Arts and Entertainment

Children’s film festival lifts a window to the world at Vashon Theatre

The film
The film 'Minnie Loves Junior,' about Australia, will play on Vashon this week.
— image credit: Courtesy Photos

Kids and their parents can hop aboard a celluloid magic carpet, departing from Vashon Theatre during a three-day film festival scheduled to take place this week.

A disclaimer: I’m boosting the film presentations not only because I’m a film buff, but also because I had a big hand in creating them. In my off hours from The Beachcomber, I work at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, where the programs first sprang to life on the silver screen.

The festival — presented on the island by Vashon Film Society — will start at 4 p.m. Friday with a colorful program of animation for all ages. The program is filled with funny, meditative and thrilling stories that span the globe from the Arctic to Mozambique, with stops along the way in Instanbul, India, Germany, France, Argentina and Germany. Only one film in the program has subtitles, and parents should feel free to cuddle close to their little ones and read along.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, the festival will continue with a program of live action short films specially curated for those 8 years and older. The show, with offerings from Brazil, Iceland, Colombia, Australia and the United States, includes documentaries and fiction films aimed at inspiring kids to shoot for the stars and overcome obstacles. There are also glimpses of rich cultures and ways of life that are very different from the Vashon experience.

One film, “B-Boy,” made by Seattle filmmaker Lisa Cohen, tells the story of a boy who is simultaneously preparing for his Bar Mitzvah and a national break dancing competition. Another film, “Calling Quilombola,” introduces viewers to a posse of kids from the favelas and villages of Brazil, who reach out to each other in an elaborate game of telephone. Another film, “Minnie Loves Junior,” takes audiences to the beaches of Australia to follow the story of a friendship between an Aboriginal boy and girl. An award-winning film from Iceland, “In a Heartbeat,” tackles the tough subject of bullying, while another film, “Hoverboard,” tells a whimsical tale of time travel.

The festival will step back to the dawn of cinema with its third program, set for 4 p.m. Sunday, when Vashon harpist Leslie McMichael will play her haunting harp and toy instrument score for the recently rediscovered and restored 1924 silent film “Captain January.”

The film’s star was Baby Peggy — a child actress who took the silver screen by storm 10 years before the success of Shirley Temple. She was the world’s first 5-year-old millionaire, churning out two-reelers and features. Behind the bright lights, the child star’s life was hard, and she was eventually blacklisted from studios after her manager-father got into bitter arguments with producers. Today, Diana Serra, the actress who played Baby Peggy, is still alive and the subject of a stirring new documentary, “Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room.”

In “Captain January,” Baby Peggy appears as an orphan who quite literally washes up on the shore of a wild beach, winning the heart of a crusty old lighthouse keeper who takes her in. The film is suitable for all ages.

All the films in the festival’s lineup come from Children’s Film Festival Seattle, an annual festival presented by Northwest Film Forum.

McMichael, who is also one of the organizers of the children’s film festival, said she hopes island families take advantage of what is a rare offering of cinema.

“Fall is a great time to cozy up in our theater,” said McMichael. “And if you miss these films, they won’t be at the mall multiplex. Bringing them to Vashon is a real draw.”

Tickets are $7 for Friday and Saturday shows and $10 on Sunday. A $15 pass will get you into all three shows.

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