Tales of brave and resourceful girls from Africa, the Middle East and Europe will light up the screen at the upcoming 14th annual Children’s Film Festival Seattle.
It’s all part of the festival’s mission to create an event for young people with global reach and a diverse array of artists and creators. With 17 thematic programs of animated and live-action shorts and 14 feature films, the festival aims to appeal to young people who seek to expand their horizons and acquire new perspectives from across the world.
Bowing Jan. 24 and running through Feb. 9, at Northwest Film Forum, the festival notably includes feature films about girls that promote racial equity and diversity, inclusivity, social justice, and global awareness.
These include films that were nominated by Iran and Kenya as their picks for the Best Foreign Film Oscar contention, as well as two others that will have Seattle and North American premieres at the festival.
“Liyana,” a hybrid live-action documentary and animated feature film from Swaziland that has already won multiple prizes on the international film festival circuit, will screen at CFFS at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at Northwest Film Forum. The screening—a Seattle premiere—is co-presented by The Seattle Globalist.
The film, directed by Aaron and Amanda Kopp, follows a group of orphaned Siswati children as they work with storytellers and animators to create their own film about a girl whose life mirrors their own.
The girl, named Liyana, has lost her parents to AIDS and must embark on a danger-filled journey to rescue her tiny twin brothers from a band of thieves.
The film touches only lightly on the scarring pasts of the children in the orphanage, instead focusing on how their experiences and fantastical imaginations play into their creation of a gripping story that ultimately delivers a message of hope and triumph over adversity.
The film is suitable for ages 9+.
“Breath”—Iran’s Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film, standing as the country’s first movie by a female director chosen for that honor—will have its CFFS screening at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, at Northwest Film Forum.
Directed by Narges Abyar in 2016, “Breath” establishes itself as more of a young adult film, and is recommended for age 14+.
The action of the sweeping film takes place around the time of the 1979 revolution in Iran, when violence and instability wracked the country. It tells the story of a young girl named Bahar, who escapes into her own world through her fascination with books, including those not approved of by her conservative grandmother.
Audience members will find themselves traveling through the intertwinement of a magical, fictional world and the sometimes prosaic and harsh realities of a young girl’s life. What ultimately defines Bahar’s story lies within its visceral experience, which has all the vibrant colors, incomprehensible rules and complex family relationships that children all over the world must navigate. The fact that Behar’s world also includes war is what makes her story tragic as well.
The other film entered for the category of Best Foreign Film is Kenya’s “Supa Moda,” set for two CFFS screenings on 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2.
“Supa Moda—which is now completing a triumphant festival circuit in which the film won more than 20 prizes—is a live-action gem by up-and-coming Kenyan director Likarion Wainaina.
The film exposes viewers to the final days of a nine-year-old Kenyan girl’s life. In interviews, Wainaina has said that the movie has a powerful universal message which is illustrated through the child’s positive attitude in the face of insurmountable adversity.
“Supa Moda” is also a paean to the power of movie-making itself—a key plot point is that the girl’s family joins together with other villagers to make a film that fulfills the girl’s greatest wish to become a superhero, capable of flying above her troubles and illness.
The film is for ages 11+ and is in Swahili, Kikuyu and English, with English subtitles.
CFFS’s fourth film about girls, the documentary “One Girl,” by United Kingdom director Rosa Russo, extends to a much larger scale, examining the lives of not one but four girls who each live within a different region, country and culture. While all of the girls have dreams, it is the circumstances in which they are raised—in South Sudan, Romania, Palestine and Finland—that define their daily struggles and joys. “One Girl” has its festival screening—a North American premiere—at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at Northwest Film Forum. The film, in Arabic, Romanian, Finnish, Juba Arabic, English, with English subtitles, is recommended for ages 10+.
To purchase tickets and find out more about these films, as well as the other full-length features and shorts, in the festival lineup, visit childrensfilmfestivalseattle.org.