In the fall, the cultural calendar for young people is always full in Chicago, and this year marks the 23rd annual Chicago International Children's Film Festival, which opened yesterday and will be going strong until the 31st of October. The Festival is the largest one of its kind in this hemisphere, and every year it brings together well over two hundred films from nearly 50 countries. There are movies by both children and adults -- comic, brilliant, complex, sad, unusual, moving, clever, thought-provoking films that you usually won't see in any other place but here. And 24,000 children in the Chicago area attend screenings of selections of these movies during the next two weeks.
The last time I was at the festival I saw a group of astonishing short films from France that dealt with aspects of what the producer of the films called "every day racism." The films were told from the points of view of young people, and they have since been shown on French national television as a way to further discussions on the subject of race in that country. That year one of the festival premieres was the hilarious "For the Birds," which went on to win the Oscar for Best Short Animated Film. It's that kind of festival, where you have the opportunity to see many of the best movies that are being made for young people in a given year. And you also may bump into some very well-known actors and directors at the opening gala or closing ceremony, and throughout the festival at its many workshops, talks, and screening.
But star power is not the point of the festival. The point is young people and their experiences of films. That's why a key part of the program provides children with an opportunity to get involved in the festival as filmmakers who may enter their own original works and also as participants in the selection process for the awards that are given out at the end of the festival. The festival trains young film critics through a program that it offers called "Young Chicago Critics" -- which includes a summer film camp. There are both adult and children's juries for the festival prizes, and these groups reach their decisions about awards independently. It's an exhilirating, hands-on, forward-looking, independent-spirited festival, and one of this movie-loving, sometimes movie-mad nation's national treasures. You can see what it's all about at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival website at http://www.cicff.org.
Copyright 2006© John Cech
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Monday, 02-Oct-2006 13:52:52 EDT