05/27/2014 12:00AM ● Published by Kerri Regan
Curtains will rise this month on a brand-new Redding film festival, but these movie stars are more animated than those that North State audiences have seen before: A fox who loves the fall, a mouse dentist, some mischievous monsters.
That’s because the audience also looks different than you’ll find at other film festivals - specifically, smaller and cuter. Young children will be the honored guests at the first-ever Shastaland Children’s Film Festival, which will feature about 20 short films based on classic and contemporary picture books.
To honor youngsters’ attention spans, the free festival on June 28 will offer three showtimes, each an hour long. Every hour will feature different films, so families can stay at the David Marr Theater for the whole afternoon if they’d like, says organizer Tom Ramont.
The father of two young boys, Ramont earned a bachelor’s degree in film and has always enjoyed children’s short films. He played with the idea of making educational films, and later he and his wife, Charlene, dreamed of opening their own theater. “Then the idea came about - why can’t we put together a collection of films and kind of test it out?” Ramont says.
This year, Ramont is using about 20 films from Weston Woods Studios, an innovator in translating picture books into audiovisual media. “This is the company that started that iconographic style of panning of camera over the art, known as the Ken Burns effect. I kind of fell in love with their work,” Ramont says. “Some are very basically animated, others are more elaborate. They take children’s books and create films as close to the books as possible.”
Among the films are adaptations of the classic “Where the Wild Things Are,” the first Weston Woods film that Ramont remembers seeing. “That film is the seed to this entire idea,” he says. “It’s very arty and has a cool soundtrack and narrator.”
Other films include “A Snowy Day,” “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” “And Then It’s Spring,” “Fletcher and the Falling Leaves” and “Doctor De Soto,” a tale of a mouse dentist.
The first credits haven’t rolled yet, but Ramont’s vision goes well beyond this year - next year, he plans to make it a “true film festival,” taking submissions of high-quality, family friendly films from around the world, and having them juried by local arts advocates, educators and parents.
And after that?
“Because this is a children’s film festival, we’re going to get to a point where there’s a children’s jury,” Ramont says. “I want to develop an after-school class and teach kids how to look critically at films. While they’re doing that, they’ll get to choose what’s in the festival and who wins. We want to break them away from choosing something just because they like it, but instead, choosing something that someone else might like.”
This experience will help kids become more media literate, Ramont says. “When they learn to parse film and understand its meaning, that will develop in them a natural ability to look at all kinds of media and figure out, what is that trying to get me to do or buy? It will make them more savvy in media consumption,” he says.
Children’s film festivals are staged throughout the country, but the Ramonts grew weary of having to leave town to find one for their sons, Dylan, 8 and Evan, 4. “We have people here who want this,” Ramont says. “We’re bringing things here so we don’t have to leave. We can attend with the people we know. It will be a nice summer day of watching films.”
The festival is sponsored by Shasta County Office of Education, First 5 Shasta and Shasta Early Literacy Partnership. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Admission is free, but reservations are necessary. Tickets can be obtained at the film festival’s website (see below).
Saturday, June 28
Showtimes: 1-2 pm, 2:30-3:30 pm, 4-5 pm
David Marr Theater (inside University Preparatory School)
Free, but reservations necessary: Go to www.shastaland.org