Get Off That Couch and Go See a Movie

The New York Children’s International Film Festival comes to town this month, including such shorts as "Crank Balls" and, below, "Knuffle Bunny."

Photos: Courtesy NYCIFF

After the gift-wrap explosion has settled on Christmas Day, there’s another surprise waiting for the kids in your life, or the kid in you: the NYCIFF Festival-in-a-Box, an international film festival especially for folks who are too young to drive (or, in some cases, see over the dashboard).

Each spring in New York, the New York Children’s International Film Festival gathers wildly imaginative children’s films from around the world and unfurls the red carpet, with gala openings and juries packed with big names like Susan Sarandon and Gus Van Sant. Now the popular festival is taking audience favorites and jury selections from years past on a whistle-stop tour of the United States. In Hawaii, its home will be the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

Gina Caruso, the Academy’s film curator, says the festival’s timing—in the mom-I’m-bored limbo of the last week of the year—couldn’t be better. “I have a son who’s 10 years old,” she says. “That’s the time when they have a two-week break from school. This gives kids something to do that’s really interesting and different.”

Knuffle Bunny

The mini-festival presents a pair of hour-long programs of short films from around the world, each targeted at a different age group; an award-winning animated feature from Denmark; and an international short-film program compiled especially for teenage girls. The characters you’ll encounter are often out of this world: animated floating robots, google-eyed claymation monsters, cartoon characters in a photographic reality, and “The Wooden Pirate with the Flesh Leg.”

“These are things kids wouldn’t have the opportunity to see otherwise,” says Caruso. “They’re not on TV or in the video store. These films have so much imagination, so much creativity and individuality.”

The real secret? You may have even more fun than they do. Says Caruso: “Parents often tell me, ‘I just want to watch something I enjoy.’ This festival bridges that gap.”

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A smart, hilarious undersea tale of three kids who stumble upon a mad scientist’s laboratory, where they drink a potion that transforms them into sea creatures. Features the voices of Alan Rickman and Monty Python’s Terry Jones. Friday, Dec. 26, at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Instead of: Finding Nemo. Again and again and again.


Shorts for ages 8 to 16
A nine-country, 10-film international Party Mix for tweens and teens who think they have seen it all. Sunday, Dec. 28, at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 29, at 1 p.m. Instead of: Do we really need to spell it out?


Shorts for ages 3 to 8
A diverse, international collection of imaginative shorts for younger children. Featuring an array of animation styles, and storytelling techniques that transcend language. Saturday, Dec. 27, at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Instead of: Barney.


Shorts for ages 10+
A thoughtful collection of age-appropriate short films exploring issues that affect young women across cultures and ages. Tuesday, Dec. 30, at 1 and 7:30 p.m.