Explore the World with the Chicago International Children's Film Festival

My sons love to watch movies and, if I would let them, they'd probably watch them all day long. But, it's my thankless job to try to reign in their movie-watching habits and make sure they're busy doing other things like reading books, playing sports and, well, going to school. Sometimes it feels like I'm saying "no" or redirecting them to other activities all the time - and it's getting pretty old for all of us. For once it would be nice to invite them, without hesitation, to sit back, relax and watch a movie. And, guess what? That's exactly what I plan to do very soon.

Yes, thanks to the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, taking place at participating theatres across the city Friday, October 26 to Saturday, November 24, my sons will get to watch movies - as many as they want as long as they're not supposed to be in school! But, not to worry, I won't go too easy on them. They'll be exposed to new cultures, new worlds, new stories and new characters. In some cases, they may even have to read subtitles (at least my older son). But, hopefully they'll be none the wiser and a whole lot better off.

Learning a Language While Enjoying a Movie

In many of the conversations I've had with foreign language teachers, they've suggested I expose our sons to the new language as much as possible. Some of their top hints usually include spending time with native speakers, reading foreign language books, listening to a book or magazine on CD-ROM in the foriegn language while you read the corresponding book/magazine, and yes, watching movies in the native foreign language (with or without subtitles). And, so we are busy planning and plotting for which French movies we will see during the month-long festival. The only problem is how to fit them all in!

The Chicago International Children's Film Festival, billed as the largest film festival for children in North America, will feature more than 240 films from 51 countries. While we'd love to see as many movies possible, we've chosen to focus on France for our initial pass since our sons are currently learning French and we'd love to immerse them in the language as much as possible. And, we have lots of French movies to choose from!

While many of the movies are shown during the school day, there also are weekend and evening viewing options. With fall upon us, I think a Saturday afternoon or Friday evening movie (with popcorn if our sons get their way) sounds perfect. The full schedule for the Chicago International Children's Film Festival (broken up by weekend/evening and weekday morning) is available at www.cicff.org.

Keeping the Learning Alive After the Curtain Goes Down

I know it isn't enough to have my sons watch one (or two or three...) foreign language movies and have them learn (or at least absorb) a new culture, a new story or a new language. For that reason, I plan to try to build on our experiences in other ways as best I can. For us, that may mean watching the same movie again at home on DVD, seeing if we can get the book it was based on and reading it in English and the native language (if applicable), or checking to see if there are other related movies, online games or soundtracks that we can enjoy as well.

A friend recently mentioned that her family enjoys a weekly movie night together, which I think is a great idea and one I may choose to do at our home as well. But, with one caveat - that it's an international movie night. That way we can continue our foreign language learning, further cultivate a love of movies, and have just one more way to connect as a (busy) family.

We'll also continue to take advantage of the wonderful, year-round foreign language movie resources available for us in Chicago which include renting movies (and books) from our local Chicago public library or a cultural institution like the Alliance Francaise de Chicago. And, of course, we will continue to try to stay abreast of any other foreign language movies being screened at Facets Multi-Media, which is a wonderful, small neighborhood theatre just perfect for watching any movie.

Do you plan on seeing any movies during the Chicago International Children's Film Festival? If yes, which ones are tops on your list? And, do you have any other suggestions for places to see (or rent or buy) foreign language movies (or other resources) throughout the year? I'd love to hear all of your suggestions.

Here's to world citizens!



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