Stories Come Alive at Belmont World Film’s Family Festival This Holiday Weekend

Photo: Windstorm and the Wild Horses

Belmont World Film holds its 15th annual Family Festival, “Where Stories Come Alive,” presented by Jackson-Walnut Park School and Henry Bear’s Park from Jan. 12 to 15, at the Regent Theatre in Arlington (5 Medford Street), Studio Cinema in Belmont (376 Trapelo Road), and Brattle Theatre in Cambridge (40 Brattle Street).

Twelve programs featuring more than 30 top animated and live action children’s films from around the world—many of which are making their international or North American premieres—plus a live version of WBUR’s “Circle Round” will be presented in English and other languages with subtitles from Belgium, Canada, Columbia, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and US. 

“In a world filled with memes and emojis, these films tell rich and unusual stories that don’t rely on special effects to create a sense of wonder,” says Belmont World Film Executive Director Ellen Gitelman.

“Furthermore, in an increasingly multicultural world, parents recognize the importance of fluency in more than one language The Family Festival offers children age 3-12 and their parents, grandparents, and friends the opportunity to hear and understand multiple languages in a fun and natural way.”

Each day revolves around a different theme:

  • Saturday is devoted to aquatic adventures,
  • Sunday to the animal kingdom, and
  • Monday to the heroes in our midst in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many films are based on children’s literature, including: Zip & Zap and the Captain’s Island, based on the Spanish comic book series; Tales from the Lakeside, an animated coming-of-age film from Hungary based on a book by Judit Berg; and Hedgehog’s Home, an unusual stop-motion short film constructed completely out of felt that is based on a story by Czech writer Branko Copic.

The festival also features short animated films based on children’s books from Weston Woods Studios, including the New England premieres of several newer books, such as 2017 Caldecott Medal winner They All Saw a Cat narrated by John Lithgow, Mo Willems’ popular books such as Knuffle Bunny, and books about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr. Other festival films include stories about spies, reindeer herding, wild horses, brave boats, children overcoming disabilities, and child refugees.


SATURDAY, JAN. 13, at the Studio Cinema 

What’s New from Weston Woods Studios, including 2017 Caldecott Medal winner They All Saw A Cat narrated by John Lithgow, Friendshape, Wolfie the Bunny, Duck on a Tractor, Leo: A Ghost Story, School’s First Day of School, and Mother Bruce (10:30 AM, Age 3-8, New England premieres).

Anchors Up: Boat to the Rescue, an original story from Norway about a young rescue boat from a small village that gets promoted to chief rescue boat in a big city harbor and helps to save the world with the help of his village friends (12:00, Age 3-8, International premiere).

Tales from the Lakeside, an animated coming-of-age tale from Hungary, adapted from Judit Berg’s book about the Verdies, the tiny but brave guardians of the lake. (1:30 PM, Age 5-9, East Coast premiere). 

Zip and Zap and the Captain’s Island, a mystery and an adventure about Spanish comic book brothers Zip and Zap, who discover that their parents’ sudden disappearance is related to the mysterious secret behind the island and its curious inhabitants. (3:15 PM, Age 7-12).

SUNDAY, JAN. 15, at the Regent Theatre

WBUR presents: “Circle Round”, a live performance of WBUR’s new storytelling podcast for kids, featuring folktales from around the world, including the Yiddish folktale It Could Always Get Worse and the Romanian folktale Stella and the Dragon, as well as live music (10:30 AM, Age 4-10).

Mo Willems: Bunnies, Pigeons, Mole Rats, Alligators & Dinosaurs, Oh My!, featuring animated versions of the author’s most popular books, including Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, That is Not a Good Idea, Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator, and Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. (11:45 AM, Age 3-8).

Cloudboy, about a shy skateboarder who lives with his father in Belgium, who reluctantly agrees to help herd reindeer during the summer in Lapland with his estranged mother, whose new family lives amongst the Sami, an indigenous reindeer-herding people. (1:15 PM, Age 8-12, East Coast premiere).

Windstorm and the Wild Horses, about a teenage horse whisperer who travels to Spain with her beloved black stallion, Windstorm, after she discovers the breed’s Spanish origins (3:00 PM, Age 7-18, North American premiere).

MONDAY, JAN. 15 at the Brattle Theatre

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., featuring Martin’s Big Words narrated by Michael Clarke Duncan, March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World by Dr. Christina King Farris, Rosa, and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands (10:30 AM, Age 5-12).

Hero Steps, based on the true-life story of a courageous 10-year-old boy from Colombia with a passion for soccer, whose handicap won’t stop him from fulfilling his dream of playing soccer in an important tournament. Co-presented by Reelabilities Film Festival (12:00, Age 5-12, New England premiere).

Oskar’s America, about a 10-year-old boy who dreams of riding the prairies in America with his mother and attempts to row there from Norway to visit her in a rowboat. Co-presented by Bridges Together. (2:00 PM, Age 9-14, North American premiere).

Brave & Amazing Children, a benefit for the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center featuring four short films that profile the lives of four child refugees (3:45 PM, Age 9-12, North American premieres).

Festival sponsors include: Jackson Walnut Park School and Henry Bear’s Park (Continent Sponsors); Dutch Culture USA and Boston Volvo Village (Nation Sponsors); German International School of Boston and Mass. Cultural Council (Province Sponsors); and Belmont Books, Belmont Day School, East Boston Savings Bank, Consulate General of Sweden, and Whole Foods (Capital Sponsors). Media sponsors include Boston Central and WBUR. Community partners include Bridges Together, Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, Reelabilities Film Festival, and the Scandinavian Cultural Center. 

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