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Jonathan Hickerson, Courtesy of Utah Film Center

International-focused Tumbleweeds Film Festival is like ‘Sundance for kids,’ organizer says

By Jacob Klopfenstein, | Posted - Mar. 1, 2019 at 9:25 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Though the Sundance Film Festival has been over for about a month, kids in Salt Lake City will have their own opportunity to see independent and international films this weekend.

The 8th annual Tumbleweeds Film Festival started Friday and continues through Sunday at the Salt Lake City Main Library and The Leonardo Museum. It’s aimed at kids ages 4 and older.

The festival’s lineup includes 13 feature films and about 30 short films, according to Tumbleweeds founder and director of programming Patrick Hubley.

“It’s like Sundance for kids,” Hubley said. “We’re bringing films from all over the world that were made for young audiences and showing them here in Salt Lake City.”

Tickets for film showings at the festival are $7, according to the Tumbleweeds website. The Tumbleweeds clubhouse, which provides hands-on activities for kids, is free and runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Library atrium and The Leonardo Museum entrance.

Films from more than 20 countries, including Sweden, India, Kenya and others, will be shown at the festival, according to Hubley. They will be presented in their original languages with subtitles.

“What we’re really trying to do is introduce the wonders and joys of independent and international cinema to young audiences,” Hubley said.

The festival’s opening night film is the Kenyan film “Supa Modo.” It’s about a terminally ill girl who returns to her rural Kenyan village and dreams of being a superhero.

Director Likarion Wainaina flew to Utah from Kenya and will be participating in various events throughout the Tumbleweeds weekend, Hubley said.

“It’s a really touching film about celebrating life, about the power of imagination and the strength of community,” he said.

SUPA MODO Trailer from One Fine Day Films & Ginger Ink on Vimeo.

“Supa Modo” screened Friday evening at the library and at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Another highlight of the festival is the unique animated documentary “Liyana.”

In the film, five children from Swaziland tell stories of past trauma they have experienced and turn those stories into a new tale about a young girl, who is then animated to run alongside the interviews, Hubley said.

“It’s hard to define what type of film this is,” he said.

Two other Iranian films will tell stories from differing points of view in that country, Hubley said. “21 Days Later” depicts an urban story from the Iranian capital of Tehran, while “The End of Dreams” is set in rural northern Iran. Those two films are part of the festival’s program in part to honor Iran’s thriving children’s film industry, Hubley said.

A series of workshops also will provide kids with an opportunity to learn about what goes into the film and media industry, Hubley said. Sessions will focus on 3D game design, special effects, sound effects and other aspects of filmmaking.

“We also want to give kids an opportunity to have a hands-on experience in learning some of the craft and artistry that goes into making movies,” Hubley said.

Teachers will also have opportunities during Tumbleweeds to learn how to better implement films in their classrooms, Hubley said. Next week, the festival will hold several “field trip” screenings, where teachers are invited to bring their students to see Tumbleweeds films, he said.

Educators can go to and visit the “Educators” tab for more information.

Utah Film Center, which organizes Tumbleweeds, partners with the Sundance Institute to present films for children at the Sundance Film Festival each year. There were only three kids films at Sundance this year, though, so it’s important to give Utah kids more opportunities to see independent and international films, Hubley said.

“We take real pride in showing high-quality films,” he said. “I feel pretty confident that if you come and see one of our movies, you’ll want to come back again.”


Jacob Klopfenstein

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