Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

SIFF 2024 family films

SIFF 2024 family and youth films schedule is set. All photos courtesy of SIFF.

Preview: SIFF 2024 family and youth line-up

Celebrate 50 year of SIFF starting May 9

The Seattle International Film Festival kicks off May 9, celebrating 50, or SIFFty, years of cinema. Screening across eight venues throughout the Emerald City, from downtown to Shoreline, the festival has once again curated a stellar line-up of kid-friendly selections for Seattle youth and teens to enjoy.

Films4Families is a family-friendly program for kids under seven featuring films that will excite, delight and transport viewers to new worlds. In addition to a shorts program, there are two animated features and one documentary that early elementary school viewers will devour. If vintage is more your speed, SIFF has resurrected “The NeverEnding Story” (1984), giving Gen X and Millennial parents the opportunity to show their kids where they acquired the irrational fear of being sucked into a storybook. 

“Ride the wave of the future” reads SIFF’s introduction to the FutureWave program, a curation of films geared towards viewers 13 to 21 years old. Coming-of-age may differ slightly between generations, but this selection of films proves that it is still a universal experience and one that we will seek out on screen until the end of time. There are a few poignant documentaries, a cyberpunk animated film, a compilation of shorts made by teens and something for everyone to enjoy in these nine entries.

Bob Trevino Likes It (FutureWave)

There is perhaps nothing more affecting than a relationship that forms out of a true need to connect. “Bob Trevino Likes It” portrays just that: a 25-year-old outcast Lily (Barbie Ferreira), whose parents have abandoned her, chats with a stranger (John Leguizamo) who has the same name as her father and who is also in need of connection. Their unlikely bond unfolds throughout Tracie Laymon’s 105-minute film to endearing effect. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature at SXSW 2024 and finds its Seattle premiere at SIFF. Ferreira and Leguizamo’s chemistry and the thoughtful script by Laymon place this touching comedy-drama hybrid near the top of our list.

Playing May 15, 6:30 p.m. and May 16, 3:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Get tickets

Dìdi (FutureWave)

Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, “Dìdi” is a period piece in many ways, even if we don’t want to admit that a film set in 2008 can be legitimately called such. Inspired by his own childhood as a first-generation Taiwainese-American living in Northern California, writer-director Sean Wang makes his feature film debut with “Didi”. His short documentary Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó” was nominated for an Oscar and won Best Documentary Short at SIFF 2023. “Dìdi” follows a Taiwanese-American 13-year-old kid from the Bay Area on the cusp of entering high school. He spends that summer growing up: make skate videos, developing crushes and generally being carefree in the way only pre-high school kids know how. Heartwarming and exuberant, this one is sure to leave you smiling.

Note: This film is presented with English subtitles. 

Playing May 18, 6:15 p.m. and May 19, 1:00 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian. Get tickets

Empire Waist (FutureWave)

Co-starring Seattle’s own Rainn Wilson, “Empire Waist” is a personal film for writer-director Claire Ayoub and was inspired by her personal essay, Notes to My Twelve-Year-Old Self. In the film, Lenore (Mia Kaplan), a body-conscious, insecure high school student, finds comradery and acceptance in fellow plus-size teen Kayla (Jemima Yevu). There are discussions and depictions of bullying, unhealthy diet culture and body shaming, but “Empire Waist” seeks to do more than shock and awe an impressionable audience. Ayoub carefully curates that 90s teen movie feel with a positive, uplifting and colorful spin. Laugh-out-loud humor abounds, all the while preaching about the gift of accepting our flaws and empowering one another.

Playing May 16, 6:00 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Downtown and May 18, 11:00 a.m. at AMC Pacific Place. Get tickets

The Family Picture Show (Films4Families)

Travel the world from a seat in SIFF Cinema Uptown with “The Family Picture Show”, a collection of shorts that is sure to ignite the imagination and creativity of your young bourgeoning art aficionado. A young, lonely girl bakes a bevy of cupcakes to entice friends, but cake can’t fix everything. An annual lantern festival and puppet show become nostalgic memories. A boy reeling from the loss of his mother takes an unexpected journey through the drain in pursuit of her hair. Dancing llamas do their laundry. A cat named Mog must come to terms with their greatest fear: the Christmas tree. The dream world of a monkey gliding through the forest takes a psychedelic twist.

The beauty of the shorts program is that, even accompanied by the smallest of critics, no one film lasts more than 23 minutes, with some as short as two minutes. The series consists of six films from around the world – Mexico, Taiwan, South Korea, Canada, United Kingdom and Germany – that tell stories to which all children can relate.

Playing May 11, 11:00 a.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown and streaming online on May 20 through SIFF Streaming. Go online to get tickets and for more details on each short film presented in this 76-minute program. Get tickets. 

FUTUREWAVE: Teenaged Terror (FutureWave)

Inspire your teen by catching this compilation of shorts made by filmmakers 18 years and under. The series is 91 minutes long and is comprised of 16 short films from around the world. No one film runs longer than 10 minutes, and the subjects range from deep and melancholy – video gamers play one last round with their terminally ill friend – to zany – a hermit contemplates becoming a plant. Some dabble in the paranormal, while others dip their toes in the heartbreak and angst of the post-pubescent years. Regardless of themes or plots, these films are certainly impressive endeavors from a group of promising artists.

Playing May 18, 3:00 p.m. at SIFF Film Center and streaming online on May 20 through SIFF Streaming. Get tickets

Pigsy (FutureWave)

A “Blade Runner” reimagining of the classic Chinese tale “Journey to the West”, this SIFF selection is for the teen who loves futuristic, dystopian worlds and innovative animation that combines 2D and 3D to create a distinct style specific to Taiwan. In “Pigsy”, the titular character is a self-absorbed swine who will do anything to obtain a Golden Ticket allowing him to leave his overcrowded urban jungle behind for the New World marketed as a manufactured utopia. There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this recycled fable, but the true alluring components that make up “Pigsy” are the enticing visuals and modernized Aesopian quest that director Chiu Li Wei has so thoughtfully brought to the big screen. There are so many small, but important details scattered throughout the film that a second watching might be in order.

Note: This film is presented with English subtitles. 

Playing May 14, 4:00 p.m. at AMC Pacific Place and May 15, 6:45 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian. Get tickets

Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds (Films4Families)

The first solo film by French director-animator Benoît Chieux, “Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds” beckons audiences to take a Studio Ghlibi-esque adventure that would surely garner Miyazaki’s stamp of approval for both its incredible story and eye-popping visuals. “Sirocco” portrays an epic quest of two sisters who must survive psychedelic mishaps and other-worldly perils in order to make it back home. Carmen and Juliette accidentally travel to a new dimension where they’ve been transformed into half-human, half-cats. Their compatriots are anthropomorphic, animal-adjacent creatures. Taking obvious inspiration from classic children’s stories like “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Wizard of Oz”, “Sirocco” puts a new spin on the old jaunt through a foreign, heavily mystical land, filling the screen with awe-inspiring animation and spellbinding scene-setting. To cap off the thrill to our senses, there’s some seriously beguiling music by French-Cameroonian jazz vocalist Célia Kameni. This female-centric fairy tale is a must-see for the mini world voyager in your life.

Note: This film has been dubbed in English.

Playing May 12, 12:00 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Downtown and May 19, 2:00 p.m. at Shoreline Community College. Get tickets

The NeverEnding Story

Based on the 1979 Michael Ende novel of the same name, “The NeverEnding Story” has been enchanting (and sometimes terrifying) children for 40 years. The film follows ten-year-old Bastian Bux, a daydreamer who escapes the bullies in his real life for the incredible realms in his beloved books. This is how he discovers Fantasia, a fantasy world in a book called “The Neverending Story”. The protagonist, it turns out, is Bastian himself who must fight off the evil force called “The Nothing”, save the Childlike Empress and become the warrior he knows himself to be. Pre-CGI and before the introduction of other sophisticated filmmaking advancements, “The NeverEnding Story” will delight a new generation with its mesmerizing puppetry and its dark, sharp and captivating action-adventure plight. No need to dust off the VHS player; you can catch this one again on the silver screen!

Playing May 14, 6:45 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian. Get tickets

Tony, Shelly and The Magic Light (Films4Families)

For fans of Portland-based LAIKA Studios, who brought us stop-motion classics like “Coraline” and “Missing Link”, SIFF has a joint Czech Republic-Hungary-Slovakia entry that is sure to entertain young viewers with its soulful, fantastical story while also intriguing chaperones with its surreal animation style. “Tony, Shelly and The Magic Light” follows a young boy whose body literally glows. His overbearing parents keep Tony on a tight leash and under protective masks. When Shelly moves into his building with her magic flashlight, she changes everything for the sheltered boy. A dark, cloud-like spirit threatens to darken their world, and only Tony has the powerful shine to break through. Quirky, both in storytelling and the story told, this one is a visionary debut from director Filip Pošivač. The stop-motion artistry and incredibly detailed animation is mesmerizing, and the story, with its themes of acceptance and embracing one’s differences, make it a universal classic.

Note: This film is presented with English subtitles. Solid reading skills would be helpful, and ages 8+ is recommended.

Playing May 10, 4:15 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian and May 19, 1:00 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Downtown. Get tickets

We Can Be Heroes (FutureWave)

As far as documentaries go, the best of the bunch incites strong emotions in viewers while offering a real, honest glimpse into the lives of others. “We Can Be Heroes” does both, and it will be hard to leave one of its two screenings without a smile. The 86-minute film follows a group of sleepaway campers who like to LARP (Live Action Role-Play). The Wayfinder Experience, which hosts the annual summer camp in upstate New York, encourages youth and teens to accept and embrace their many unique idiosyncrasies and differences. The attendees, many of whom are neurodivergent, LGBTQIA+ and members of other misunderstood communities, are given a voice and safe space to be seen and heard as they play-fight in imaginary battles, cast invisible spells and make friends for life. The film’s subjects are utterly endearing, like Dexter who is lovesick for one of his fellow campers or Abby whose debilitating chronic illness kept her from her high school graduation, but does not hold her back from LARPing. It’s a timeless and entirely sweet story about finding a tribe that uplifts. 

Playing May 14, 4:00 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian and May 17, 6:00 p.m. at Shoreline Community College. Co-directors Alex Simmons and Carina Wong are scheduled to attend. Get tickets. 

Where Is Anne Frank (FutureWave)

Though her diary is nearly 80 years old, Anne Frank is still inspiring generations of readers and creators with her timeless story about hope, perseverance and grace in the face of adversity. It’s no surprise that filmmaker Ari Folman took her story and his own imagination to bring “Where is Anne Frank” to illustrious existence. An animated fairytale, the film breathes life into Kitty, the imaginary friend to whom Anne wrote in her famous journal. When a bolt of lightning strikes Anne’s diary displayed in a museum in Amsterdam, Kitty is brought into the real world and set on a mission to find her dear friend. Along the way, she becomes invested in the many social and political justice movements that prove past and present are not as far apart as we may think. A wonderful addendum to Anne Frank’s story for middle-grade viewers ready and capable of connecting the dots between the injustices of then and now, “Where is Anne Frank” is lovingly reimagined with heart, fortitude, and a dash of science fiction.

Note: This film is presented with English subtitles. 

Playing May 12, 3:00 p.m. at Shoreline Community College, May 19, 12:00 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown and streaming online on May 20 through SIFF Streaming. Get tickets.

WHY DINOSAURS? (Films4Families / FutureWave)

Why not, dinosaurs? This thought-provoking documentary is a wonderful introduction for late elementary school viewers to the fascinating science of paleontology, or the study of fossil animals and plants. Co-written, co-directed and co-produced by Tony and James Pinto, a father-son duo with a passion for Jurassic-era reptiles, “WHY DINOSAURS?” is a deeply personal film that does a masterful job of educating while still entertaining. The filmmakers take their curiosity on the road, from the hallowed halls of Natural History Museums in Europe to the mysteries hiding in the Sahara Desert to the discovery of the first feathered dinosaur in Beijing. The Pintos start at the beginning with the revolutionary discovery of fossils, which kicked off an industry dedicated to their research. The film then investigates the transformation of the dinosaur into a pop culture icon. Naturally, “Jurassic Park” is discussed and briefly dissected for the things it got right and wrong, but even more notably for the attention it brought to the fledgling science of paleontology. “WHY DINOSAURS?” is a jumping point, a launch pad for curious minds to grow, learn and hopefully continue the exploration on their own.

Playing May 11, 1:00 p.m. at Majestic Bay, May 18, 10:30 a.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown and streaming online on May 20 through SIFF Streaming. Director/writer/producer Tony Pinto is scheduled to attend both screenings. Director/writer/producer James Pinto and Producer Tara Pinto are scheduled to attend the screening on May 18. Get tickets

Young Hearts (FutureWave)

The coming-out story has taken many forms over the decades, but writer-director Anthony Schatteman does something different with his first feature film. “Young Hearts” follows 14-year-old Elias as he struggles to understand his sexuality. Even in a small town in Belgium, he is not concerned about how his family and friends would react to the revelation. They would be supportive and even nonchalant about it. But grappling with one’s sexual awakening – hetero, gay or otherwise – is a complicated affair, one which Schatteman explores with aching fondness. For young LGBTQIA+ viewers, this simple drama about the excitement of first love is not to be missed.

Note: This film is presented with English subtitles. 

Playing May 13, 5:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown and May 15, 4:00 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Downtown. Get tickets

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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 NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.