Jan 202013

Zarafa – super sad and awesome
all at the same time!


The Children’s Film Festival is back at Northwest Film Forum for its 8th year of animated and live action film from all over the world. This year there are 120 films from over 35 countries that will be screening from opening night on January 24 through February 3rd. This is the largest film festival of its kind on the West coast and if your family loves watching movies you don’t want to miss it.

Most of the films are appropriate for ages 8 and up although there are a number of features for younger children, most notably Krish, Trish, and Baltiboy from India, the short film China Fantasia, and Captain January an old silent movie featuring early child star Baby Peggy which is being presented with a new score performed live by Leslie McMichael.

For the very little kids there is a program of animated shorts called Short and Sweet and a series of animal themed animations titled Noah’s Ark. Parents should note that regardless of the age recommendations the films occasionally come with subtitles – although for the presentations for younger children the ability to read is not necessarily a barrier to their enjoyment.

For kids 8 and older there is a lot to choose from and in my opinion this is where the international lineup really brings value to the experience of the festival. Because these films are coming from a cultural background different from our own the storytelling presents perspectives that can challenge and enlighten young audiences raised on the standard Hollywood fare. The opening night feature Zarafa inspired an interesting debate in our family. On the surface the film resembles the highest quality Disney animation but its powerful themes of loss, commitment, and redemption were difficult for our son who is very empathic toward suffering in any form. Our daughter on the other hand, who has recently developed an appreciation for drama, was tearful at the tragedy but ultimately uplifted by the hope and courage of the characters. This is not a discussion I would expect to have walking out of something like Hotel Transylvania.

Other notable features for older kids include a German adaptation of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, the magical realist Maria’s Tightrope from Brazil, and one of my personal favorites the remarkable Taking Chances from The Netherlands.

Caspar Babypants

Caspar Babypants

In addition to the films there will be a variety of special events that kick off with the wildly popular opening weekend pajama party with Caspar Babypants on Friday, January 25 followed the next morning by the Pancake Breakfast and Short Film Smorgasbord. Throughout the festival there will be a drop-in animation clinic in the Film Forum lobby hosted by British animator Charlotte Blacker. On Sunday, February 3 the Sponge Language School will run an interactive Mandarin-language lesson based on one of the Taiwanese short films screening that day.

The Festival has also expanded this year by partnering with Seattle Children’s Hospital. In addition to screening short films made by Children’s Hospital patients as part of the festival they will provide screenings and educational workshops in hospital wards. There will also be a patient-led children’s jury, which will award special prizes to festival short films.

We are very fortunate to have a resource and an opportunity like the Children’s Film Festival here in Seattle and I would encourage everyone to get it on your calendar.

If you go:

Prices: Individual tickets are $7 for students, seniors, and children 12 and under, $10 for adults, and $6 for Film Forum Members.

General passes for the festival are $180 or $90 for Film Forum members. Passes include all screenings and events except for festival opening night (Thursday), Friday pajama party and Saturday pancake breakfast

Click here for a full schedule of screenings and events.

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