Toronto is a great city for film buffs, and thanks to TIFF Kids International Film Festival, that includes the munchkins, too. The annual festival is about to kick off for the 16th time, and this year boasts a diverse lineup of programming for all ages, the premiere of Canada’s first 3D animated feature film, and a new partnership with Sesame Workshop.
“For 15 years, we’ve been bringing quality children’s films from around the world,” said Elizabeth Muskala, director of TIFF Kids. This year is no exception. The festival will feature 117 films from 40 different countries, including Argentina, Poland, Japan, and, of course, Canada.
Toronto’s multicultural backdrop is perfect for a festival that includes stories from around the globe, Muskala said. “It’s a window into the world for young people.”
Canada’s homegrown film industry features prominently in The Legend of Sarila (La
légende de Sarila) (Showtimes). It’s the first 3D animated feature to come out of Canada, the result of years of work by director Nancy Florence Savard and producer Marie-Claude Beauchamp. The story is inspired by various Inuit legends, and there’s voice work from Oscar-winning actor Christopher Plummer, as well as a cast of Canadian voice actors. The festival will close with the international premiere of the German film Famous Five 2 (Fünf Freunde 2) (Showtimes), adapted from the Enid Blyton book series.
This year also marks a new partnership between TIFF Kids and Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind Sesame Street. During the weekend of April 20 and 21 at the festival, a variety of Sesame-related programming will be held at the Lightbox, including a meet-and-greet with Sesame Street characters, a free screening of Elmo’s Alphabet Challenge, workshops with Sesame’s talent, and Sesame Street apps, which will be available in what TIFF calls the “digiPlaySpace Appcade.”
According to Muskala, joining forces with Sesame Workshop was natural for TIFF Kids. “We share a number of the same qualities and values as organizations,” she said.
But there’s even more to the festival than those marquee events. Twenty-seven other feature films will screen along with the two we mentioned. The festival’s 13 short-film programs explore a variety of themes for kids of all ages—from feelings and imagination for the younger set, to courage and the global community for older kids. Age guidelines are given for each film so parents can make informed decisions about what to see with their kids. Along with the Sesame Street apps, the TIFF Kids digiPlaySpace features interactive installations, learning-based games, and workshops with celebrated children’s artists. Two installations will have their world premieres at the festival: “Weather Worlds,” which allows kids to create weather events; and “Touch Circuits,” which uses kids’ own bodies to teach them about circuitry through music and play. The festival caters to industry professionals as well, with Sesame Workshop industry programming and a keynote speech from Paul DeBenedittis, Senior Vice President of Programming Strategy for Disney Channels Worldwide.
Muskala thinks TIFF Kids will give parents a unique opportunity to pass on a love of cinema to their children. “What’s really amazing is that the festival is all about empowering and inspiring young people,” she said.