Movies are opportunities to share wonder, educate and demonstrate values. They hold a lasting place in our hearts, especially the ones we watched – and re-watched – as children. Most importantly, film can move and entertain you, no matter your age.
From March 8th through the 10th, Pickford Film Center will host its annual Bellingham Children’s Film Festival. Through their connection with Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum, PFC will screen a vibrant program of films from around the world for the whole family to enjoy.
“There’s so much in the world of filmmaking for children that will never be shown in a corporate cinema, or even in most arthouse cinemas,” says Pickford’s Executive Director, Susie Purves. “I think this collection really gives kids a perspective on what film can be – that they won’t get from watching Disney and Pixar.”
Animation captivates children and adults alike. It can carry a story, like a book come to life. This year’s Children’s Film Festival is special in that the majority of the programming is animated. There are so many imaginative ways to visualize a story beyond digital rendering. One short is even animated with wool!
Animation can carry a narrative, even when there’s no dialogue – and enchant, even if the film is in a language you can’t comprehend. This year’s fest presents the work of filmmakers from 12 countries around the world. Language and dialogue become secondary when what is in front of you is so visually captivating. Children will be exposed to a wider idea of what film can be, and see stories told through the eyes of creatives across the globe.
Luckily for those little ones who tend to spin in their seats, the films will be short. It can be frustrating for parents when their youngest stands up in the middle of a movie and says, “I want to go home!” It can be a challenge to capture – and keep – a three-year-old’s attention. To help with the guesswork, the festival’s programs have been grouped into five suggested age ranges, with entertainment appropriate for kids as young as 2+, all the way through 11 and up.
The films’ themes are centered on what the filmmakers and artists are thinking about — kindness, friendship and helping one another. These values are front-and-center in this year’s feature length film, Zoo. The story is set during the Belfast Blitz of WWII, when Northern Ireland was targeted by German bombs. A group of friends come together to rescue a baby elephant from the zoo, so it won’t to be lost to the war. It’s a tale of kids being able to see what the adults can’t, and trying to figure out a way to make things better.
New to this year’s festival is the opportunity for a children’s jury. These panels of critics will judge all the films from their age-appropriate program, and award prizes to the winners. The juries will be in the age ranges of 8-10 and 11-13.
“We’ll give the children a list of things they should think about when they’re watching the film, and then there’ll be a discussion about whether they think those films were successful in reaching those goals,” says Purves. With the jury, the Pickford is elevating the Children’s Film Festival’s role by awarding prizes to international filmmakers and putting their film in competition.
And what’s a film festival without a red carpet affair? The Friday night opening will screen the festival’s feature film, followed by a reception and delightful ice cream social in the lobby. Then, on both Saturday and Sunday, there will be opportunities for kids to channel their inspiration and make art in the reception area.
During the first half of the day, the Pickford will host projects and activities intended for younger kids up to age seven. In the afternoon, the older kids will get their turn. The artists will create their own creatures they can then practice animating.
PFC’s Bellingham Children’s Film Festival is a unique opportunity to view a collection of playful independent films. “I just think it’s a great privilege that we can do programs like this in Bellingham, and not have to go all the way down to Seattle to see these films,” says Purves. And the price is right for families – only five dollars for the top ticket price.