Still trying to decide what to do during the upcoming long weekend? How about a family film festival? This week I chat with Ellen Gitelman, executive director of the Belmont World Film’s Family Festival, which takes place Jan. 16-19. All of the films are reasonably priced, with tickets as low as $5. You can also buy a passport for all 12 films for $40, or a one-day pass for $20. The films are being screened at The Regent Theatre in Arlington, which has acres of free parking and tons of public transportation options. The other theater being used is the West Newton Cinema in Newton.
Tell me about this year’s Belmont World Film’s Family Festival.
It’s titled “Cinematic Adventure,” and starting with the first night’s swashbuckling film, “Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama,” it’s what most of the films have in common—adventure, costumes and music. It’s a very entertaining film and it really sets the tone for the rest of the festival. Other films we’re screening over the weekend include “Rooster Doodle Doo” and “Pim and Pom: The Big Adventure,” a Dutch movie about two cats on a great adventure. It shows the meaning of friendship and being loyal. It’s very colorful and a really wonderful film. “Lola on the Pea” is about a Kurdish boy who is helped by a girl in Germany. “T.I.M. (The Incredible Machine),” which is set in the not-too-distant future, is about a first-generation robot and a boy who go on an amazing adventure.
And then there’s “Belle and Sebastian,” a French film that’s a total adventure story. It takes place during World War II and is about a wild dog and Nazis. It doesn’t actually touch on the Holocaust, but is about Jewish people who needed to be taken out of France. It’s realistic. I should mention that Belle does get hurt.
On Monday we will have a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. We’ll also be screening “I Am Eleven,” which was filmed all around the world and shows what it’s like to be 11 in India, France, Australia and all seven continents. The final film is “Horizon Beautiful” about a 12-year-old from Ethiopia who wants to be a soccer player. It’s a really touching story for older children because it has mature themes. The boy is so resourceful; he even makes his own soccer ball.
And the most important feature of the weekend, which is also turning into our most popular film, is “It’s Easy Being Green: Films About Animals and the Environment.” “The Dam Keepers” is by former Pixar artists Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutumi, who made “Ratatouille” and “Monsters Inc.” That one is about a pig who keeps the sails on a large windmill dam moving to keep pollution out of a town that is the only survivor of an environmental disaster. They are all inspiring films about children making a difference.
We’ll also be hosting a discussion with 11-year-old Alice Van Evera from Lexington, who was so inspired by films from the “Young Voices for a Planet” series that she started a group that was instrumental in getting the Girl Scouts to stop using palm oil.
I know my daughter, who’s turning 2, is a touch too young for this event. What’s the ideal age range for this festival?
It’s really for ages 3-12. If I were to bring a 2-year-old, I’d bring her to the Weston Woods Studios program. Kid under 5 tend to get squirmy after about 30 minutes.
You hold a degree in gastronomy and food studies from Boston University. Has that helped you plan the ethnic cuisines that go along with the screenings?
I actually got partway through the degree, but I did do a focus on wine classes. In the springtime, the film festival does an eight-week international film series for adults. This past year we showed the French film “Megeve,” about a ski resort that features a fondue scene, so we had a fondue party afterward. We were talking about the meaning of fondue and the special tools and rituals for men and women. It was a total learning experience because it’s about more than just watching movies; it helps make people sensitive to other cultures. We had a film about Portugal and we featured a Portuguese buffet. Flan is actually Portuguese, and people often don’t realize that.
I heard “The Duckling Gets a Cookie” by Mo Willems was made into a movie. Tell me more!
Yes, that would be the film I think would be most appropriate for a 2-year-old. They made a movie from the most recent Mo Willems Pigeon book, “The Duckling Gets a Cookie,” and this will be its New England premiere. It’s about a duck that gets a cookie, and Pigeon, who can’t eat nuts. It’s about learning to ask for things. At the end of the movie, everyone gets a nut-free cookie from Fancy Pants Bakery—you just have to ask nicely! The movie is 35 minutes long, which is the right length for younger children. I’d suggest reserving tickets as soon as you can for this one because it’s already almost sold out.
Four questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!