Family Film Festival Packs Creative Wallop

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Jamison, Graham and Phoebe Burke may be one year older since the inaugural Family Film Festival at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, but their love for animation has not waned.

At least according to their father, James Burke, who suspects the same is true of their like-minded, and like-sized, peers across the East End. On Saturday, he’ll put that to the test when they check out a slate of international shorts during the third annual Family Film Festival.

“It’s not like I bring in a focus group when I have my own kids,” said Mr. Burke, executive director of the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. “I have a 7-year-old son and 4-year-old twins. That motivated me because they love watching shorts, and this program is so creative.”

Culled from the 2015 Children’s Film Festival Seattle—an annual selective festival held every winter in conjunction with the Northwest Film Forum—the 11 animated shorts come in at 65 minutes combined, hailing from Europe, Asia and the United States.

They follow the zany adventures of a cast of colorful characters, from a singing American octopus to a German, stripe-changing zebra to a Russian stuffed tiger that drops in on a snowy day to play with dogs, as seen in “Visitor” by Tatiana Skorlupkina.

“After all the snow we had this winter,” Mr. Burke said, “it brings back some fond memories of tromping around with my own kids.”

In Daniel Acht’s “Wombo,” an alien lands in distress on planet Earth, only to find himself chased down by a dog and nearly cooked for dinner. The reason is simple: he just so happens to look like a potato.

“It’s just really whimsical,” Mr. Burke said, “and my kids always like aliens and outer space, so I bet other kids do, too.”

Other highlights include “Traditional Healing” by Canadian filmmaker Raymond Caplin; “Zebra” by Germany’s Julia Ocker; American filmmaker Akiko McQuerrey’s “Papa Cloudy’s Restaurant;” “Anatole’s Little Saucepan” by French filmmaker Eric Montchaud; Kine Aune’s “The Magic Time” from Norway; Maarten Koopman’s “Trampoline” from the Netherlands; “Decorations” by Japanese filmmaker Mari Miyazawa; and William Joyce’s and Brandon Oldenburg’s “The Numberlys,” the American filmmakers’ homage to Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” but for kids.

In the 11-minute short—which won the CFFS Seattle Children’s Hospital Jury Prize for Best Animated Film—Friends 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 live in a world where there are only numbers, no alphabet. One day, they decide to change it, bringing letters, color and jellybeans into their lives.

“It’s very colorful and it’s actually a little bit abstract,” Mr. Burke said. “It shows how people can work together to achieve a goal, which is always a nice lesson to convey with kids.”

Wrapping up the program is “The New Species” by Katerina Karhánková from the Czech Republic, which is pure imagination, Mr. Burke said. The short follows a group of children who stumble across an old bone and try to figure out what kind of animal it could have belonged to.

“I like a lot of stuff that comes out of the Czech Republic,” he said. “It’s always very unique, visually. There is a kind of inquisitiveness and investigatory motivation I find kind of inspiring.”

The festival kicks off on Saturday at 11 a.m., followed by an encore showing at 1 p.m. The films are most suitable for children age 3 to 13, Mr. Burke said.

“Video is just so pervasive now with the younger generations, this is a nice way to introduce kids to a theater setting, especially the youngest set, in a really comfortable way,” Mr. Burke said. “They’re having a fun time with their parents, but they’re also feeling included. It warms them up to feeling comfortable in a theater setting.”

The third annual Family Film Festival will be held on Saturday, May 9, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. Films include “Zebra,” “Wombo,” “The Numberlys,” “Papa Cloudy’s Restaurant,” “Anatole’s Little Saucepan,” “Visitor,” “The Magic Time,” “The New Species,” “Trampoline,” “Decorations” and “Traditional Healing.” Run time is 65 minutes, appropriate for children age 3 to 13. Admission is $5. For more information, call (631) 288-1500, or visit whbpac.org.

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