SALT LAKE CITY — Celine Downen has been taking her children to the Tumbleweeds Film Festival every year for five years, cramming in as many movies as they can during the weekend of film for teens and children, which returns to the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center Sept. 23-25.
“For me, personally, it’s so important that my kids watch these kinds of movies because it shows them that there’s this big world out there. It gives them a lot of exposure to different languages, different traditions and things like that,” said Downen, who lives in Olympus Cove and whose sons are 4 and 9 years old.
She said the unique variety of films helps open her children's minds to the world around them.
During the three-day festival, there will be 15 feature-length films presented as well as a handful of short films. Of those 15 feature-length films, 14 of them will be foreign films, nine of which will be presented in their country’s language. Subtitles will accompany the films that are not presented in English, with the option of having a reader read the subtitles over listening devices.
Patrick Hubley, Utah Film Center artistic director and festival founder, said that the festival started with the idea of adding a niche of independent and foreign films for kids to the film culture of Utah. Hubley took inspiration from major film festivals that he had worked at, such as the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.
“I really thought that based on the success of Sundance, the success of independent film here and our really vibrant film-going community that this is something that would be embraced, and I think it has been,” Hubley said.
Opening the festival on Friday night will be the Austrian film “Brothers in the Wind,” which is about a boy trying to save the life of a baby eagle. Closing the festival will be the documentary “The Eagle Huntress,” which is about a 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl who is fighting to become the first female eagle hunter. The film was screened at Sundance Kids earlier this year.
Highlights of the festival include a special presentation of Mel Stuart’s 1971 adaptation of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” in honor of the late Gene Wilder that will be presented with a Smell-O-Vision goodie bag, the critically-acclaimed French animated film “The Little Prince,” another animated film from France and Denmark called “Long Way North” and the German film “Hördur” about a young Turkish immigrant who is sentenced to work at a horse stable.
Heidi Prokop of Salt Lake City has taken her now 9-year-old son to the festival each year and said she likes the festival’s unique, educational experience for children.
“There’s a steady stream of children’s movies that come out of Hollywood that kids are exposed to and experience pretty regularly,” Prokop said. “Tumbleweeds Film Festival takes them beyond that and exposes them to new ideas, different animation styles and different narrative experiences that I believe can broaden their horizons.”
In addition to the films presented at the festival, there will be four different workshops for kids, which include screenwriting for kids, 3D game design, a film critic workshop and a filmmaking workshop about telling a story through film.
Hubley said these workshops are to help introduce kids to different aspects of filmmaking and media.
“The visual image, the moving image, is so pervasive in our culture that I think it’s essential for kids to have some understanding on not only how to watch and think about what they’re seeing but also what goes into making things,” Hubley said.
There is also a free, three-hour introductory workshop for teachers on using media in the classroom.
Tickets are $6 per person per screening or $40 for 10 films. Family ticket packages are also available. For the full schedule of movies, including descriptions of each film with a suggested age range, visit utahfilmcenter.org/twds2016.
If you go
What: Tumbleweeds Film Festival
When: Sept. 23-25
Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Cost: $6 per person per screening; $40 for a 10-ticket pass; $15 for individual workshops