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Kid Critics will Call the Shots at Film Fest in Chicago

From Hyde Park to Highland Park, from Oak Street to Oak Park, there’s a kid critic in nearly every neighborhood and every suburb. They’re young, they’re intelligent, they’re hooked on movies—and this August, they will get a sneak peek at the best in children’s cinema.

They are the seventy children, aged 7-13, who will make up the Children’s Jury for the 2004 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. For eight film-packed days (August 10-13 and Aug 17-20) at Facets Multi-Media, 1517 W. Fullerton the young film lovers will convene from all over the Chicago area to screen and evaluate over 100 films selected for competition in this year’s Fest.

The films viewed by the jury are entries selected from among 700 submitted to the 21st annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (CICFF), October 21-October 31, 2004.
Each October, Chicago becomes “Cannes for Kids” as the CICFF, the largest festival of children’s films in North America, spotlights over 200 of the best works of children’s cinema from over 45 countries. The CICFF’s Children’s Jury awards prizes in more than seven categories, including, “Best Live Action Feature Film,” “Best Animated Short Film,” Best Live Action Short Film,” and “Best Child-Produced Film.”

The children are divided into two age groups, 7-10 year-olds and 11-13 year-olds. Each jury reviews several different aspects of each film, including cinematography, script, characters/acting, and theme. The children’s votes determine the most prestigious awards granted in the 2004 Festival. When asked why he would give up 2 weeks of summer vacation to be on the jury, Michael Borch, age 14, responded, “I felt like I was part of something much bigger than anything I’d been part of before. Our decisions can really affect filmmakers’ careers.”

A number of diverse and important new films will be put before the jury, including “Zulaika,” the first live action feature film from Curacao. Also up for consideration are LeVar Burton’s “Blizzard,” starring Christopher Plummer as Santa Claus and Whoopi Goldberg as the voice of Blizzard. Lizzie Maguire star Shia LeBoeuf makes his directorial debut with “Let’s Love Hate”.

Films which receive the CICFF’s “stamp of approval” awarded by the Children’s Jury are highly regarded within the film industry. The jury is chaired by Bill Zayas, a local film producer and professor with an M.E. from Harvard University. “This is an exceptional opportunity for children to take media seriously, and to learn from something they’re already interested in,” remarked Mr. Zayas.


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