Kids spend about 1,400 hours a year with TV, movies and other media, but many parents don’t spend enough time talking with them about what they are watching, says Nicole Dreiske, the artistic director of the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.
"What the festival does is to empower children to think about what they are watching in new ways. We validate their opinions and ideas and give them an opportunity to have a forum for a discussion of this very powerful force called media," she says.
Dreiske received about 1,000 entries to consider for this year’s festival, which celebrates its 25th year. From Oct. 23-Nov. 2, 220 of the best children’s films from 50 countries will be seen at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave., Chicago, and at other local venues. Tickets are $8, $6 for kids.
Among the highlights this year are 53 world premieres and 59 North American premieres. This year will see an expansion of My First Movies for children ages 2 and older. These films, shown for the first time during the festival, routinely sell out, organizers say.
This year also has a special offering for Halloween: Monster workshops. Best of the Fest winner Greg Aronowitz, who has created monsters for X-Files, Babylon 5 and Jurassic Park III, will lead a hands-on "Creepy Creatures" workshop for kids ages 10-13 to make their own monsters. The workshop will run from 1-2:30 p.m. Oct. 26 and Nov. 1 at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Fee is $20.
Below we’ve highlighted a few films in the festival’s American Showcase not to miss, but don’t stop there. Check online at cicff2008.org for a complete schedule of films, times and locations.
• "Little Dodo," (75 minutes, directed by Thilo Grat Rothkirch) 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 25 at Davis Theater, 4614 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1 at Wilmette Theater, 1122 Central Ave.; ages 4-6. In the depths of the green rainforest, young orangutan Dodo can imitate nearly every sound he hears. Dodo and a cast of crazy creatures discover the power of music.
• "At Jesus’ Side," North American premiere (82 minutes, directed by Patrick Wells), 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, Facets Cinematheque; ages 8-10. The film celebrates the journey of five homeless animals toward love and forgiveness. Starring Lucas Grabeel ("High School Musical") and Roma Downey ("Touched By An Angel").
• "Diamond Dog Caper," world premiere, (108 minutes, directed by Mark Stouffer), 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, Davis Theater; ages 9-11. Twelve-year-old Owen (Luke Benward, "How To Eat Fried Worms") must rescue an innocent dog from the hands of a notorious diamond thief and two accomplices.
• "Ping Pong Playa," (96 minutes, directed by Jessica Yu), 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, Wilmette Theater; ages 11 and up. C-Dub Wang, a free spirit who loves hip hop music and basketball, rises to the challenge of becoming a world class ping pong player.
• Other notable films this year include animated films "Spirit of the Forest" (Spain), featuring the voices of Angelika Huston, Ron Perlman and Sean Astin, "Diamond Stella and the Star of the Orient" (Germany) and "Where is Winky’s Horse" (Netherlands).