YOUNGSTERS will find something new at the movies this month -- and no, it's not the latest adventures of those Ninja Turtles. Rather, it's a collection of children's films from around the world with plots that are fantastic, historic, frightening and heart-rending.
These seven films, some of them never before distributed in this country, make up Baltimore's First Children's International Film Festival, sponsored by the Baltimore Film Forum in tandem with its annual adult film festival. Joining the international children's films are a selection of Disney classics, including "Peter Pan" "Bambi" and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
The festival, co-sponsored by WBFF-TV, Fox 45, opens Saturday with three films and continues every Saturday in April at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Senator Theatre. The Disney films will spill over into May.
The international films offer "an alternative to commercial films for children . . . and represents quality filmmaking from around the world," says Vicky Westover, executive director of the Baltimore Film Forum. The Disney movies give families a choice. "We wanted to offer people a little bit of both," says Philip Guthrie, executive producer of Fox 45.
Choosing the children's films was a pleasant chore for Westover. "I was surprised at the number of films we had to pick from," she says of her first experience at selecting young people's films.
The last two adult film festivals have included some children's movies, which were borrowed from the Enoch Pratt Free Library. This collection is, however, "on a par with the adult version we are doing," says Westover. "It's something Baltimore can really be proud of.
"All of the films have a wonderful message," she adds. Some are rooted in real-life problems; others fly off into fantasy, and several look at different lands and cultures -- from the Indonesian jungles to Nova Scotian islands.
Among them is the British-made "Danny the Champion of the World," starring Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons and his own son, Samuel, in the story of an English father and son whose peaceful lives are threatened by a new lord of the manor. Only two of the films -- "The Little House Under the Moon" and "The Monkey Folk" -- have subtitles because Westover wanted the festival to appeal to as many children as possible.
She cautions, however, that parents should heed the age recommendations for each film. Only the Disney movies are appropriate for children younger than 6. "We wanted to do films for all ages," but it is difficult to find those appropriate for very young children, she says. Still, the festival will provide "entertainment for the whole family."