May 152014

The 40th annual Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), which runs from May 15 to June 8, is the largest film festival in the United States showing over 250 features and 150 short films from over 70 countries. With so much to choose from and such a broad variety of films there is always something good to discover. SIFF provides a program of films specifically for families and younger moviegoers but don’t stop there. If you dig deeper into the festival calendar you will find excellent movies that will appeal to kids from six to sixteen. I have compiled a list of movies I think are appropriate for families and highlighted my Top Ten picks arranged by age recommendation youngest to oldest.



The Numberlys

The Family Picture Show 

Ages 5 and up

This is a collection of animated, live action, and documentary short films that is appropriate for even the youngest moviegoers. But don’t think it’s just for kids, these films are a delight for any age. With run times that average between three and ten minutes it’s a roller coaster ride through a variety of subjects. I’m particularly curious to see The Numberlys.

House of Magic 3D 

Ages 6 and up

A French animated adventure (in English) about a stray cat who befriends an old magician and helps him to save his house. It may not be as technically sophisticated as How to Train Your Dragon but it has charm and heart and kids will love the animals, automatons, and gadgets that play supporting roles.

Land of the Bears 3D 

Ages 6 and up (includes scenes of animals hunting and killing prey)

This documentary focuses on a family of brown bears (including some ridiculously cute cubs) on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The filmmakers have gone to great lengths to get beautiful and interesting shots of the bears as they travel around the Russian countryside looking for food, playing, and illustrating the details of bear society. Bears are cool, and this movie makes them look fun and fascinating.


Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above

Beyond Beauty

Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above 

Ages 6 and up

When I first came across this documentary I wasn’t sure how you could tell a story with 90 minutes of nothing but aerial photography but this movie is a mind-blowing spectacle that has to be seen on the big screen. The spectacular shots of natural beauty are balanced by the devastating realities of environmental damage caused by human development. It’s a powerful story told effectively with images that are hard to argue with.

Shake the Dust

Ages 8 and up

Hip-hop and breakdancing emerged from the Bronx to become a worldwide phenomenon and this inspirational documentary examines how the music and dance can act as a force for social change in the poorest urban neighborhoods of Colombia, Yemen, Uganda, and Cambodia. Whether or not you like hip-hop you should make an effort to see this film for the compelling mix of cultures and the spectacular athleticism of the dance.

Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang

Ages 8 and up

This adaptation of the popular Spanish comic ZIPI Y ZAPE is an amusing adventure mystery full of puzzles, pranks, and pirate treasure. If you’ve been in Harry Potter withdrawal, or your VHS copy of the Goonies is wearing thin, Zip & Zap will fill your craving for mischief, adventure and spectacular fun.

Final Recipe 

Ages 10 and up

Our kids love the cooking competition show Chopped. This combined South Korea, Thailand, and Singapore production (in English and Mandarin) has all the fun and drama of a cooking reality show competition mixed with the story of a young man struggling to keep his family together. As an added bonus, we get mouth-watering shots of absolutely beautiful food. Plan to go out to a nice dinner after you see this one.


Patema Inverted

Patema Inverted

Patema Inverted

Ages 10 and up

The concept of this fantastic anime seems simple on the surface, a boy and a girl who each have the opposite gravitational pull meet and have an adventure as they struggle to learn the truth about their world. Ok, maybe it’s not that simple, but the beauty of this science fiction romance is in the incredible detail and mind-bending visuals of this imaginative and intelligent film. If your kids love anime you should definitely see Patema Inverted on the big screen.

We Are The Best!

Ages 12 and up (UK says 15, there is under age drinking and smoking)

It’s tempting to look at this coming of age punk rock comedy set in 1982 as a story of girls discovering their power through rock music. And while that is certainly a part of this film it may be more appropriate to look to Marlon Brando’s answer to the question ‘what are you rebelling against’ in The Wild One. “Whadda you got?” The charming girls at the center of this film don’t have anything Earth-shattering to overcome but it’s certainly fun to watch them take on the world.

Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy

Ages 13 and up

This film is a fascinating and playful experiment in social media as narrative. The filmmakers used 410 tweets from a real Thai teenager to tell the story of Mary and her final year of high school, including all of her ups and downs, her relationship with her best friend, and her romantic troubles. If you have a teenager who is glued to Twitter you will want to check this out.

There are many more films at the festival you may want to check out that are appropriate for younger audiences here is a handy list of more that I would recommend.


Belle & Sebastien

Ages 6 and up according to international ratings

A young boy and a dog help Jewish refugees cross the Alps in WWII.

The Boy and the World

Ages 6 and up

Brazilian hand-drawn animated feature about a young boy journeying to find his father.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Rated PG

Sequel to the popular movie.

FutureWave teen films

Touch of the Light

Ages 8 and up

Music, dance, and romance from Taiwan.

FutureWave Shorts Best of NFFTY

Highlights from Seattle’s own under 18 film festival.

God Help the Girl

Ages 13 and up

Scottish musical romance based on the music of Belle and Sebastian.

Dear White People

Ages 13 and up

Funny and biting racial satire set at college.

Chaplin Shorts

Ages 8 and up

Classic silent comedy from the master.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

Ages 9 and up

Frank Capra’s classic screwball comedy.

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