Over four years, the Wexner Center's Columbus International Children's Film Festival has won over audiences with an annual slate of exceptional family-friendly movies from around the globe. But as co-organizer Chris Stults acknowledged, "The old name doesn't really roll off the tongue."
Not only was the handle a mouthful, "It excluded some audiences who'd be into what we're showing," he said. "An 11- or 12-year-old isn't going to appreciate a 'children's film festival.'"
With the fifth fest, which opens tonight, comes a broader and bolder new name, Zoom Family Film Festival. "Zoom has a sense of motion," Stults explained. "It has a meaning in terms of film technique. And zooming presents different parts of a larger whole," much like the film selections comprise a panoramic view of kids' lives and interests.
The name change also marks a programming expansion, an incorporation of more intense or challenging works. Among the seven features and one shorts program in 2008 is a show you should leave the very little ones at home for.
That's The Golem, the 1920 German silent classic based on an ancient Hebrew myth and a source for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The Saturday night presentation features a score by Israeli composer Betty Olivero, performed live by Carpe Diem String Quartet and the reigning king of klezmer clarinet, David Krakauer. It's recommended for ages 12 and up.
"Golem is for a slightly older audience," confirmed Stults. "We wouldn't do it at a kids' fest, but it's great for families of the right age."
The rest of the program is appropriate for anyone in or past grade school.
It brings back to a big screen the Iranian art-house delight Children of Heaven, a collection of classic Disney cartoons and Vincente Minnelli's Technicolor-ific period musical Meet Me in St. Louis, all screening Saturday. After watching Judy Garland's family enjoy the first ice cream cones at the 1904 World's Fair, viewers can have their own from Jeni's at the fest's annual ice cream social.
Among the local premieres is Sunday's closing selection, Taina 2: A New Amazon Adventure, an award-winning sequel to one of the fest's most popular selections from 2006. The rest we've previewed below, along with related events.
7 p.m. Thursday
A really fun opener, this doc by Arne Johnson and Shane King covers Oregon's Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, the source of a recent DIY book and the inspiration for Columbus' own Girlz Rhythm 'n' Rock Camp. The film introduces counselors like Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney, unique methods of learning musicianship and personal empowerment (self-defense classes, craft time with cutouts of Patti Smith and Bowie) and some remarkable girls. Meanwhile, 'zine-style graphics share the scary statistics the camp is fighting. The screening is followed by a short set and Q&A with local band The Mary Anns. Grade: B+
7 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. Sunday
Documentary filmmaker Helen Hood Scheer's approach to the fast-rising sport of competitive jump
roping leans toward the ordinary, yet her subjects are anything but. Innovative and incredibly
driven, the world-class U.S. jumpers representing four states (including Ohio) are making things up
as they go along, and sharing everything with their competitors for the betterment of the sport.
Tori Boggs, a participating speed jumper who will blow you away, introduces Friday's screening. On
Sunday, she's joined by several others featured, including Razz Ma Tazz jumpers Nick and Jeff, for
a post-movie interactive demo at Mershon Auditorium.
3:45 p.m. Saturday
A particular favorite of Zoom's co-organizer Dionne Custer, and for good reason. Like the brilliant output of Pixar, this Spanish animated feature about a little orphan boy forced to deal with his fear of the dark when his favorite star and many others dim in the night sky seems finely attuned to the imaginative powers of kids and the storytelling demands of grownups. We get a fully realized fantasy universe with beautiful imagery and an evergreen life lesson; they get a mischievous creature named Pee that can make you wet the bed with a single whisper.