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ZOOM brings kid-friendly film festival to the Wexner Center for the Arts

Kids who attend the ZOOM Family Film Festival on Saturday will not only be able to watch films, but also participate in hands-on crafts and activities. Credit: Courtesy of Katie Spengler

Films, family, and kid-friendly fun.

The Wexner Center for the Arts will tap into its inner child on Saturday when it presents its annual ZOOM Family Film Festival that will bring international films and activities for kids and their families.

Chris Stults, associate curator in the film and video department, said the festival will start off with a cereal and pajama party, where kids can eat free milk and cereal before they begin watching the cartoons and films.

Shelly Casto, the director of education at the Wexner Center, said the films are meant to show kids different perspectives of the world.

“It’s a little bit outside the realm of the standard AMC fare, and I think we got some great ones this year,” Casto said.

The films this year include a series of animated shorts from around the world in the “Kid Flix Mix” program. “Liyana,” a documentary about children in Swaziland who create a character called Liyana who embarks on a quest to reunite with her brothers, “Purple Dreams,” a documentary about the first-ever high school production of the musical “The Color Purple” and then the classic Buster Keaton film “Sherlock Jr.”

“Jeni’s is here every year with free ice cream, and we’ve got activities I think kids look forward to as much as anything else,” Stults said.

Throughout the day, kids can go to the Mershon Auditorium lobby for studio crafts and activities based on the films that day, Casto said.

The film festival began 14 years ago, and Stults said the idea came about “pretty organically” in a conversation between him and Casto. They wanted to provide a film experience that focused bringing families into the Wexner Center for a family-specific event instead of having them come in only when a family-friendly film appeared at the arts center.

“There’s no children’s film festival in Columbus, and there’s so many interesting films that just weren’t coming to town,” Stults said. “Instead of just showing one here, one there, when we look, it’s just one weekend that’s full of really great films that you’re never going to see anywhere else.

Casto said this year and next, in addition to having ZOOM on Saturday, the Wexner Center will also be tagging other programs — in film and performing arts — as ZOOM family-friendly events.

“I’ve always felt, including 14 years ago, that children in our community deserve the same kind of cutting-edge and international perspective on the arts that we give to all audiences here at the Wexner Center,” she said.

Stults said another reason to bring the different perspectives is because while there are more kid-friendly movies now than there were 14 years ago, it still gives the kids a limited view of the world.

“So, we really tried to bring films that are just as entertaining that you’d see in the theater, but are giving you a perspective that are so, so different,” Stults said.

Exposing art kids at such a young age, Casto said, is important because it helps with not only arts education and appreciation, but also that it increases abilities such as critical thinking, creative problem solving and what they are pushing in increasing kids’ knowledge of the world.

“Kids learn in lots of different modes, and some are good with math, others need the hands on, others need the content about different cultures to really be excited about learning,” she said.

As for Stults, he sees the importance of a festival like ZOOM as a way to show kids what films are about.

“As a film geek, I love exposing kids to the power and possibilities of cinema, and there are definitely been kids who started coming to ZOOM back in the early days and now come to regular film programs of ours,” he said.

ZOOM tickets are $3 per film for Wexner Center members and $4 for the general public. They can be purchased at tickets.wexarts.org or by calling 614-292-3535.


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