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There are plenty of film festivals in Israel each year, but only one for children - the Tel Aviv International Children's Film Festival, which is being held for the second year starting today at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.
Both children and adults will be dazzled by the number, quality and variety of films on the program from both Israel and abroad, as well as by special events that include meetings with filmmakers and workshops for children on topics including how to make animated films.
Parents who love films and hope to raise children with an appreciation for the medium should definitely make time for this festival. And compared to so many other children-oriented events, the prices for admission are quite reasonable: NIS 40 for admission to special events, NIS 30 for regular tickets and NIS 15 for Cinematheque members.
The opening night attraction, which will be screened again later in the festival, is Akeelah and the Bee (recommended for 12-year-olds and up). Starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, it tells the story of a troubled 11-year-old girl who finds herself by taking part in spelling bees. It's a crowd-pleasing film that was a hit with US critics.
Other highlights of the festival's international competition include Winky's Horse (for 8 and up), the winner of the People's Choice Award at the Montreal International Children's Film Festival. The film tells the story of a Chinese girl who lives in a small town on the coast of the Netherlands and dreams of being accepted by her neighbors. There's also Little Red Flowers (12 and up), about a rebellious child in a boarding school in China in the Fifties. Special films include The Stone Flower (12 and up), a 1946 film from the Soviet Union that won an award at the Cannes Film Festival for its innovative use of color. It tells the story of a sculptor who is invited to join a fantastic hidden world because of his talent. And if your children enjoyed March of the Penguins, they'll want to see Bears (5 and up), a Czech documentary about three bear cubs raised by a photographer.
Cartoon and comic lovers will be intrigued by a workshop taught by animator Eli Tsuchida, who lives in Israel and has worked in Japan, on how to create Manga animations (10 and up). Kids will learn a great deal about how their favorite animated cartoons are made in the Dubbing Workshop (7 and up), to be given by filmmakers from Israel's Children's Channel, while another workshop teaches kids about acting skills. At the "A Moment Before" workshop (12 and up), writer-director Ori Ravid will present the script for his upcoming film, Ilay & Ben, and will ask for input from the participants before he starts shooting. Some of the film's actors, including Lior Ashkenazi, will take part.
Keshet and Mifal Hapais are sponsoring six workshops led by local directors and actors focusing on the topic of personal choices. The filmmakers leading these workshops include actor Alon Abutbul and documentary directors David Ofek, Tomer Heyman and Juliano Mer Khamis. The workshops are intended for kids 10 and up.
Many of the festival's programs feature movies made by children, for children. Among the programs is "Kids for Kids," which will highlight films by children from around the world, including India, Canada, Norway, Ukraine, Armenia and Serbia. There are also student films from Israel about children and family, including Tsivia Barkai's Vika, which won a Special Mention at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival.