The 4th Annual Providence Children’s Film Festival is coming to town from February 14-19, thanks again to the hard work of several key players. Eric Bilodeau had over 22 years of experience programming thematic film fests when he came aboard as the director of programming for PCFF. “I had not been involved with programming children’s film until signing up for this voluntary labor of love four years ago when the festival was conceived,” he says. “By far, it’s the most challenging and rewarding.”
Bilodeau says he must think from the perspective of both parent and child when choosing films, while also taking into consideration age ranges, maturity levels and social and cultural issues. “It’s a balancing act,” he explains. “You are never going to please everyone but you try to program films that at least put forth true to life emotions, situations and lessons learned… whether they are painful or enjoyable.”
The team is proud to bring documentaries this year that span a range of subject matter to appeal to both tots and teens. Young athletes in high school and college can watch Head Games to learn about the dangers of concussions in sports. There will be guest speakers after the film to talk about the long-term effects of repeated concussive injuries. As Bilodeau muses, “The recent events of the NFL players appear to be a sign of things to come.”
Kids who are interested in extreme sports will enjoy People in Motion, a movie about parkour. “Film makers go to several cities on the West Coast to capture this art… They end up at the Burning Man festival, which is a topic enough for another documentary,” Bilodeau says with a laugh. A parkour troupe is scheduled to offer a demonstration of the method after the show. This year, interactive seems to be the name of the game.
While he believes People in Motion will “dazzle” and “alter perceptions of the world,” Bilodeau is equally excited to share The Human Tower with festival audiences. “It’s about the history of different groups of India, Spain and Chile that make towers out of climbing up on each other’s shoulders. It is truly beautiful and terrifying at the same time.”
A film that combines both sports and culture is Salamm Dunk. “It’s about a college Iraqi women’s basketball team traveling around Iraq to play their games,” Bilodeau explains. “[The documentary] is truly inspirational and revealing about the difficulties all Iraqis are facing today.”
The documentaries, while fascinating, are just a small part of the whole. “It’s amazing how many great films for children come out of the Netherlands,” he says. “We have the opening night film of Alfie the Little Werewolf. It’s entertaining and has a positive message for the way adopted children may feel about their adoptive families.”
A “poorly titled” film from the same country is Tony 10. “Yup,” Bilodeau jokes, “his name is Tony and he’s 10 years old. This film is a modern day fairytale about… wait for it… divorce! It has some great things to say to a child with enough ingredients to make it entertaining for many people.” Moms and dads, take note.
Many people submitted films to the festival to be juried and chosen for screening. “As far as I know we are the only festival that has children on its film selection jury to help score films,” Bilodeau says. “Ultimately I make the final decisions, but not without an enormous amount of input from the jury. They are very helpful.”
Bilodeau, whose favorite children’s films include Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Planet of the Apes, The Wizard of Oz and The Red Balloon, hopes families will take advantage of one of the best lineups yet. The action will take place between several Providence venues: Cable Car Cinema (204 South Main Street), Metcalf Auditorium (20 North Main Street) and the RISD Auditorium (17 Canal Street). The full schedule can be found online. providencechildrensfilmfestival.org.