Festival brings culture to coast

Published 5:50 pm Thursday, January 2, 2014

A still from the film, "The Painting." Submitted art.

A still from the film, “The Painting.” Submitted art.

The southwestern coast of Lake Michigan is well-known for beaches that keep children happy and occupied all summer long. Back for the fourth year, organizers of the Coastline Children’s Film Festival are working hard to make this shore of Lake Michigan famous for something else: keeping kids creative and engaged during a time when those beaches aren’t quite so inviting.

“The film festival started four years ago. It was very small, taking place over one weekend at two venues,” said Leslie Sullivan, director of the international children’s film festival. “Now, it includes 10-plus venues over 10 days with 60-plus films.”

Festival events and screenings are scheduled to take place between Jan. 31 and Feb.  9, 2014. Venues will include museums, art galleries and theaters throughout Berrien County, Mich., in locations such as St. Joseph, South Haven, Coloma, Benton Harbor and Bridgman.

Because the festival does not begin for several weeks, there is still time for children to take an active part in the event by submitting a film to the competitive portion of the festival.

“We started a Young Filmmakers Competition last year,” Sullivan said. “We got about 20 films last year, and about 10 of them qualified for the competition. We showed all 20 of the films that we received.”

The deadline for entries is Jan. 10, but inclusion in the program booklet is not guaranteed for entries submitted during January. A screening of those films will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the South Haven Center for the Arts.

More information about the competition, its rules and the entry form can be found at www.coastlinechildrensfilmfestival.com. The complete schedule of events and locations for the film festival is also available there. Additional questions can be directed to Leslie Sullivan at (269) 757-1491.

For children who prefer the role of audience member, there will be a variety of films being shown during the festival, with six of them scheduled for screening at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph.

“We’re very excited that we’ll be hosting the opening and closing events for the festival this year,” said Tami Miller, curator of exhibitions, collections and education at the Krasl.

“The first film is on Friday Jan. 31st in our galleries, and we’re combining that with an opening party for our new exhibit, The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art:  Works on Paper,” Miller said. “It is free and open to the public, starting at 6 p.m. At 6:30, there will be a live drum performance by students at Hull Academy in Benton Harbor. At 7:15, we will have the screening of ‘Kirikou and the Sorceress’ in the gallery.”

The last films of the festival, “Ask Father” and “The Freshman,” will be shown on Feb. 9th at an event hosted by the Krasl as well.

“There will be a silent screening of a film with the musical accompaniment of an original composition by Larry Schanker,” Miller said.

“Last year, we had standing-room only for Larry Schanker’s programs,” Sullivan said. “He did improvisations for two of the films. We have Larry doing three events this year, and those are always packed to the gills.”

In between the opening and closing events, audiences will have the opportunity to view features, shorts, documentaries and silent films, along with other special programs including panel discussions, workshops, an ice cream reception and an awards ceremony. The costs for participating in these special events vary.

Admission for all films is free; however, a $1 donation per person is requested. Parents will be given guidance in regard to content and age appropriateness.

Festival organizers and members of affiliated organizations hope that parents — and non-parents — will make the Coastline Children’s Film Festival a part of their entertainment plans this winter.

“The Krasl Art Center completely supports the Coastline Children’s Film Festival,” Miller said.  “There will be some very dynamic films that are terribly creative and wonderfully fascinating. It’s one of my favorite events!”