Kids today face daily challenges and fears, in their home, social and academic spheres. At the same time, most of them encounter no shortage of media choices, from YouTube to games to apps. Media has a powerful influence on children, and many accomplished filmmakers have seized the opportunity to help kids overcome and find meaning in life through movies. Children’s Film Festival Seattle, now in its 14th year, showcases recent filmmakers from all over the world, all dedicated to telling stories that matter to youth of all ages. This year’s event, presented by Northwest Film Forum, will take place January 24-February 9 in Seattle, and while the festival itself is a bit geographically removed from our Southwest Washington region, its mission and themes are universal, as evidenced by the impressive selection of foreign films, alongside American selections. Most of my favorite short films that will be featured in the festival hail from countries other than the U.S.:
“Coco’s Day” is a delightful animated short for the preschool set. The minimal dialogue is Russian, but subtitles are rarely needed to convey the colorful imagination of Coco, a young alligator who turns everyday tasks like bath time into imaginary adventures. (Tatiana Moshkova, Russia, animation, 2017, 4 min, Russian with English subtitles)
“Pigtail and Mr. Sleeplessness” features a freckled and feisty protagonist whose new baby brother is monopolizing Mom and Dad’s attention. She and her imaginary friend concoct a plan to gracefully rid themselves of the baby nuisance but the plan instead ironically has the opposite effect. (Edmunds Janson, Latvia, animation, 2017, 25 min, English)
In “If You Fall,” Lila’s baba is teaching her to ride a bike, even as her family is experiencing difficulty. “If you fall,” her father tells her, “remember I’m here for you.” The words turn to action as the family comes together to pull through. (Tisha Deb Pillai, Canada, animation, 2018, 6 min, English)
“3 Feet” blends live action with animated fantasies as Gonazalo, a Colombian student, makes his labyrinthine way to school with conflicting goals: dribble his way to pro soccer fame, and arrive at school with acceptably polished shoes. (Giselle Geney, Colombia, live-action, 2018, 14 min, Spanish with English subtitles)
“Bachir in Wonderland” opens with 10-year-old Bachir observing in a book that “There are no borders underwater.” It’s poignant to this real life refugee who is preparing to travel from his temporary home in Morocco to a summer camp in Spain. (Els Duran & Evelien Vehof, The Netherlands, 2018, 15 min, Arabic and Spanish, with English subtitles)
Many more feature length and short films will be screened throughout the festival, which is the largest of its kind on the West Coast. The films confront serious issues like bullies, international disputes, and death, while also celebrating the carefree and whimsical spirit of children. Children’s Film Festival Seattle will kick off on January 24 with a sing-a-long screening of the 1979 classic “The Muppet Movie” at SIFF Cinema Egyptian in Seattle, and will conclude on February 9 with a closing night screening of workshop films, and awards presentation, with many more screenings, workshops and events in between.
Complete details at www.childrensfilmfestivalseattle.org.
Trailers for select festival feature films: