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Originally published Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 5:33 AM

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Hospital, Children’s Film Festival Seattle join for 11-day program

For the first time, Seattle Children’s Hospital will partner with Children’s Film Festival Seattle for an international collection of shorts and features beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, and running through Feb. 3 at Northwest Film Forum on Capitol Hill.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie preview

Children’s Film Festival Seattle

Runs Thursday through Feb. 3, Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., Seattle; $6 for NWFF members, $10 general admission, $180 festival passes. For schedule and other information: 800-838-3006 or 206-329-2629; or

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For the first time, Seattle Children’s Hospital will partner with Children’s Film Festival Seattle for a program of shorts and features beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday and running through Feb. 3 at Northwest Film Forum on Capitol Hill.

The 8-year-old festival has been programmed since 2006 by Elizabeth Shepherd. Once more, she’s put together a truly international collection that covers a wide range of styles, subjects and geographies.

“More countries (35) are represented than we have ever had before,” said Shepherd. About 125 films will be screened during the festival’s 11-day run.

The connection with the hospital will include showings of work by young filmmaker patients, including Ruby Smith’s “The Hidden Shadows of Cancer” and Sara Mirabdolbaghi’s “Sara Takes Her Leap Into the Bone Marrow Sea.”

Shepherd gives special credit to local filmmaker Mike Attie, a NWFF member who works with the hospital on arts programs.

“The hospital had a very robust film program, and patients making films themselves already,” said NWFF publicist Molly Michal, “so it was really a natural fit.”

A jury composed of children at the hospital will announce its awards on closing night.

“We’re also holding educational filmmaking workshops in hospital wards,” said Michal.

Opening night’s charming, visually dazzling animated feature, “Zarafa,” moves from Africa to Paris as it tells the story of a slave boy who escapes with a baby giraffe in 1827. Partly the work of director Jean-Christophe Lie, who was the supervising animator on the Oscar-nominated “Triplets of Belleville,” its magical desert sequences suggest a cartoon homage to “Lawrence of Arabia.”

Shepherd is especially proud of the 2013 festival’s emphasis on Latin America, including “Maria’s Tightrope,” a feature-length circus tale about a family of acrobats.

From the Netherlands, she’s showing “Alfie, the Little Werewolf,” a sweet comedy about a 7-year-old boy with a rich fantasy life, and “Taking Chances,” a strong drama that deals with a 9-year-old girl who develops anxiety attacks when her doctor father is sent to a war zone.

“They’re making the best children’s films,” said Shepherd.

Both movies function quite effectively as backstage musicals. “Alfie” uses the musical instruments (and characters) in “Peter and the Wolf” quite mischievously. “Taking Chances” borrows from “Peter Pan,” with its androgynous hero played by a confused heroine who can’t get with the program.

The festival has established several traditions in just a few years. Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew) is back for another Friday-night pajama party; the popular Saturday-morning pancake breakfast returns; there’s a silent film with a new musical accompaniment (1924’s Baby Peggy vehicle, “Captain January”); and the third installment in the German teen series “The Crocodiles.”

Some festival films test the limits of PG ratings, and “The Crocodiles” pushes especially hard with regard to rough language. Immensely popular in Germany, it’s representative of contemporary teen fare in Europe. If you or your teenager have experienced the earlier installments, you know what to expect. The first one took the top prize at the Seattle festival in 2010.

Also among the more provocative German films this year is “Tom Sawyer and His Friends” (aka “Tom and Hacke”), a fresh adaptation of the Mark Twain classic. It’s set in Bavaria in 1948, ingeniously using Twain’s plot to deal with the black market. It’s making its American debut in Seattle.

Program notes spell out the ages appropriate for most programs (“The Crocodiles” is recommended for ages 10 and up, “Alfie” is for ages 8 and up). If a foreign language is involved (opening night’s “Zarafa” is in French), English subtitles are usually provided.

John Hartl:

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