Both growing up and now as the mother of twins, I know how memorable and impactful children’s films can be in expanding and shaping a child’s view of the world. These films educate, bust the limits of imagination and stick with us on into adulthood. Sometimes they even influence us as parents. Filmmakers around the globe are crafting their own exhilarating works–just for kids. Thankfully, Pickford Film Center presents the annual Bellingham Children’s Film Festival, showcasing innovative and fun animated and live action shorts and feature films from around the world. Spanning a full weekend (March 8 – 10, 2019), the whole family can enjoy a peek into another world through this rich and rewarding medium.
Designed for all ages, this festival is so much more than movies. It includes an Opening Night Red Carpet Reception and popular ice cream social after the March 8 screening of Zoo (more below). The Pickford will also offer interactive art activities in the lobby before and after each film all weekend long.
Plus, thanks to generous sponsors, tickets are significantly reduced to just $5 each. One exception is the screening of Modest Heroes (below). Thanks to Bank of the Pacific, those tickets are just $1! Tickets do sell out, so get yours in advance.
Fun & Fascinating Children’s Films of 2019
PG, 97 minutes
Based on a true story, Zoo is the story of 12 year old Tom (Art Parkinson) and his misfit friends, who fight to save Buster the baby elephant during the air raids on Belfast in 1941.
Watching this film with my kids, I can already imagine the discussions afterward about the history of Northern Ireland and its people. This theme also appeals to my kids, who care deeply about protecting animals.
When choosing children’s films to watch with my kids, I often look at reviews to ensure that the adults will also enjoy the screening. Zoo has received a Critic’s Rotten Tomatoes score of 88%. I tend to prefer a score of at least 70% based on past experience.
59 minutes, Ages 2+
Small But Mighty is a collection of animated shorts from around the world. Each short is full of vibrant characters who are out to laugh, sing, solve puzzles, eat tasty food and spread their wings. Parents are encouraged to whisper subtitles to their little ones during this storybook collection. Or just sit back and enjoy the music of other languages. The colorful stories here are easy and fun to follow.
This type of showcase is where I started with my twins so many years ago. Even though they are now 15, they still look forward to this type of simple storytelling. Now they focus on the variety and creativity of animation styles presented. We discuss their favorites afterward. Over the years they’ve been inspired to dabble in stop motion animation with their legos. More recently, they’re investigating computer animation. Animator also made the list of jobs they’re considering after graduation.
Lemon & Elderflower below is just one of twelve films included in the collection. The main characters include talking animals, fluffy fairies and even a giant young girl who uses her size to help others.
68 minutes, Age 5+
This collection of animated films is filled with stories of breakthroughs and learning to appreciate how our friends and families can make the world go around in the most magical way. Films from the Netherlands, Russia, Guatemala, Croatia, South Africa, Germany, Bulgaria, Latvia and Sweden explore a range of kid-friendly topics. Many of the main characters in these films are children who overcome obstacles, like learning to ride a bike, or exploring the world. The children of these films are learning to become strong and independent, facing their fears and helping others.
54 minutes, Age 8+
Tickets just $1
If you have a fan of anime, or Japanese animation, in your home, this is the screening for you. Modest Heroes is an ambitious anthology of three thrilling tales created by some of the greatest talents working in Japanese animation today. Together, the stories (Kanini & Kanino, Life Ain’t Gonna Lose, Invisible) explore ideas of heroism in everyday life. You can expect breathtaking, action-packed visuals, concise human drama and gorgeous fantasy worlds.
My kids have loved the Japanese animation style that also permeates our culture. They started in grade school with Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. They’ve been hooked on Japanese children’s film ever since. They still attend Anime Night at the public library to see and discuss this genre with their middle and high school friends.
71 minutes, Ages 7+
This collection of nine short films takes you to a beautifully animated wonderland of timeless tales, fables and fantastic yarns. You’ll meet a kitten who masters the briny deep, creatures who live a world made of wool and two lemurs who take a voyage to the beyond. And you’ll discover a jungle where animals and humans coexist in peace, a place in the woods where friendly monsters live and a cyclist who keeps the world spinning round.
These children’s films hail from Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Denmark and Russia and include a wide array of animation styles.
Although this is for ages 7+, there may be themes that could be an issue for more sensitive viewers. I always see this as an opportunity to grow and face fears, but each family must decide for themselves. Here are the advisories: “Fairy tales and fables sometimes explore fears and dangers, but all these films have happy endings! In Land Without Evil, a boy bleeds very briefly in a non-graphic way after being bitten by a non-graphic snake. Then he quickly heals completely. Monsters seem a little scary for a few seconds but really, they are friendly in Dark, Dark Woods. In The Theory of Sunset, the figure of Death makes an appearance in a non-frightening way. In Two Balloons, friends have an adventure that seems fraught with danger at times. Pepita and Max has content involving Christian mythology.”
67 minutes, Ages 9+
This collection of 10 live-action and animated short children’s films, including documentaries and fables, tell stories about the beauty of the earth and its creatures. They are meant to instill in us all a stronger determination to save our beautiful blue planet and respect all the life and diversity it contains.
These natural world themes speak to my kids deeply. If your child thinks about protecting the planet, this is the screening for you.
Journeys, Genders, and Identity
68 minutes, Ages 11+
Eight short films celebrate beautiful and complex stories of identity and diversity. This program focuses on people just like us, finding their way toward their authentic selves, rejecting stereotypes and reaching out to others who respect and affirm their journeys.
This is an excellent way to expand our children’s understanding of the world and the incredible diversity of human experience within it.
If your kids love children’s films as much as mine, they’ll enjoy every one of these treasures. From documentary to fantasy, silly to serious, these films broaden our horizons, educate and stimulate discussion. Pickford makes sure that every screening is a whole lot of memorable fun. Get your tickets right away and enjoy a full, long weekend of fantastic film that will be fun for the whole family.