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Jonathan Hickerson, Courtesy of Utah Film Center

Tumbleweeds Film Festival, Utah’s ‘Sundance for kids,’ expands to second weekend in 9th year

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Posted - Mar. 8, 2020 at 2:44 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Tumbleweeds Film Festival, which is similar to Sundance but geared toward kids, started this weekend and is expanding to two weekends in its ninth year.

The festival started Friday at the Salt Lake City Public Library downtown and runs through today. It picks back up March 13-15, with some limited events taking place between the two weekends.

The festival’s lineup includes 18 feature films and 26 short films, according to Patrick Hubley, executive director of the Utah Film Center, which puts on the event. There are also many off-screen events, including some hands-on activities for kids and workshops that teach children about how films are made. It’s mostly aimed at kids ages 4 to 14, he said.

Organizers wanted to expand to a second weekend to give people more flexibility to attend the events, Hubley said. In past years, they got feedback from people who couldn’t make it to some of the movie screenings because of scheduling conflicts.

“Thanks to the library who are great partners, who were amenable to us extending it to a second weekend, we're able to offer more screenings and more repeat screenings of films that we were showing,” Hubley said. “So giving audiences more opportunities to see films and participate in the festival. So that's really the biggest change to the festival.”

More than 20 different countries are represented in the festival’s lineup of films, including Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, South Korea, Spain the United States and more.

It’s important for kids to be exposed to different ways of life, Hubley said.

“I think kids, much like adults, should have the opportunity to see stories from other countries,” he said. “I think it can open up young people to stories that aren't necessarily told in English.”

One film Hubley is excited for people to see is "Romy’s Salon," a Dutch/German film that follows a girl who dislikes helping her strict and busy grandmother work in a salon until she discovers a different side of her grandmother.

Another film he highlighted is "Rocca Changes The World," a German movie about a girl who has lived a secluded life, but attends a normal school for the first time while her astronaut father is in space.

“It’s a really charming film,” Hubley said. “One thing about these films is that the lead characters are — they're solving their own problems. They're not necessarily relying on other people. They're learning self-awareness and learning empowerment. So I think that's a really common theme throughout all these films.”

Both those movies have protagonists who are strong, young and female, he said.

The workshops offer kids an opportunity to get a snapshot of the creative processes behind movie-making and storytelling, Hubley said. They will focus on special effects makeup, claymation, sound effects and other topics.

“One of our overarching goals is to engage with our young audience’s imagination and creative spirit,” he said.

The workshops are smaller groups and are very hands-on, Hubley said. Most of the sessions last about 90 minutes.

Also new this year are a few free screenings that will take place during the week between the two main festival weekends.

Hubley encourages people to take a chance on a foreign language film that has subtitles.

“All of these films are films they wouldn't really have access to otherwise,” Hubley said. “It gives our young audiences an opportunity to kind of see the world through cinema.”

For more information and to buy tickets, visit utahfilmcenter.org.

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