A decade ago the Providence Children’s Film Festival (PCFF) was founded with the mission of bringing the best of independent and international children’s cinema to New England. For the past 10 years, PCFF has been carefully assembling a roster of screenings, filmmaking workshops, and free activities, presenting them as shared experiences for the community. And it all happens within 10 days at a string of venues within walking distance of downtown Providence.
“Our goal is to bring kids together to watch films, talk about films, learn the craft of filmmaking, and assist them in making real connections back to their community,” says Anisa Raoof, PCFF executive director. The films showcased each year are selected by a group of jurors made up of kids of all ages, as well as adults. Raoof explains, “They choose films that might challenge, educate, and inspire children. The films either allow children to make connections back to their own lives, or allow them to see experiences much different than their own.”
We think of celebrating tenth anniversaries with tin or aluminum, but the festival is doing this landmark celebration a little differently. In honor of a decade well done, they will be re-airing a popular film from their first ever festival, Secret of Kells. They will also show a short film reel called Decade of Wonder, which features audience favorites from the past 10 festivals.
The movie that will open this year’s festival is the East Coast premiere of Supa Modo. Eric Bilodeau, director of programming, says, “A bittersweet testament to the power of cinema and community, award-winning director Likarion Wainaina's first feature film abounds in hope, love and humanity that lingers well after the credits roll.” This film is Kenya's Official 2018 Academy Awards entry for Best Foreign Language film.
A few years back, the Festival added something called Real Connections to their film showings, which, according to Raoof, has become an important part of the experience. These are activities or performances that PCFF pairs with certain films to enrich the experience of viewers. Last year, the Festival showed a reel of short films focused on the refugee crisis and afterwards had refugee families from The Dorcas International Institute come and share their experiences with the audience. Raoof said that each Real Connections is different but all aim to continue the conversations that the films start. “We’ve had everything from tap dancers, to eagles, to arts and crafts projects, to the filmmaker showcased that night coming to talk about their work,” lists Raoof.
At this year’s opening night celebration, the Real Connections will be an interactive stop-motion animation activity facilitated by local artist Rachel Blumberg.
Raoof shares another interactive component to the cinematic adventure: Each child gets a cinema passport that gets stamped everytime they come to a showing. “We want the kids to actually think about how cool it is that they are seeing films from all around the world,” says Raoof. “It’s a fun way for them to see movies, track it, and tell us whether they liked it or not.” She adds, “There’s nothing better than seeing kids come in with little passports that they’ve marked up or saved over the years.”
The Providence Children’s Film Festival has become a tradition for many Rhode Island families who return year after year. PCFF returns on February 16 and inspires attendees through February 25.