating: 90 minutes. Rated G.
What's your style: High School Filmmakers Scene Workshop
June 8, 2 p.m., SIFF Film Center
Another young filmmakers workshop is aimed at older teens. Participants will review different filmmaking styles and learn how to ensure a scene captures a clear and distinctive vision.
If you go ...
What/when: The Seattle International Film Festival runs from May 16 to June 9
Prices: Films4Families weekend matinees, $5–$7; general admission (except where noted) $10–$12; matinee screenings $7–$9 (all weekday screenings occurring before 5:30 p.m. Monday–Friday excluding Memorial Day.)
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.