Looking for ideas for things to do with the kids over spring break? Mark your calendars: The Montreal International Children’s Film Festival will return for its 23rd edition from Feb. 29 to March 8. The festival will showcase 100 films from 34 countries at Cinéma Beaubien.
For festival Director Jo-Anne Blouin, the goal is expose kids to movies from other countries they normally wouldn’t get to see, and to give them a chance to explore the world, right from their seat.
“In North America, children have access mainly to films from the United States but there are also other fantastic films from around the world that portray different stories,” Blouin says. “I think it’s important that kids have access to a variety of stories and genres from films from different countries. It helps them learn about the world and see how other kids live.”
The feature film, Ma Folle Semaine Avec Tess, a Dutch film about an 11-year-old boy named Sam, will kick start the film festival this year at Cinéma du Musée. When Sam and his family are on vacation on a Dutch island, Sam decides to isolate himself for a few hours a day to see what it’s like to live by himself. But then he meets Tess, who changes his plans. She is hiding a secret and sends him on an obscure mission in a summer that changes both their lives.
Blouin says the films will be geared to kids aged 2 to 12 and have universal themes including bullying, divorce and death. “If a kid from Montreal sees a child from Africa who has to tackle a similar problem to one he has had, it can teach him how to deal with the situation,” Blouin says.
Some of this year’s most anticipated films, says Blouin, include the French film Fahim, a story about a young Bangladeshi boy who is a chess prodigy. The film takes you through he and his family’s move to Paris for a better chance to hone his trade, and the culture shock that ensues. Blouin says this film sets a good example for the young kids to learn how to become yourself in a competitive world. Also, with the Oscar-winning film, Parasite, putting South Korea on the filmmaking map, Blouin says, one film to look out for during this film festival is the South Korean film, History of Families, by Yoon Ga-eun, which tells the story of 12-year-old Ha-na, who meets Yoo-mi and Yoo-Jin, two young children abandoned by their parents. The three form a family who hope that their bond helps them save their respective families.
There will be a variety of films, including long and short films, animation, fiction, documentaries and television series. Movies played at Cinéma Beaubien will be in French or another language, which will be subtitled or dubbed in French.
New this year at the film festival is Grandparent Day, which will take place on March 1, starting at 1:30 p.m. The idea of the activity is for the parents to take a break and for the grandparents to spend the entire day with their grandchildren, watching movies, says Blouin. Treat baskets will be given out to everyone attending throughout the afternoon.
Films cost $9.50 for adults and children alike. You can also buy a 10-entry package for $85. Group tickets are also available. For more information on the full program and activities, and to buy tickets, visit fifem.com.