The Review/ Short Read/
TIFF Kids Q&A: Ask Liz
TIFF Kids’ director and lead programmer offers advice on some of the many smart things to see at this year’s festival
The most important part of the TIFF Kids International Film Festival is right there in its name: Kids. But the festival’s dedication to speaking to its audience and not down to them means that much of its programming content is as suitable for parents and guardians in the cinema as it is for their young charges.
So, we’re here to help our fellow grown-ups select films that will please everyone. We rounded up a few questions from TIFF Bell Lightbox staff (full disclosure: they came from inside the building) and sought out the very busy but very courteous Elizabeth Muskala, Director of TIFF Kids and Youth Learning, for viewing advice.
Q: Long-time TIFF Kids follower, first-time writer here. I'm a parent with two kids, ages 2.5 and 4.5. Both are under-exposed to television and film compared to their peer groups and have only ever experienced carefully selected screen content. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what programming at the festival would be most appropriate to introduce them to the cinema? —Allan G.
A: Our Reel Rascals: Animated Tales programme for ages 3 to 5 is a great introduction to the best international, animated TV and short-film content for our youngest festival-goers. The films in the programme are short enough to keep very young kids engaged. The focus is on simple, funny, vibrant stories in an array of animation styles, with lots of music and very little dialogue. The themes are always positive: imagination, collaboration, kindness, and friendship. We also have an episode of the British TV series Hey Duggee, which recently won an International Emmy Kids Award in the pre-school category and a BAFTA for best pre-school animation.
Q: My niece is 7 in June and her brother will be 13 in May. She is really outgoing, active, and loves to learn. He loves the Marvel franchise, videogames, and local wildlife. They live outside Toronto in a rural area. Is there anything that would appeal to both of them, or could they see different shows at the same time? —Melanie K. W.
A: Based on their interests and ages, I would recommend that they attend separate screenings, but they would both enjoy our Closing Night screening, Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter, directed by Goro Miyazaki, produced by the renowned Studio Ghibli, and winner of the 2016 International Emmy Kids Award for Animation. We are showing the first four episodes of this series, which is based on Astrid Lindgren’s book of the same name. If they choose to attend screenings separately, this Sunday (April 9) there is both the Me Up Front shorts programme (for ages 6–8) and the feature TRIO – The Hunt for the Holy Shrine (ages 10–13). They can pair that up with a trip to digiPlaySpace, our interactive exhibition.
Q: My 12-year-old son is a big fan of sci-fi and genre — the quirkier the better (Doctor Who, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency). He enjoys dark humour, scary films (though not too scary), loves history, and is drawn to social issues. What are some films for older kids that we could enjoy together? —Kieran G.
A: My recommendations would be Room 213, a supernatural ghost story, and the environmental-themed documentary Plastic China, as well as our shorts programmes A Place Here, First Step Forward, and The Reel Deal, which cover themes of migration, discrimination, social justice, and mental health.
Q: I don’t have kids, but as a long-time TIFF-goer I am interested in seeing how stories for children are treated in other countries. What are some films that represent different approaches to storytelling on screen? —Matt B.
A: There are over 60 countries of production represented at TIFF Kids. Such a vast slate of films and short programmes provides myriad perspectives on and approaches to storytelling, and challenges preconceptions of what international cinema for children looks like. For just a handful of thought-provoking, authentic, and diverse films, my recommendations would include: Cloudboy, On Wheels, Little Wing, At Eye Level, Mountain Miracle – An Unexpected Friendship, and the shorts programmes Reflections, The Heart of Matters, and First Step Forward.