Providence Children’s Film Festival: A Great Alternative to “The Nut Job” This February Vacation

Discover the future filmmaker in your children while attending one of the many wonderful independent films at the Providence Children’s Film Festival.

With school vacation fast approaching, the demand to go the movies will surely be forthcoming.  This demand can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, your kids sit quietly for 90-plus minutes. On the other hand, you might be forced to sit through an atrocity like The Nut Job. This school vacation, I will not be seeing The Nut Job. Instead, I’ll be at the Providence Children’s Film Festival.

As a lover of independent films, I was immediately intrigued when I first heard of this festival, but then I wondered: Would I be watching movies made by children? If so, am I in for a series of YouTube videos where young girls dressed as princesses belt out Disney tunes, or boys reenact epic battles with LEGO versions of Luke and Darth Vader? These thoughts held my excitement at bay.

As it turns out, the films screened at this festival are not made by children; they’re not even made exclusively for children. They’re simply wonderful films made for people of all ages.

The 5th Annual Providence Children’s Film Festival will feature a variety of full-length and short films from filmmakers all around the globe. A full schedule of events can be found at pcffri.org. The films range from sophisticated productions with serious credentials to those made by amateurs on shoestring budgets. The one thing in common:  independence. You won’t see these films on a Happy Meal box, nor will you be asked for the accompanying toy on your next trip to Target.

At first glance, the selection overwhelmed me. Which movies would we see and when? Fortunately the films are grouped by age appropriateness, with trailers available for each to help narrow your choices. My boys are 7 and 4, so right there we’re limited to the “all ages” category. After viewing the trailers, a clear favorite emerged: Moon Man, based on the best-selling novel by Tomi Ungerer.  I was personally drawn to Academy Award nominated Ernest et Celestine – a French film about an unlikely friendship between a bear and a mouse. My boys, however, couldn’t handle the subtitles (ditto for My Neighbor Totoro).

Later, on my own, I watched all the trailers. Aside from the animated films, there was a generous selection of live action and documentaries. Themes range from loss of a parent to bullying and mental illness. I couldn’t get through the trailer of the documentary Gold Star Children – directed by Rhode Island’s own Mitty Griffis Mirrer – without shedding a tear or two. Every film sucked me in. I’m actually considering getting a sitter so I can see them all myself.

Aside from the films, the festival offers so much more – a true home for film lovers and would-be filmmakers. Family-friendly discussions take place after many screenings. Hands-on workshops are available to children ages 6 through 14 where young filmmakers get first-hand experience creating animation and learning about the green screen. Then there are the parties. The week begins on opening night, where The Zig Zag Kid will be shown, followed by a reception.  The awards ceremony, which takes place on the last Saturday night of the festival, features a screening of Once in a Lullaby, after which the Rhode Island Children’s Chorus will perform songs from the movies.

This festival offers an incredible opportunity to young lovers of film, as well as would-be filmmakers. My brother is an amateur filmmaker – something he knew he’d be at the tender of age of 3. As a child, he had zero resources available to him. It wasn’t until he reached adulthood that he discovered a community of people equally passionate about film. How fantastic that kids like my brother have these incredible resources available to them at such a young age.

The Providence Children’s Film Festival takes place February 13 through 23 at three separate locations:  The Cable Car Cinema, the Metcalf Auditorium in the RISD museum and the RISD Auditorium. Get your tickets now, as the smaller venues often sell out. I’ll be getting mine for the Monday screening of Moon Man. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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