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ANDY "A Dog's Tale," one of nine short films in SIFF's The Family Picture Show program

SIFF 2023: Family-friendly films

Animations from around the globe will delight audiences young and old

The Seattle International Film Festival returns to movie theaters across the greater Seattle area this month, with hundreds screenings between May 11 and May 21 and continuing with select online screenings May 22-28.

Each year, SIFF programmers view hundreds of festival entries to choose just a handful of films to feature under the banner Films4Families. These are films are recommended for kids as young as 7.

Here’s a look at this year’s family-friendly line-up:

SIFF 2023 family films

Ernest & Célestine: A Trip to Gibberitia

Ernest & Célestine: A Trip to Gibberitia

The growly bear and perky-if-impetuous mouse that helped win the 2012 film “Ernest and Célestine” an Academy Award nomination are back with another adventure. At 80 minutes, “Ernest & Célestine: A Trip to Gibberitia” is a watercolor work of art. It’s also a sometimes scary, somewhat complicated, and, in the end, uplifting tale of family, the tug of duty, and stepping out of the norm or away from the expected to follow one’s passion. Due to subtitles, solid reading skills will make this film the most enjoyable. Not there are some some scary overtones that may prove unsettling for sensitive children. 

SIFF film notes: We first met Ernest and Célestine in the Academy Award®-nominated film Ernest & Célestine (SIFF 2013), in which a scrappy mouse and a grumpy bear musician meet as adversaries but end up as best friends. In this sequel, Célestine has accidentally damaged Ernest’s prized violin. To get it fixed, they make a journey to the place where Ernest was born, called Gibberitia, where he knows the only bear who can make the repairs. Ernest described this world as a magical place full of music and art, but when they arrive, the town square is strangely silent. When Ernest tries to play an accordion on the street, a team of angry bear police arrives to tell him that all forms of music have been banned for many years. The shocked friends then begin a quest to find out what happened to this land known for its brilliant musicians. Along the way, they meet up with a mysterious masked character, known only as “EFG,” who is also wanted by the authorities. They decide to team up to bring music and joy back to the bear world. Co-directed by Jean-Christophe Roger and Julien Chheng, this charmingly hand-drawn animated feature resembles a vibrant watercolor painting brought to life, filled with fantastical landscapes and a host of odd, whimsical characters populating Gibberitia’s underground “musical resistance” movement. Based loosely on a popular series of children’s books by Gabrielle Vincent, A Trip to Gibberitia reaffirms how artistic expression can be a source of happiness for everyone—from the biggest bear to the smallest mouse.

Playing May 13 at 1:30 p.m. at Shoreline Community College and May 20, 11:30 a.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian. Get tickets.

SIFF 2023 family films

Mavka: The Forest Song

Mavka: The Forest Song

A 90-minute animated English language fantasy, “Mavka: The Forest Song” is based on a 1911 poetic play by Ukrainian playwright Lesya Ukrainka. It tells the tale of the mythical guardian Mavka and what she must do to protect her forest home from an evil lumber magnate. SIFF programs note that the film “celebrates ancient Slavic traditions in a time when these traditions are facing a catastrophic threat.”

SIFF film notes: Mavka is the Soul of the Forest and guardian of all animals and magical creatures that live within it. The forest sits on the edge of a quaint village whose inhabitants fear the magic and mystery of the forest. When a rich woman from the city returns to her home village offering a hefty sum of money to pillage the forest, no villager dares to fulfill her quest to plunder it, except for a young musician named Lukas who hopes to help his sick uncle. Ultimately, Mavka must choose between her love for Lukas and saving the forest and the creatures living in it before greed destroys it all. The backgrounds are so stunningly rendered that the magic and beauty of Ukraine’s flora and fauna feel right at your fingertips. The care and love for Slavic culture are apparent at every level of the film, from costumes, folk songs, and the spirit of survival.

Playing May 14 at 11:00 p.m. at AMC Pacific Place and May 21, 1 p.m., at Ark Lodge Cinemas. Get tickets.

SIFF 2023 Family films

Yuku and the Himalayan Flower

Yuku and the Himalayan Flower

An entry from Belgian filmmakers Rémi Durin and Arnaud Demuynck, the 65-minute “Yuku and the Himalayan Flower” is a film about a mouse on a mission. At 65 minutes, it’s an animated musical fable that includes.

SIFF film notes: This bouncy, bountiful hero’s journey with peril (and humor!) around every corner will warm your heart with its childlike wonder. Yuku is a mouse who lives with her tribe of fairytale-loving mice in the basement of a castle. When the dastardly cat that guards the castle injures her grandmother, Yuku must rely on her family tradition of folk tales to find a cure. If she doesn’t, her grandmother will leave to follow the little blind mole into the great beyond. The fabled Himalayan flower from one of her storybooks is said to bring eternal light, but the way is treacherous. Armed with a tiny ukulele and a song in her heart, Yuku’s journey to the Himalayas brings new friends, new foes, and a whole lot of jamming out. With gorgeous animation, catchy songs, and a mouse with the bravery of a lion, Yuku is an animated musical comedy that will delight viewers young and old.

Playing May 20, 3:30 a.m. Shoreline Community College and May 21 at 11:0 a.m. at AMC Pacific Place. Get tickets.

SIFF 2023 family films

The Family Picture Show

This selection of short films includes something for everyone in your family. Among these films are stories about a puppy in search of his calling, a 7-year-old who dreams of being an astronaut, a child who yearns to explore the universe, a blue balloon that leads a young girl across Paris, and more.

In all “The Family Picture Show” includes nine films – all made in the United States or Canada – sure to delight audience members of all ages. 

Playing May 130, 11:30 a.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown and streaming online on May 22 through SIFF Streaming. Go online to get tickets and for more details on each short film presented in this 80-minute program.

For for information go to  Seattle International Film Festival online

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About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at