By Michelle Trauring
What do an indecisive German octopus that loves to bake, an unexpectedly tidy American mouse, an ambitious French tree that decided to grow legs and walk, and an opinionated 6-year-old Brazilian boy all have in common?
On the surface, absolutely nothing. But dig a little deeper, and more than 25,000 people will know the answer—though a significant chunk of them are less than age 7.
They were the audience members during the month-long New York International Children’s Film Festival this past March in Manhattan, where they watched all of the aforementioned characters—and a number of others—in animated and live action shorts that traverse the globe.
Out of 2,500 international submissions, just 100 films representing more than 30 countries in 15-plus languages entertained and dazzled, and—arguably—the best of the best will screen on Friday night at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, according to Education Director Cara Conklin-Wingfield.
“These film selections have plenty of humor and playfulness—as you’d expect from a program geared toward children—but they also acknowledge that young children have complex ideas and emotions and can think about big issues,” Ms. Conklin-Wingfield said during a recent interview. “Many of the themes and subjects should engage the adult viewers as much as the children.”
The Parrish is one of 36 cultural institutions across the country to show this particular slate of 12 films, according to the film festival’s website, which include award-winning shorts “The Visitors,” “Octopus” and “One, Two, Tree.”
“We wanted to offer something unique that was an alternative to the mainstream movies that are available here,” she said. “This is something that’s unique because they’re international and independent films made for children. We don’t have a lot of that here. I thought they were all really touching and amazing.”
A clear stand-out for Ms. Conklin-Wingfield is the nine-minute “Me…Jane,” based on the eponymous book by Patrick McDonnell about Jane Goodall from United States-based filmmakers Paul and Sandra Fierlinger.
“‘Me…Jane’ is visually beautiful,” Ms. Conklin-Wingfield said. “The film combines still and animated imagery to tell the story of how a young girl’s passion for nature became her life’s work. The still images recall detailed drawings from a naturalist’s journal.”
From France and Germany to Australia and Czech Republic, the shorts traverse the globe, some tackling serious subject matter in a way that children can grasp, Ms. Conklin-Wingfield said.
“The first person narration in ‘Memories of the Sea’ gives us a glimpse into the emotional life of a 6 year old, illustrating how out disconnected children and parents can sometimes be,” she explained, adding, “The central character in ‘Object at Rest’ is a stone traveling through time. Its journey is both entertaining and poignant, and will have viewers thinking about humanity’s impact on the natural world.
“These are the kinds of films that you want to see with your children,” she continued. “The unique creative effects and the complex themes will give you lots to talk about on the ride home.”
“Best of the Fest,” featuring a selection of shorts from the 2016 New York International Children’s Film Festival, will screen on Friday, December 30, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. Recommended for children age 3 to 7. Tickets are free with museum admission. For more information, call (631) 283-2118, or visit parrishart.org.