Trailers for film festivals tend to try too hard, usually by attempting to suggest the variety of choices available at most festivals.
But the ninth edition of the Children’s Film Festival Seattle takes a simpler, less frantic approach that has its own charm. There are no clips from new films, no elaborate recreations of old ones, no self-conscious homages.
In their place are the fresh faces of Seattle kids who speak classic movie lines and give them a twist — sometimes gentle, sometimes sinister, sometimes literally eye-rolling. Prepare never to look at “The Shining” or “Cool Hand Luke” or “The Silence of the Lambs” the same way again. (You can catch the trailer, “Small People, Big Characters,” at the festival’s website: www.childrensfilmfestivalseattle.org.)
The festival begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at Northwest Film Forum, with a program that festival director Elizabeth Shepherd describes as “back to the dawn of cinema.” It consists of three rarely shown short 1920s films by festival favorite Lotte Reiniger, a German animator who made the first screen adaptation of the “Doktor Dolittle” stories. The shorts will be accompanied by new scores by Seattle musicians David Keenan and Nova Devonie.
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A Seattle band, Recess Monkey, provides the live music for the festival’s annual pajama party, which will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24.
In the festival, Shepherd plans to show 130 films from 32 countries, “curated especially for ages 3 to 15.” Among them are several movies aimed at older kids — including a Swiss entry filmed in Ethiopia, “Horizon Beautiful” — that express what Shepherd calls “a need to see films that show them the world.”
Teeming with street life (an argument over rancid butter is a comic-relief high point), “Horizon Beautiful” tells the relatively complex story of a fiercely determined 12-year-old who thinks he has one chance to become a soccer player. Trying to get the attention of a Swiss soccer pro, he gets involved in a kidnapping scheme that leads to a surprising meditation on mortality.
The American premiere will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, with one of the actors, Bryan Renzi, in attendance for a Q&A session. A repeat screening is scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28.
For the second year in a row, the festival will join forces with Seattle Children’s hospital. In conjunction with the hospital’s Healing Arts Program, the festival is screening “Mike Says Goodbye” (11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25), a well-made Dutch film about a sickly but spirited 10-year-old who believes he’s been abandoned at Christmastime. There’s a stock villain and a ridiculously tidy ending, but it’s difficult to resist the cast and their sunny message about the power of empathy.
Also returning for another year is the popular pancake breakfast (9:30 a.m. Feb. 1), which will be held at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, 1804 13th Ave., Seattle.
All other festival events will be held at Northwest Film Forum, including a scenic Chinese boy-and-his-horse story, “My Avatar Horse” (7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1); an animation workshop (noon Sunday, Jan. 26); and “The Whale Story” (7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29), a sweet short that was animated mostly in one weekend at Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park. It’s part of a collection, “Paint Me a Story: Animation From Around the Globe,” that will get four screenings during the festival.
John Hartl: email@example.com