The 15th annual Atlanta Children’s Film Festival kicks off July 7 and gives aspiring young filmmakers the chance to sit in the director’s chair. The Kids Video Connection organization created the festival to help nurture the next generation of star filmmakers. Held on the campus of Emory University, it includes virtual and in-person events and screenings. Festival director Alicia C. Johnson joined “City Lights” senior producer Kim Drobes via Zoom and Dr. Amy Aidman of Emory University’s Department of Film and Media to talk about this year’s festival offerings.
With a field as technical and creatively demanding as film, it might come as a surprise that child enrollment has increased in recent years. But Aidman expressed confidence that the children can rise to the challenge. “Kids bring a lot of imagination to filmmaking, and they also bring a surprising ease with technology,” Aidman said. “I’m super impressed – actually, in awe – of some of the movies that are made by very young kids, school-aged kids who do things like write and direct and do the animation and the voices and everything, on a short movie.”
The global community stands out as a feature of this year’s festival, with its theme “One Family, Creating Together”. This year, filmmakers from all over the world submitted more than 100 films for evaluation by the festival committee, and the creators included children as well as adults making films for children. Some come from as far away as Finland, the Czech Republic and Mongolia.
“We have films that are fun, inspiring and revealing,” Johnson said. “One movie that really inspired me was ‘Dear Madam President.’ It’s an inspirational animated short about a little girl with a big dream who wants to be president one day. Aidman highlighted the excellence of animation formats among the nominations, saying, “I’m not expert in animation, but you see everything from very simple shadow puppets, to modeling clay, to all kinds of digital animations, and people experimenting with different kinds of effects.”
Eight-year-old Penelope Campbell has created and submitted a film called “The Fox and the Turtle.” “What’s so interesting about it,” Johnson said, “she produced this movie during COVID, and she said she wanted to create something that would show how people can work together, and that’s a little turtle helping a fox retrieve his backpack from the river… She actually created the little animals, she actually did the voiceover for the main character.
An animation workshop is among those organized by the festival, as well as its more intensive introductory cinema camp, in which children produce a short film in five days. But beyond the technical foundations of cinema, the workshops of the festival help children better understand the media. Aidman said, “Media literacy involves understanding not only what you see on screen, but what’s behind what you see on screen. So how was it done? Who are the people involved? What equipment is used, who are the people in it? What are they doing?”
Aidman commented on the significant advantage children can gain in a booming industry by igniting their interest at a young age. “It’s a huge head start to start when you’re young… If you aim to be a professional musician or professional artist when you start with those roots in childhood, it lays the foundation for the rest of your life. It fuels your interest and it fuels your passion.
The Atlanta Children’s Film Festival runs online and in-person July 7-24, with screenings and special Family Day events on July 23. Tickets and more information are available at atlcff.eventive.org/welcome.