Children’s Film Festival Seattle celebrates 15 years of the best in inclusive children’s cinema

by Ryan Davis

Children’s Film Festival Seattle is going through a growth spurt with its 15th edition, soon to open with its biggest-ever lineup of 175 films from 47 countries.

Notable in the long list of festival offerings is a program of short films, “Rainbow Roar,” completely devoted to films centered on the lives and experiences of LGBTQ youth and their families.

This program’s laser focus is something new to the festival.

“We’re really thrilled to be able to offer a program that completely centers on gender identity this year,” said Elizabeth Shepherd, director of the festival. “While in the past we have always included as many narrative films and documentaries as possible with this theme, this year we were able to curate an entire shorts block that we hope is really affirming to our audiences.”

The largest and most respected festival of its kind on the West Coast, Children’s Film Festival Seattle (CFFS) is a cinematic extravaganza that celebrates the best and brightest in international films for children ages 3 to 14, including animation, feature-length films, short films, and hands-on workshops. It takes place from February 27 to March 8 at Northwest Film Forum (1515 12th Ave), with a special closing day event at the Rainier Arts Center (3515 S Alaska St).

The festival’s “Rainbow Roar” program will screen at 5pm Saturday, Feb. 29, at Northwest Film Forum.

The 80-minute-long program, recommended for ages 11 and older, includes animation, narrative and documentary films from the USA, Sweden, Spain, Canada, and Italy.

“We chose films that tell stories of youth who are living fiercely in their authentic selves, rejecting stereotypes and reaching out to others who respect and affirm their journeys,” Shepherd said. “These films are especially notable in that they will speak to both kids and the adults in their lives.”

Highlights of the program will include A Typical Fairytale, by Canadian director Annette O’Reilly, who will be in attendance at the screening. This film’s story, cast as a fairytale complete with a wise and wily fairy godmother, tells the story of a mother and father who can only live happily ever after once they honor and accept the reality of their child’s identity.

Also from Canada, two documentaries, Beauty and I am Skylar will introduce audiences to an array of gender-creative young people who are deeply involved in shaping their ideas of what it means to be fully human

The program crosses cultural boundaries with Serenade, a film about a young Mexican-American boy who asks his father to recommend a traditional Mexican serenade that he can use to woo another boy. Slow Dance, from Sweden, also focuses on the pitfalls of a gay boy who fearlessly navigates his first-ever middle-school dance.

It’s all part of a broader festival program that provides a joyous and dynamic setting to cultivate intergenerational relationships and inspire younger generations to participate as agents of change in their local and global communities.

A number of other programs in the festival will highlight current issues, centered on the experience of childhood in relation to climate change (Earthwise and Microplastic Madness), global migration (Borders, Boundaries and Home), and other important and timely concerns.

“We want children to come to the festival not only to be entertained by funny and fantastic films but also to discover common ground and become compassionate and pro-active global citizens,” said Shepherd. “Our message to kids is to welcome adventures, use their imaginations, overcome challenges, and dream of the ways they can make a difference in the world.”

Stretching over the course of two weeks, the family-friendly extravaganza includes works from North to South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. Films by seasoned and accomplished professional filmmakers predominate in the lineup, but youth-made films will be highlighted in two programs of international and local work.

Though the films in the festival show the broader world, the festival itself aims to be a cozy silver-screen experience for all-ages, with most films served up in Northwest Film Forum’s two cinemas, seating 120 and 46 people, respectively. Films are categorized by age range, with gentle and colorful animated programs for children as young as 2+.

Shepherd said, “Everything we do at our festival is warm and intimate, and geared to creating an age-appropriate experience that will enchant and inspire kids and their families.”

See the full lineup and get your tickets at childrensfilmfestivalseattle.org.

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