Buckle up, parents. Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement that schools in New York State will remain closed through this academic year means a few more weeks of figuring out how to keep educating and otherwise engaging the kiddos at home.
In response, the Rochester International Children’s Film Festival announced that it would extend the availability of its films for another month, through Sunday, June 7.
Many area institutions have stepped up to help parents during this time, by providing streamed and interactive lectures, demos, story hours, and the like. The RICFF, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, had already shifted its annual programming from live screenings at local libraries and other neighborhood settings to films you can stream at home for free. When organizers realized the coronavirus shut-down wasn’t abating any time soon, they extended this year’s festival dates (which were originally April 13 to May 9) an additional two weeks.
This year’s selection of 20 films are all shorts, running 10 minutes or fewer, and the lineup includes both animated and live-action movies appropriate for preschoolers through age 11.
“Some are incredible, art and music-wise, and some have great messages,” RICFF Program Director Ruth Cowing says.
The films hail from 10 countries (Russia, Germany, Spain, Columbia, Croatia, France, Belgium, Australia, Canada, and the United States), and several were made by Rochester schoolchildren at a free workshop at Animatus Studios.
Included in the 2020 lineup are “Alike,” an animated Spanish film that emphasizes the importance of imagination and play for both beleaguered adults and school-aged kids; “Cows,” a barnyard-based “moosic” video from America; “Two Trams,” a Russian stop-motion animation piece about the sweet friendship between two streetcars, and “Ants,” an animated German film about the big ideas that can come from non-conformity.
The programming has attracted audiences from far beyond Rochester. As of Sunday, May 3, the RICFF site had about 5,850 visitors from 32 states and nine countries besides the U.S., including Slovakia, Iceland, New Zealand, Turkey, Canada, France, Singapore, Lebanon, and The Philippines. Cowing says viewership has increased by 187 percent compared to last year.
Parents can head to kidsfestroc.org
to stream the films for their kids and take advantage of suggested discussion points, activities, and reading lists associated with each film.
The 20 films won't all be available at once. To add an element of surprise, festival programmers are posting a "film of the day" at 7 a.m. each weekday, then repeating the five films of the week on the weekends. Weekday films are available for 24 hours, and weekend films are available for 48 hours starting on 7 a.m. on Saturday.
Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's arts & entertainment editor. She can be reached at [email protected].