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Film Festival Celebrates 20 years of kids’ films

For 20 years the New York Children’s International Film Festival (NYICFF) has been dedicated to showcasing the best in children’s films. This year, the festival continues its push to encourage children to think critically and creatively with a lineup of nearly 100 films ranging from documentary to animation to live action, created for kid ages 3 to 18. The festival opens in New York City on February 24 and runs through March 19.

“Film is an incredible opportunity to spend time in somebody else’s shoes,” Nina Guralnick, executive director of NYICFF, told TFK. “[The festival] is a really fantastic and fun experience for kids to come in and jump into any of the world’s depicted in these films.”

Icare, whose nickname is Zucchini, is the protagonist in My Life as a Zucchini, the opening-night feature at the New York International Children’s Film Festival.

The festival opens with the feature film, My Life as a Zucchini. The movie tells the story of a boy whose mother dies unexpectedly, forcing him into an orphanage with other kids who subsequently create their own family. Also in the opening-night line-up: Your Name., a Japanese anime film about two teenagers from different cities who switch bodies and try to find their ways to meet one another in person, and Revolting Rhymes. Based off the popular Roald Dahl work of the same title, Revolting Rhymes explains the nuances of six popular nursery rhymes including Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood.

Jakob Schuh, co-director of Revolting Rhymes, says his love for Roald Dahl inspired him to work on the project and that it was a great honor to have his work shown on the festival’s opening night.

“Kids love to laugh but also kids love to be taken seriously and Roald Dahl does that,” Schuh told TFK. “There’s a very clear system in place where the innocence of kids is usually the solution to problems that grownups create, and kids love those stories.”

The festival will feature a variety of films created in more than 30 countries. Rudolf the Black Cat, which was created in Japan and will have its North American premiere at NYICFF, tells the story of a sheltered housecat who discovers a new world after accidentally ending up in bustling Tokyo. Attendees will also have the chance to see films from Switzerland, Spain, and the Netherlands.

Amelia’s Closet is one of the Girls’ POV short films in this year’s New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Among the festival’s short film programs is Girls’ POV, which features films with female protagonists, films made by women, or films that address challenges experienced by girls. The category includes the films Amelia’s Closet, Free Like the Birds, and Sing, which is a 2017 Oscar nominee for best short live action film.

Throughout the year, festival organizers also share films at various theaters and art organizations around the country. In addition, NYICFF has programs available online for kids to explore filmmaking. The organization also holds camps throughout the year, including a summer animation camp for kids from first grade through ninth grade.

“I would encourage kids who are outside of New York to ask the film festivals that are happening locally for them to program a film or two for kids,” Guralnick said.

With this being the 20th anniversary of the festival, NYICFF will also be celebrating the milestone with birthday parties and features of birthday short films, which were created in the festivals’ honor.

“To handpick stories and cultural narratives from all over the world is something that’s not normally easily available for kids, and the NYICFF has obviously done a great job for such a long time,” says Revolting Rhymes’ Schuh.

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