35+ Movies We’re Excited To Watch During The 2021 New York International Children’s Film Festival

Riah and I learned about the New York International Children’s Film Festival when we got invited to watch WolfWalkers on Apple TV Plus last year, and ever since we’ve had it on our radar and list of events to attend! Riah watched me cover festivals like: the Sundance Film Festival, the American Black Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, over the last few months and asked if there would ever be a chance that she could help cover one! Now the time is finally here! We’re super excited to cover the 2021 New York International Children’s Film Festival this year, so here’s a list of movies we can’t wait to see!

Here Are 38 Movies We’re Excited To Watch During The 2021 New York International Children’s Film Festival

So these don’t get lost in the shuffle, in case you don’t scroll all the way through this post for some reason, Riah will be interviewing two movie directors throughout the festival! So don’t miss these movies below so you can see her in action!

Director Q&A’s featuring Riah:

Opening Spotlight: Nahuel and the Magic Book

new york children's film festival Nahuel and the Magic Book

Recommended Ages: 8+

In Spanish, with English subtitles

Life in Nahuel’s seaside town revolves around the ocean, which makes his fear of water a challenge. What’s worse, he can’t help his fisherman father on his boat. One day, Nahuel finds a magical book, the Levisterio, that seems to offer a solution to this problem. But a dark sorcerer is after the book and captures his father to set a trap. Guided by Fresia, a shaman’s daughter, Nahuel sets out to rescue his father and find courage from within.

P.s – We already screened this and we loved it!


Closing Spotlight: Raya and the Last Dragon

new york children's film festival Raya and the Last Dragon

Recommended Ages: Rated PG

In English

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Raya and the Last Dragon travels to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well. Raya and the Last Dragon will be released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5, 2021.



Shaye’s Picks:

Beans

Beans

Recommended Ages: 14+

In English

In the summer of 1990, Beans, a sweet and studious twelve-year-old Mohawk girl, is suddenly forced to grow up fast and become her own kind of warrior when a land occupation battle creates a fierce stand-off between her indigenous community and the government.

Torn between innocent childhood and reckless adolescence, she struggles to build her own identity amidst the chaos of the uprising and the injustice of a world that sees her as different even in her own land.

Will she succumb to the pressures of a society intent on bringing her down? Or will she rise up to assert her strength and character?

CONTENT NOTE: Instances of racialized threats and violence, underage drinking, strong language, self-harm, sexual menace.


The Bears’ Famous Invasion

The Bears Famous Invasion

Recommended Ages: 10+

In French, with English subtitles

Based on the Italian book and beautifully animated in warm Meditteranean colors and bold shapes, this feature from Cannes is a whimsical allegory. Our narrators, an old storyteller and his young apprentice, the delightful Almeria, frame this wondrous tale of the great bear king Léonce and his clan.

To find his lost son Tonino and food to survive the winter, he leads them down from the mountains and into the world of humans. The bears and humans exist together in peace – for a time.


Buladó

Buladó

Recommended Ages: 12+

in Papiamento and Dutch, with English subtitles

Headstrong Kenza lives with her father Ouira and grandfather Weljo on a beautifully situated plot of land that doubles as a car wrecking yard on the coast of Curaçao. Father and son are opposites: Ouira is a no-nonsense police officer with an eye toward the future, while Weljo finds meaning in the past through the spirituality of his African ancestors and the island’s native inhabitants. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Kenza seeks to find her own place, and identity. Her search takes flight as she gravitates toward the mystical traditions of her grandfather.

CONTENT NOTE: This film deals with themes of death and loss.


My Dad is a Heel Wrestler

My Dad is a Heel Wrestler

Recommended Ages: 9+

In Japanese, with English subtitles

Nine-year-old Shota’s dad was a star top-tier pro wrestler until age and injuries dropped him to the kitschy B-league of wrestling. Shota believes his dad is still number one, until one day he makes the shocking discovery that his father is not a hero wrestler but Cockroach, the “heel”, or villain, everyone loves to hate.

Can Shota’s father take off his mask and learn that there are more important things than saving face? Can Shota learn that real heroes don’t always don the guise we think? Find out in this heart-warming, body-slamming, smile-inducing tale that lights up the ring.


To: Gerard

To: Gerard

Recommended ages: 5-10

In English

You’ll be dazzled when the magic of kindness takes center stage in this new Oscar® shortlisted film from DreamWorks.


Cinema Rex

Cinema Rex

Recommended ages: 5+

In Arabic, with English subtitles

Jerusalem in 1938 is divided. Can the language of cinema unite a Jewish boy and an Arab girl on either sides of the screen?


Downstage

Downstage

Recommended ages: 5 to 10

In English

Ballet isn’t easy, and 11-year old Aedan knows it. As he preps for his first solo competition, full of blossoming drive, young professionals share their own journeys of grit and beauty. 


Vanille

Vanille

Recommended ages: 8-14

In French, with English subtitles

When Parisian Vanille is forced to spend the summer with her auntie in Guadeloupe, she discovers her Caribbean roots and uncovers a big mystery.


Colza

Colza

Recommended ages: 8+

In French, with English subtitles

Clarence, a precocious young lizard, schemes to steal a plane and take flight while the whole village is distracted by the greatest concert it has ever seen.


Louis’s Shoes

Louis's Shoes

Recommended ages: 8+

In French, with English subtitles

Louis, 8-and-a-half-years-old and autistic, arrives in his new school prepared to introduce himself.


Under the Skin

Under the Skin

Recommended ages: 10+

In Dutch, with English subtitles

A team of swimmers hold their breath training for a synchronized swimming meet while navigating the twists and turns of competitive friendships.


Broken Bird

Broken Bird

Recommended ages: 10+

In English

Birdie, a biracial girl raised by her Jewish mom, spends a rare day with her father while preparing for both her Bat Mitzvah and to step into adulthood on her own terms.


Tape

Tape

Recommended ages: 10+

In English

The balancing act of competitive sports, group dynamics, and budding attraction to another teammate challenge 16 year-old Rooney to rethink the rules of the game. 


Sol

Sol

Recommended ages: 10+

In English

A resilient mother races to teach her daughter all that she knows to weather the effects of climate change.


Ice Breakers

Ice Breakers

Recommended ages: 10+

In English

Josh, a gifted African-Canadian hockey player in an overwhelmingly white sport, hones his skills and discovers a remarkable, buried heritage of Black athletes who helped pioneer the sport.


Joy Run

Joy Run

Recommended ages: 10+

In English

Reimagining athletics as an inclusive space for all, this colorful and lively short doc revels in the joyful connections we make to ourselves and others every day.


Kenya’s Symphony

Kenya's Symphony

Recommended ages: 3 to 6

In English

A stubborn 5-year-old reluctantly heads off to a performance with her mom. When the music starts, will a passion bloom?


Kapaemahu

Kapaemahu

Recommended ages: 10+

in Hawaiian, with English subtitles

This Oscar shortlisted film uncovers the healing power of the past when the long-hidden histories of four stones and the legendary spirits in them are revealed.


The Name of the Son

The Name of the Son

Recommended ages: 10+

In Spanish, with English subtitles

Like many teens, 13-year-old Lucho is uncomfortable with himself and distanced from those around him. Yet when he vacations with his father and sister, he discovers a new understanding.


Joychild

Joychild

Recommended ages: 10+

In English

Soft-spoken yet resolute, a young child remembers the joys and fears that go hand-in-hand with coming out, shot in beautifully evocative black and white 16mm film. 


Purpleboy

Purpleboy

Recommended ages: 10+

In English

When Oscar pops up out of the ground in a strange yet parallel world, he must remain steadfast to his budding identity as others try to tear him down.



Riah’s Picks:

Calamity

new york children's film festival Calamity

Recommended Ages: 8+

In French, with English subtitles

It’s 1863 and 12-year-old Martha Jane and her family are headed West across the United States in search of a better life. After her father is hurt in a serious accident, she takes charge of her siblings and learns to drive the family wagon. Utterly practical and bold, Martha Jane trades her constricting skirts for the ease of boys’ breeches and never looks back.

Her unconventional style and brazenness don’t sit well with the pioneer community, and when the leader of the convoy wrongly accuses her of theft, she must run away to find proof of her innocence. In the Wild, she discovers herself and a world which shapes her into the mythical and mysterious Calamity Jane.


City of Ghosts Q&A

new york children's film festival City of Ghosts

Recommended Ages: 5+

In English

Live Q&A on March 5th at 8pm ET

Please note this event is a Q&A and discussion with screening excerpts from the series.

Watch the first episode of City of Ghosts on Netflix then join us for an exclusive, making-of conversation with showrunner and creator (and NYICFF 2017 award-winner) Elizabeth Ito, and members of the creative team. Go behind the scenes of this innovative new series and ask your questions directly!

Inspired by writer/director Elizabeth Ito’s experience growing up as a yonsei—or fourth-generation Japanese American—City of Ghosts is a documentary-style series featuring a charming blend of live-action settings populated by animated characters, many voiced by real residents recounting their own stories.

Each episode follows the Ghost Club as they learn about the rich history of the multicultural neighborhoods of LA through encounters with friendly ghosts.

City of Ghosts premieres on Netflix on March 5, 2021.


Sisters: The Summer we Found our Superpowers

Sisters: The Summer we Found our Superpowers

Recommended Ages: 7+

In Norwegian, with English subtitles

Vega, 9, and her wild sister Billie, 5, are going on an overnight outdoor hike in the lush Norwegian woods. The trip is full of exciting climbs, silly jokes, and happy trekking until Dad pulls one acrobatic stunt too many, falling into a cave and injuring his leg badly. Unable to move, he asks Vega and Billie to get help. Anxiously retracing their steps, they know that everything depends on them now, as Vega tries to keep them focused on the goal despite setbacks, surprises, and Billie’s many distractions. They bravely face their fears, discover their superpowers, and find strength in their sisterhood.


Housing

new york children's film festival Housing

Recommended ages: 5+

In French, with English subtitles

A mother’s nest couldn’t be cozier or more colorful, but a little wingspan room is necessary to take flight.


Orgiastic Hyper-Plastic

Orgiastic Hyper-Plastic

Recommended ages: 5+

No dialogue

Buttons and fasteners, toy ponies and kittens, bright action figures and straws that are bitten: these are a few of your favorite things to invite to this lively, stop-motion plastic farewell dance.



Movies We Both Want To See:

The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite

The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite

Recommended Ages: 10+

In French, with English subtitles

Marguerite and Margot have a lot in common: both are 12 years old and missing their fathers. The one big difference? One lives in 1942, the other in 2020. Or at least that’s the case until the discovery of a magical trunk in an attic that sends them traveling through time. Margot and Marguerite have something else in common: their father is no longer there, one vanished during World War II, the other is not living at home. With 70 years apart, they’re embarking in a wild adventure to find their present, explore history and their families’ memories, and not least of all manage the transition to becoming teens!:


Jackie & Oopjen

new york children's film festival Jackie & Oopjen

Recommended Age: 8+

In Dutch, with English subtitles

Twelve-year-old Jackie has made Amsterdam’s world famous Rijksmuseum her second home since her mother is always busy at her job there. As Jackie wanders the museum after hours, Oopjen Coppit, the woman depicted in Rembrandt’s famous 1634 painting, suddenly steps out of the canvas and into the middle of the gallery. Used to keeping her cool and problem solving, Jackie instantly decides to take Oopjen under her wing and help her search for her missing sister. Oopjen, a woman from the Golden Age, finds the 21st century to be a big adventure while Jackie finally finds a true friend.


The Legend of Hei

The Legend of Hei new york children's film festival

Recommended Ages: 9+

In English

With an inky black coat, adorable mewl, and eyes as big as saucers, Xiao Hei is the cutest feline around. But don’t let his good looks fool you, he’s more than just a cat. When he meets up with a motley band of spirits—creatures and human-like beings with superhuman powers—Hei finds that he, too, is a spirit and shapeshifts from cat to kid form.

His new friends train and challenge him in the warrior spirit arts, with the pressing goal of saving their beloved forest from developers destroying it in this lushly rendered tale. Evoking Studio Ghibli’s ecological fables, The Legend of Hei is a winsome combination of heart, soul, fantasy, and an extraordinary adventure.


The Mitchells vs. the Machines: Sneak Peek + Q&A

The Mitchells vs. the Machines new york children's film festival

Recommended Ages: unknown

In English

Produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse) and directed by Michael Rianda, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is an original animated comedy from Sony Pictures Animation and Netflix about an everyday family’s struggle to relate while technology rises up around the world! When Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), a creative outsider, is accepted into the film school of her dreams, her plans to meet “her people” at college are upended when her nature-loving dad Rick (voiced by Danny McBride) determines the whole family should drive Katie to school together and bond as a family one last time.


Umbrellas

Umbrellas new york children's film festival

Recommended ages: 5+

No dialogue

Safe and dry, Kyna has her dad’s love and protection to carry her through…until her dog, Nana, needs a rescue.


Matilda and the Spare Head

Matilda and the Spare Head

Recommended ages: 5-10

in Lithuanian, with English subtitles

Matilda wants to be the smartest person in the world. When she can’t fit any more in her head, she figures two heads are better than one.


Athleticus: The Encounter

Athleticus: The Encounter

Recommended ages: 5+

In English

A turtle goes from slow crawler to smooth operator, figure-eight style.


Renaidance

new york children's film festival Renaidance

Recommended ages: 3+

In English

A grandfather and granddaughter bond over dragons, dance, and shared cultural traditions.


How I Overcame My Fear of Humans

How I Overcame My Fear of Humans new york children's film festival

Recommended ages: 8+

In French, with English subtitles

Dédalia the spider dreams of the big city—New York—home to 8 million people. There’s just one little problem: she’s afraid of them! 


Zara and the Others: Miss Miss

Zara and the Others: Miss Miss new york children's film festival

Recommended ages: 8+

In Norwegian, with English subtitles

Zara and her family are not like the others and when they remake the pageant-like Miss Competition, it’s a much more wacky “hit” than “miss”!



That’s that!

For a full schedule, visit: nyicff.org/festival/2021-films.

Grab tickets below:

So, are there any films you’d like to see during the 2021 New York International Children’s Film Festival?

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