Six days in Sharjah: films for kids

The fifth edition of Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF) takes place on 8-13 October. The six days will feature 124 films from 33 countries, selected from around 500 that were reviewed by SICFF’s expert panel.

The organiser, as always, is Sharjah Media Arts for Youth and Children, which goes by the engaging moniker FUNN; the organisation aims to promote media literacy among the young and to foster their creativity in media arts and filmmaking.

“The festival showcases cinema as an indispensable modern means for learning and entertainment, highlighting its role in developing the capacity of young viewers in areas of discovery, imagination and knowledge,” said Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, director of both FUNN and SICFF. “Through this festival and our other year-round activities, we seek to empower the younger generation in a way that those who wish to take up filmmaking and the media arts as a career are fully equipped to do so.”

The festival’s films are in a variety of languages – certainly not all Arabic – and most are short (and therefore commendably child-friendly). Here are three features we really liked the look of:

Window Horses: excellent animation about being curious and building bridges between cultural and generational divides. A young Canadian poet lives at home with her over-protective Chinese grandparents; she’s invited to a poetry festival in Iran, where she finds herself having to confront her past – including the father she assumed had abandoned her. Stirringly original, and beautifully animated.
At Eye Level: German feature about an orphan who tries to find his father – and then discovers that his dad is a dwarf. A fable about acceptance of differences and the meaning of family.
Half Ticket: Two slum-dwelling brothers in India are eager to eat pizza at the newly opened restaurant, but they can’t afford to. Their story is interwoven with their mother’s desire to bring her husband back home and a low-rent thug’s desire for easy money. Often funny, always poignant.

The programmes typically consist of six to eight films in a 45 to 60 minute show, with more films and longer programmes in the evenings. The recommended age range will help narrow your selection, too. There are Q&A sessions to follow several of the programmes, and FUNN is running a series of practical workshops too: check the downloadable brochure for details.

The festival also has awards in seven categories – Best Child-Made Film, Best Student Film, Best Short GCC Film, Best International Short Film, Best Animation Film, Best Documentary Film, and Best Feature.

Most of the films show at the Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre on Al Dhaid Road, just about opposite the gates for Sharjah Airport. Schools-only shows are at Novo Cinemas in the Sahara Centre.

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