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2012 Festival has fine films for children, too

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 9, 2012 - A perennial and popular program during the St. Louis International Film Festival is the Children's Showcase at Washington University's Brown Hall Auditorium. The program is presented by Washington University's Center for the Humanities and Cinema St. Louis. This year's program is Friday through Sunday, Nov. 9-11. The 10 films or sets of shorts are all free to the public and usually even include free popcorn.

Two one-hour programs are on Friday night at 6 and 7 p.m. First is a series of children's poems, illustrated with famous Disney animations and read by famous actors, including Jessica Alba, Kenneth Branaugh, Whoopi Goldberg and Katie Holmes. The second hour will include examples of popular TV animations with commentary. Native St. Louisan Brian Hohlfeld and Nichole Dubuc, both veteran children's animation screenwriters, will present the films and answer questions.

For details on each movie in the Children's Showcase program, visit the center’s website or the SLIFF website.

SOME RECOMMENDED HIGHLIGHTS

"Will" Saturday, 4 p.m.

(ages 10 and older)

A British schoolboy named Will loves the Liverpool Football Club, and after a heart-rending meeting with his long-absent dad, he runs away from school to attend the European Cup game in Istanbul, between Liverpool and Milan, an actual legendary match in 2005. Will's dad had told him, "Don't let fear get in the way of your dreams" — so he doesn't. If you love British schoolboy stories or innocent underdogs (or Liverpool Football), you'll adore this movie and cry at the end, guaranteed.

 

"Zarafa" Sunday, noon

(French, with English subtitles, ages 8 and older)

"Freely inspired by the true story of France's first giraffe." An absolutely charming animated fantasy, beautifully drawn and full of pleasant surprises. For anybody who wants to take a child to a genuinely wholesome family movie, "Zarafa" will be hard to beat. And if your child is a reader, a 1998 book of the same title, the apparent inspiration for the movie, tells the remarkable real history of the first giraffe to arrive in France.

"Tales of the Night" (Les Contes de la Nuit), 2 p.m., Sunday 

(French with English subtitles, ages 8 and older)

A witty series of sharply drawn, spectacularly colored animated fables, mostly sexy romances, all "re-written" as sly tales. Sweetly innocent to a child's eye, but to an adult, sublimated as only the French can sublimate.

"Camilla Dickinson," 7 p.m., Sunday

(ages 12 and older)

Based on a 1951 Madeleine L'Engle novel of the same name, "Camilla Dickinson" is a sweet-hearted but raw story of a wealthy Manhattan girl, age 15, who struggles with her parents' disintegrating marriage in small, frightening steps. This is old-school story telling from a world half-a-century gone, but still emotionally honest and satisfying. A very adult movie that is nevertheless suitable for kids down to middle school age. If you're weary of movies about teenagers who act like decadent 30-year-olds, this movie can thrill you, altogether decently, with the real struggles of stepping out of childhood into the winds of adult life.

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