Families who attend this weekend’s Louisville Children’s Film Festival will discover a wide range of subjects they aren’t likely to see at their neighborhood cineplex — from a stop-motion animation starring sushi to a documentary about the obstacles young people around the world face just going to school.
“We love ‘Minions,’ too, but the characters in the films we are showing are uplifting for children, and they show real children facing real problems,” said Dr. Martha Nichols-Pecceu, organizer of the event that kicks off Saturday, Feb. 24, and runs through Monday, Feb. 26. “There’s such a diversity of perspective and creativity in films from around the world that children can learn from.”
Screenings will be hosted at 10 locations across the metro, and several films are free, including those hosted at Louisville Free Public Library branches. The fest also will offer several workshops, including one at UofL’s Rauch Planetarium that will give kids a chance to star in short scenes also filmed and produced by students.
Films from 29 countries will be screened during the event to pique the interest of kids of all ages, said Nichols-Pecceu. Children under 7 will be entertained by the colorful energy of several short animated subjects; older kids will be engaged by documentaries and longer films about issues that are important to them.
For a quick example of the variety of films to be screened, check out this preview video created by students at Kammerer Middle School.
Nichols-Pecceu, who teaches French at Alliance Francaise de Louisville, said the inaugural Louisville Children’s Film Festival has been in the works for about a year. She decided to create the event after moving back home to Louisville from Providence, R.I., where she helped start a similar event about 10 years ago.
“When I moved back to Louisville with my family, I looked around, and Louisville has such a vibrant arts scene, I thought, ‘Wow, what can I contribute?’ ” she said. “I thought, ‘I’ve seen it done, and I’ve seen it done well, and I know it can work here.’ ”
Her first step was building relationships with the local film community and screening sites.
“No one said ‘No’ when we called, everyone was very enthusiastic,” said Nichols-Pecceu, adding that Marsha Bornstein, executive director of the Louisville Jewish Film Festival, was an invaluable source of insight and guidance on how to build a local film festival from the ground up.
Nichols-Pecceu also developed relationships with other leading children’s film festivals, including those in New York and Seattle. In fact, many of the films screening this weekend won awards at those events.
In partnering with venues for this weekend’s screenings, she wanted to ensure that movies were available to families across the Louisville area. Many are on public transportation lines.
Sunday’s showing of award-winning animation at the library’s new South Central Branch will give visitors a chance to experience its state-of-the-art screening room, she added.
The festival will unofficially kick off Saturday afternoon with a concert by Grammy-winner Dan Zanes & Friends at the Louisville Palace ($35 general admission). Nichols-Pecceu added that Zanes will be in town Friday for workshops in several local schools.
Outreach to the schools will be a big part of future Louisville Children’s Film Festivals, Nichols-Pecceu said. Next year’s event is already in the planning stages.
If you are having trouble choosing an event this weekend, here are a few recommendations.
Saturday, Feb. 24, 10 a.m., at Clifton Center. Recommended for ages 13 and up.
The festival’s first screening is this Academy Award nominee. Speed Cinema’s Dean Otto told Insider last year how much he enjoyed this movie about a young Afghani girl who must help her family survive. It’s beautifully animated by the same team that created “The Secret of Kells” —— it’s an absolutely gorgeous and moving film, but it does include mature themes. $7.50 in advance, $10 at door, $5 for students.
Saturday, Feb. 24, 10 a.m., at LFPL Iroquois Branch. Recommended for kids 8 and up.
This showcase features the best Spanish and Latin American features from the New York International Children’s Film Festival. Many of the entries are animated, including “Grandma Grasshopper,” a joint Bolivian and Danish project, and the gorgeous stop-motion “Journey to Mars” from Argentina. Other entries are documentaries about opera and life in poor Brazilian neighborhoods. Some films are in Spanish, with subtitles. Free.
Sunday, Feb. 25, 2 p.m., at the LFPL South Central Branch. Recommended for kids 3 to 7.
This short by Russian animator Olesya Shchukina tracks a fox’s comedic travails with a snow sled. It’s absolutely charming and has won a ton of awards, as well as being a personal favorite of Nichols-Pecceu. Screening as part of a showcase of award-winning animation from the Seattle Children’s Film Fest. Free.
“On the Way to School”
Monday, Feb. 26, 5 p.m., at LFPL Southwest Branch. Recommended for kids over 8.
This documentary follows the daily challenges of students from Kenya, Argentina, Morocco and India as they walk several miles and face other obstacles on their way to school. This glimpse into other cultures is both educational and inspiring, both for kids and their parents. Parents, be advised that there is some threat of harm depicted in the film. Free.