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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Children’s Film Festival Seattle brings international experience to Spokane

The motto of the Children’s Film Festival Seattle is “Feed Your Mind. See the World. Make It A Better Place.”

But children don’t have to visit Seattle, or even leave Spokane, to do so, when the Children’s Film Festival Seattle stops by the Bing Crosby Theater on Sunday.

Now in its 13th year, the film festival is produced by Northwest Film Forum, a film arts organization based in Seattle.

Selecting films for the festival is like a treasure hunt, said Liz Shepherd, director of the Children’s Film Festival Seattle.

Shepherd and other staff members look at what other festivals and national cinemas are playing, as well as to filmmakers they know make good films.

“What we’re really looking for is something that is very affirmative to children, something that is child-centered …” Shepherd said. “And we’re also looking for films that really give the audience an appreciation, that increase their global awareness.

The 2017 festival featured 194 films from 53 countries and in 37 languages. The touring version of the festival features 16 shorts, but the countries of origin and languages are just as diverse.

Audience members will see an animation program called “Shine On,” which features a variety of animation styles.

“Shine On” films include “Junction,” a short from Lithuania, Canada and Australia about a girl from a family of “Face Changers” who journeys to a mountain to change the direction of the wind; “Konigiri-Kun Shopping,” a short from Japan about a rice ball who has adventures while shopping for sesame seeds; and “Moon Wolves,” a short from Sweden about a group of Moon Wolves who long to travel to the moon.

The film festival also features a live-action program called “Longing and Belonging.”

“This really does show how kids all over the world are longing for the same thing, wanting to share time with their family and find their passions,” Shepherd said. “It’s really a chance to get globally aware and find out what life is like for kids in a lot of different countries.”

Films in the “Longing and Belonging” program include “Shirin’s Dream,” from Iran, about a girl who displays persistence and ingenuity after losing a part in the school play; “Valentino,” from Brazil, about a boy who is deaf and dreams of being a musician; and “Mr. and Mrs. Kim,” from the U.S., about a young boy who wishes his parents were superheroes only to find that they are already extraordinary.

Live action films also include “The Debt,” from Ireland, about two friends who have to deal with bullying; “Displacement,” from Malaysia, in which Yemeni children share their experiences of being refugees; and “I Am Yup’ik,” from the U.S., about a teen who helps bring his community together through basketball.

“It’s meant to be a program where people can talk about the films afterward,” Shepherd said. “We want people to get back in the car afterward and say ‘That film took place in Alaska. Did you know kids who played basketball had to travel across tundra to go to tournaments?’ Tying the films back into our own lives, I think, is really important.”

Along with allowing children to experience the variety of emotions films can present, Shepherd also hopes audience members walk away feeling more aware of and connected to those around the world.

“You get a chance to see what the world is like,” she said. “It’s like an around-the-world trip, and we very much want our programs to convey that sense of wonder about the world and possibility.”

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