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Chris Stults, Associate Curator, Film/Video
Apr 10, 2020
Looking to liven up your family’s screen time? We’ve assembled a list of favorite shorts and features from the 17 editions of the Wexner Center’s Zoom Family Film Festival that are readily available to watch at home.
From Welcome to My Life, image courtesy of the filmmaker
PES shorts (all ages)
The stop-motion animator known as PES makes a world of play and possibility from household objects. His visit to the Wexner Center in 2013 was one of the most memorable Zoom screenings, as audiences left inspired to go home and make their own animations. Long stretches of available time is one of an animator’s greatest tools, so now’s a great time to try making your own short films! Start with PES’s film Fresh Guacamole (2 minutes, pictured at top of page) and then explore the rest of this animator’s delightful work.
Watch PES shorts on his YouTube channel.
The Preschool Poets (all ages)
The Columbus artist Nancy Kangas has been teaching area preschoolers to write poetry for nearly a decade. For this project, she’s picked eight poems to adapt into vibrant, varied, and charming animations brought to life by artists from around the world and read by the children themselves. Working with local filmmaker Josh Kun, the results range from the humorous to the poignant and are full of all the surprises that the best poetry and animation should provide. The world premiere of this program at the 2017 Zoom Family Film Festival, featuring a red carpet for the filmmakers and many of the preschool poets themselves, was one of the most memorable events we’ve ever presented at Zoom!
Watch the films here.
Other enjoyable shorts from Zoom’s ever-popular Saturday morning celebration of pajamas, cereal, and cartoons:
Perfect Houseguest (all ages, 2 minutes) A house is visited by a clean, organized, well-mannered guest in this stop-motion animation.
Welcome to My Life (ages 8+, 9 minutes) The animated high-school challenges of your average Monster-American teenager.
If you’re looking for something longer to watch, here are some feature-length audience favorites from past Zoom festivals:
(ages 7+, 93 minutes) No, not the Disney animation. And, no not the recent Disney live-action movie. This 1946 French version of the classic story is perhaps the most enchanting live-action fairy-tale ever made, as well as a landmark in fantasy filmmaking. Some of the astonishing effects in the film, such as the human candelabras, were incorporated into the Disney animation, but nothing has matched the sense of wonder and imagination created by this interpretation. Jean Marais’ sensitive, frightening, and tragic performance as the Beast is astonishingly moving. Pure magic!
Watch the film on Kanopy (free through the Columbus Metropolitan Library and Ohio State libraries) or The Criterion Channel.
(ages 7+, 80 minutes) It’s easy to see why The Boy and the World won the top prize at the world’s most respected animation festival: it’s a complete delight for the eyes and ears! With a refreshingly original animation style, the wordless film tells its tale solely through vibrant visuals. A young Brazilian boy ventures from his simple countryside home into a neon-infused, carnivalesque metropolis in search of his father. Employing everything from mosaics to watercolors, the film overflows with wonder and beauty, exploding with captivating colors as well as samba and hip-hop rhythms.
Watch the film on Netflix.
(ages 8+, 79 minutes) Little mice are taught to be afraid of bears, but when Célestine’s dream of meeting a bear is realized, the shabby Ernest proves to be the best friend an open-minded mouse could hope for. The film’s beautiful, old-fashioned, watercolor style of animation makes Ernest & Célestine stand out in a world of cookie-cutter 3D animations, and so does its charm and poignant story. A cult favorite with audiences around the world!
Watch the film on Amazon Prime.
(ages 8+, 90 minutes) Providing a delightful and raucous dose of girl power, the documentary Girls Rock! tracks the musical (and personal) education of several campers at the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon. Girls ages 8 to 18 come to the camp from all over the country to learn from counselors like Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney and Beth Ditto from The Gossip.The girls form bands, learn instruments, write songs, and then, in a rush of excitement and self-discovery, perform them in front of a large audience. But the camp—and the documentary—does much more than satisfy the young participants' Guitar Her dreams, it also becomes an exercise in female empowerment that leaves no one unchanged. As Seattle Magazine wrote, the film is "revolutionary, heart-breaking, and laugh-out-loud funny. Absolutely not to be missed."
Watch the film on Kanopy.
(ages 7+, 77 minutes) Liyana combines documentary and animation to create a uniquely compelling movie experience. Set in a Swaziland orphanage, the film follows five amazing children taking a class with a master storyteller. An ode to the power of storytelling and the strength of the human spirit, Liyana is an uplifting, genre-defying film that’s not to be missed!
Rent or purchase the film on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
(ages 6+, 80 minutes) Ever wonder what happens at night while you're asleep? The lusciously animated film Nocturna shows what happens when one boy, Tim, who's afraid of the dark, stays up and ventures out one night while everyone else is in bed. He discovers a magical world that is unveiled after the sun goes down (including fairy "hair-dressers" who muss up everyone’s hair during the night and a "conductor" who orchestrates a symphony of creaks, buzzes, drones, and other nighttime noises). With the aid of a creature known as The Cat Shepard, Tim helps to solve a mystery among the wondrous—and sometimes scary—nocturnal activities, and his adventures give him the confidence to overcome his fears. This film from Spain is filled with the joy of discovery and creates an inventive world in ways that recall classic children's literature and animation.
Every year there are films that we aren’t able to show at the festival for one reason or another. So we’re happy to spotlight a film that got away when we tried to show it at last year’s festival.
In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (ages 11+, 113 minutes), Oscar-winner actor Chiwetel Ejiofor directs this inspiring book-to-screen feature following 13-year-old William Kamkwamba, who is thrown out of school when his family can no longer afford the fees. Sneaking back into the school library, he finds a way, using the bones of the bicycle, to build a windmill which then saves his Malawian village from famine. The emotional journey of a father and his exceptional son at its heart, William’s tale captures the incredible determination of a boy whose inquisitive mind overcame every obstacle in his path.
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