This past weekend saw the opening of the 11th annual Sprockets Festival, Toronto's International Film Festival for Children. Featuring children's movies from Canada and around the world (this year's festival includes submissions from over 26 countries), Sprockets aims to provide children and youth with "the opportunity to learn about film and cultural perspectives from around the world. Through the power of film, Sprockets is helping to transform the way children and youth see the world." It also, as Susan Walker of The Star writes, provides a venue for children's films "that would never make it to air or into a commercial cinema in puritanical, censorious North America. Not politically correct, too frank." Included on the roster are a number of feature films, short films and television shows that defy the conventionally low standards for children's media production which currently (and unfortunately) dominate in Canada and the US. The festival also includes a a showcase (the Jump Cuts Young Filmmakers Showcase) for short films made BY children and youth, featuring works created by students from grades 3 to 12. And to accommodate different reading levels, subtitles are read out loud by a trained reader at most screenings of non-English productions. While I'm utterly confused about how that would work, I'm really impressed by their inclusive approach. Also - excellent way to introduce/normalize watching "foreign" films to youngsters.
According to Walker, last year's festival attracted an audience of over 25,000!, and the festival organizers expect an even bigger turn out at this year's events. Sprockets runs from April 12-18, 2008. If you can't make it this year, check out their site for their year-round schedule of events, learning opps. and activities.