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Family Fun: Kiddomatic Film Festival brings the world home

This year, while the pandemic keeps families at home, the Kiddomatic Film Festival is aiming to give children a glimpse of what life is like in other cultures and countries.

“It’s kind of like traveling, even though we’re in this virtual land,” said Carrie Richer, director of film festivals at the Roxy Theater in Missoula.

The nearly 40 films Richer and a colleague picked span genres and styles; some are as short as 2 minutes, others are 90 minutes. A $20 pass gives families access to all films – as many times as they want to view them – through Nov. 30.

The program includes the 1995 feature “Gumby: The Movie”; “Heatwave,” an 8-minute stop-motion film from Greece; “Kamali,” about the only girl skateboarder in an Indian fishing village; and the documentary “Water Flows Together,” about acknowledging indigenous land in outdoor recreation.

“The Snail and the Whale” is based on a picture book of the same name. Richer says it’s been a popular choice among viewers and has a great underlying message about the power of reading and writing.

As a parent, Richer finds “The Fox and the Bird” particularly poignant. It’s a great story with magical animation, she said, about a fox who raises a little bird.

“And then, the bird just flies off and is a really successful bird. … So the fox doesn’t get to hang out with the bird anymore because it can fly, but it’s a really awesome, magical film.”

All of the films are labeled with suggested ages. And for families who want to go beyond the films, Kiddomatic offers learning videos, lessons and activities. For instance, the one geared to third- to fifth-graders is about sound effects and how you can make your own.

“Then, you can watch these animated films that are really built around sound effects in telling the stories,” Richer said.

But, the movies also can just be a break for families. “It’s easy, fun content that you can trust, that you know is going to create really fun conversations with your kids,” she said.

One of Richer’s favorite films on the program is the French classic “The Red Balloon.”

“It was filmed in 1956, but it’s just such a fun, visual, simple story that I think anyone from any age can look at that and see what Paris is like and feel like you’re traveling and feel like you’re a kid again,” she said.

“I think we all need some of that joy and lightness right now.”

Complete Kiddomatic programming is available at kiddomatic.org.

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