Portland to play host to Children’s Film Festival

The city of Portland is already home to a number of film festivals — including the ongoing Maine Jewish Film Festival, Portland Maine Film Festival, the horror-based Damnationland, The 48 Hour Film Project, the Maine African Film Festival and even the upcoming and inaugural International Moustache Film Festival — but now comes a film festival for the youngest among us.

East End Community School is sponsoring the Portland Children’s Film Festival, from March 29 to April 1 at several locations throughout the city.

According to an announcement by the Portland Public Schools, the festival will feature local, national and international children’s films and workshops.

Here’s some highlights of the festival as provided in an announcement by the district:

Programming for this year’s festival will include “Azur and Asmar,” a critically acclaimed film by French animation legend Michel Ocelot about two princes on their journey from childhood to manhood. Also showing will be “Kick Like a Girl,” a celebrated youth documentary about The Mighty Cheetahs, an undefeated third grade girls’ soccer
team competing in the boys’ soccer division.

A screenshot from the film "Daughters," set in rural China, which will be screened at the Portland Children's Film Festival. (photo courtesy Portland Public Schools)

“Santosh Sivan’s Tahaan,” an Indian film about a young boy and his beloved donkey struggling to find purpose and place amidst the backdrop of war, will take viewers on a breath-taking journey through the mountains of Kashmir.

“Eleanor’s Secret” is a story about a magic library where all the characters from classic children’s books come alive to assist a young boy with reading an ancient spell.  “Secret of Kells” is an Irish-French-Belgian film set in the seventh century that gives a fictional account of the creation of the Book of Kells.

The festival also will feature three collections of short films from the New York City International Children’s Festival, including films from Turkey, Ireland, Hungary, Slovakia, Spain, Latvia, Denmark, Canada, Australia, England, the United States and Australia.

Local films will include a premiere of short films produced by Portland children ages four to 11. Elementary schoolchildren in Portland submitted films as part of the festival’s Young Filmmakers Contest. The winning films will be shown at the Red Carpet Premiere at the Nickelodeon Cinemas on March 29 at 7 p.m. and at the Portland Public Library on March 31 at 12:45 p.m.

The theme for the film competition is “Out and About Portland – In and Around My Neighborhood.”  Children have developed films related to their unique experiences within the city.  Films include documentaries, live action, animation, stop-motion and computer-generated graphics.

The festival will offer a series of educational workshops and opportunities for children and families to interact with filmmakers, producers, actors, writers, technicians and others. Guest workshop leaders include “tween” author and filmmaker Hilary Weisman Graham, whose experience includes work on PBS’s “Zoom.” Her new book is titled “Reunited.”

Local artist and community activist Dovid Muyderman will lead a discussion about his work-in-progress, “The Lighthouse,” a film exploring his experiences as a homeless teenager in Portland. He also will offer a workshop where children and their families can rock out on film as they create their own music videos.

Robert Fiske, a Portland-based filmmaker specializing in creative camera, lighting and other media services, will lead a workshop on bringing puppets to life.

Alex Coppola, a freelance writer and filmmaker, is offering a stop-motion workshop.  Kristin Womble and Joseph Sibley from the Maine State Music Theatre will run a costume and make-up workshop.

Becki Smith, executive producer at WCSH 6, will work with kids in writing movie stories.  Ron Botting, affiliate artist at Portland Stage Company, will conduct an acting workshop, and Shana Jaques from the Children’s Museum of Maine will run a program including a short-film, discussion and craft activity from the We Are Maine series.

The festival will take place at Nickelodeon Cinemas, St. Lawrence Arts and Cultural Center, Zero Station, East End Community School, the University of Southern Maine’s Masterton Hall at 71 Bedford Street, the Portland Public Library and the Portland Museum of Art. See a complete schedule of events at www.portlandchildrensfilmfestival.com.

The festival was conceived and organized by East End Community School parents and staff members.  Proceeds will be used to plan next year’s festival and to support arts and enrichment activities at East End Community School.

Organizers have planned the festival as an annual event that will grow in size and scope, becoming a fixture of Portland’s creative economy and ultimately a destination weekend event that will attract visitors to the city.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.