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ONGOING --Animation Block
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NYC Film Festivals

Children’s Film Fest Brings Brains, Not Barney

By Elena Marinaccio

Who would have thought Pulp Fiction would ever inspire a film festival celebrating, of all things, children’s cinema? Eric Beckman, founder and director of the New York International Children’s Film Festival (launching today and running until March 18), recently told The Reeler how he realized his dream of a kid’s film series that didn’t revolve around the likes of Benji while witnessing the indie-boom of the early nineties.

The title character of Serge Elissalde's "trippy, knowing fairytale" U, the opening-night selection of this year's New York International Children’s Film Festival (Photo: NYICFF)

“Children were just getting the short shrift in terms of the types of media that were being produced for them -- specifically with respect to films," Beckman said. "At that time the indie film thing had really broken through to the mainstream with films like Pulp Fiction, Like Water For Chocolate and Hoop Dreams, with art films and foreign films just readily available to adults. So why is there only one thing being produced for kids? Back then everyone was trying to make Pocahontas over and over again, and nowadays everyone’s trying to make Shrek over and over again, and there’s really no alternative.”

For its 10th anniversary, the NYICFF programmed 109 films (each categorized by age-appropriateness, ranging from 3-18) and several U.S. premieres, including Serge Elissalde’s animated film U, which opens the festival tonight at the Director’s Guild of America Theater. Other events include sound design workshops, an animation retrospective via the National Film Board of Canada, and programs such as Rare Seuss on Film and Girls’ POV. The festival also boasts a celebrity jury with the likes of Gus Van Sant and Susan Sarandon.

“People have this idea of kid’s films," Beckman said. "They automatically think Disney, or the Teddy Bear Picnic, or the Lollipop Parade, or purple dinosaurs dancing around with silly songs, but it’s so not that," Beckman said. “The 12-18 [age] features are not really films that were made for kids at all. They’re just a bunch of cool films that we feel would appeal to our audience. We have a fair number of filmgoers that don’t have kids -- you know, 25 year-olds who are just into cinema and come to see our screenings.”

Beckman has three children of his own who all help out with the festival, from previewing hundreds of films to selling T-shirts. “Yeah, they’ve seen more foreign films than any children their age," he said. "They’re getting a better education in film than I ever got.”

The New York International Children’s Film Festival runs through March 18 at the Directors Guild of America, Symphony Space, Cantor Film Festival and IFC Center. Check its Web site for ticket, program and schedule information.

Posted at March 2, 2007 11:28 AM

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