We recently spent our April Vacation in Toronto attending the TIFF Kids International Film Festival. More than just a family vacation, we were there on behalf of the Providence Children’s Film Festival (PCFF), scouting films while learning about and experiencing another festival first hand. Everyone we met was friendly, generous, and passionate about film. Our experience was fabulous.
TIFF Kids offers children and youth the opportunity to learn about cultural perspectives from around the world through the power of the moving image. More than just a day at the movies, TIFF Kids includes two public weekends for ages three and up and a two week long School Program for students in elementary schools. Featuring the best of Canadian and international cinema for children and youth, TIFF Kids offers a compelling selection of features and shorts on diverse subjects in a variety of genres and styles. It provides a rare opportunity to watch films that kids around the world are lining up to see and that in many cases may not be available again in Toronto.
What makes TIFF Kids meaningful and fun for kids and families (as with PCFF) is the emphasis and celebration of children and film; including the process, the stories, and the impression it leaves on us after the film is over. Shared theatrical experiences –Â increasingly rare these days since we are able to easily watch movies on mobile devices and at home on-demand – can be community building, facilitating the immediate exchange of ideas and connecting kids to other youth, families, and teachers in new ways.
The 2012 TIFF Kids had over 100 films, features and shorts, from 41 different countries. This year marked the 15th anniversary for the fest and to celebrate, TIFFÂ hosted digiPlaySpace, an interactive digital playground for children, with innovative art installations, learning-centric games, introductions to new digital drawing tools and memorable hands-on film and media production activities.
Although I did not have the opportunity to see every movie shown at the festival, I highlighted a few of my favorites that stayed with me after the film was over – to me, a sign of a moving film. Many films at this year’s festival had environmental themes or demonstrated the power of kids, taking destiny into their own hands to overcome an obstacle, possibly changing themselves or their community for the better.
Films can spark conversation before and long after a film has ended. Films from and about other cultures and their stories about challenging life situations such as bullying, divorce, or war provide valuable learning opportunities for all of us. As parents, caregivers and educators we can facilitate these conversations, helping children make connections to their own life and the community around them.
Film Highlights fromÂ 2012 TIFF Kids (Read more on FlickFlackMovieTalk.com):
Salam Dunk (2011) / Director: David Fine
USA / Iraq. Language: Arabic, Kurdish, English
Iraq’s first all-girl basketball team are going into their second season without having won a single game – but that’s about to change. This exciting and uplifting documentary offers a rare glimpse at the everyday lives and dreams of young people who have endured years of war, political instability and inequality.
Themes: sports, gender inequity, political conflict, female relationships, post-secondary education
Runtime: 81 minutes
Rating: G. Recommended Ages 12 and up.
Content Advisory: mature content – some graphic discussion and images of war, religious references
Wunderkinder (2011) / Director: Marcus O. RosenmÃ¼ller
Germany. Language: German
Three young musical prodigies in 1940s Ukraine – two Jewish, one German – have their friendship put to the test when Hitler invades the Soviet Union in this moving tale about the power of art in the face of tragedy.
Themes: genocide, child musicians, music, friendship, social justice
Runtime: 96 minutes
Rating: PG. Recommended Ages: 12 and up.
Content Advisory: mature content – violence, shooting, person shot, guns, death (seen and discussed)
King Siri (2008) / Director: Somaratne Dissanayake
Sri Lanka. Language: Sinhalese
A gifted boy from a small Sri Lankan village wins a scholarship to a prestigious school in the city where he must face numerous challenges armed only with his own determination and self-confidence.
Themes: Sri Lankan traditions and culture, bullying, non-conformity
Runtime: 88 minutes.
Rating: G. Recommended Ages: 10 and up.
Content Advisory: child bullied by his peers.
Habanastation (2011) / Director: Ian PadrÃ³n
Cuba. Language: Spanish
Mayito has led a sheltered life with his privileged parents in Havana. But when he gets lost in his classmate Carlos’ neighborhood, he sees firsthand how the other half lives.
Runtime: 95 minutes
Rating: G. Recommended Ages: 10 and up.
Le Tableau (2011) / Director: Jean-FranÃ§ois Laguionie
France. Language: English, French
The inhabitants of an unfinished artwork decide to take over governance of the painting themselves in this delightful and innovative computer-animated fable.
Themes:Â visual art, positive choices, social justice, activism, racism
Runtime: 76 minutes
Recommended Ages: 10 and up.
Content Advisory: animated violence, partially clothed woman depicted in a work of art