This time of year, the center for children's culture in this country always moves to Chicago, where the Chicago International Children's Film Festival and the Chicago Children's Humanities Festival both begin this weekend. This year marks the 22nd Chicago International Children's Film Festival. Each year, the Festival screens hundreds of films and videos made for and by young people from around the world -- dramas and documentaries, comedies and social commentaries, meditations and animated shorts of every variety. In fact, just to give you an idea of the quality of the movies being shown in Chicago, one of the prize-winning animated films at the festival will automatically become a nominee for this coming year's Oscars. For the most part, these are films that you will never see in our multiplexes or on American television because they aren't backed by huge publicity budgets and driven by the entertainment engines that affect so much of what our children see. Instead, the films in Chicago reflect the guiding purposes of the Festival -- to "[present] the best in children's media and [advocate] positive programming for children: humanistic, non-exploitative, culturally diverse, and non-violent work that not only features children in leading roles, but tells their stories and addresses their issues." The film festival also sponsors a number of workshops for aspiring filmmakers during festival times and throughout the year. Indeed, one of the intentions of the festival is to provide guidance that isn't generally offered to young people today by encouraging children to watch what's on the screen with a critical eye. To this end, children play a key role in the juries that select the films that are shown at the festival, and, independent of the adult judges, give a series of their own prizes to the films.
The Chicago Children's Humanities Festival is similarly full of works that speak directly to children, whether in the form of the tales from the Jewish Tradition told by Susan Stone, or in the fiction of award-winning author, Linda Sue Park, who will receive the Chicago Tribune Young Adult Book Prize, which is presented at the festival each year. As always, there is plenty of music (this year from the Chicago Children's Choir and from the Fulcrum Point New Music Project, which will be performing original musical compositions based on the works of children's book illustrators Ana Juan and Chris Van Allsburg). There's drama from Amesterdam's Theatre Terra and Chicago's own Theatre for Young Audiences and the Barrel of Monkeys performance troup. And you won't want to miss John Scieszka (of Stinky Cheese Man and Math Curse fame) performing his hilarious Science Verse. It may be getting chilly outside in Chicago, but inside, for the next few weeks, the city is warm and glowing with the heat of creative energy.
Copyright 2005© John Cech
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Thursday, 29-Sep-2005 14:37:24 EDT