College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Portland Children’s Film Festival Builds Community Relationships through Movie Presentations; USM Sponsors Event

Now in its third year, the Portland Children’s Film Festival seems to be doing exactly what it intended to do – bring high-quality children’s films to the city in a fun and exciting atmosphere -- plus a lot more. 

As done previously, the Portland Children’s Film Festival (PCFF) this year is bringing a galaxy of international children’s films for showing April 2-6; holding its very-popular children’s filmmaking competition; and presenting special public events focusing on films and filmmakers. 

The impact of the PCFF, sponsored by the East End Community School, however, has gone way beyond just “the bake-sale community event,” according to organizer Lauri Boxer-Macomber, a member of the PCFF Steering Committee. The film festival continues to build community partnerships with other organizations and to create relationships throughout the city and region, she said. 

“The film festival has definitely grown in the past three years,” Boxer-Macomber said during a recent interview. “We’re finding more and more organizations are receptive to partnering with us. Kids are starting to recognize it as an annual event. Students who were involved in elementary school are spreading the word now that they’re in middle school, and people from neighboring towns are starting to attend the festival in higher numbers.” 

“We’re building long-term relationships where people are more receptive to neighborhood and community-building,” she said, adding that the festival even has become a destination event for all Maine residents and visitors to the city. 

Sponsors and co-partners of the 2014 PCFF include: Portland Public Schools, the University of Southern Maine (USM), Portland Public Library, Portland Ovations, World Affairs Council of Maine, Space Gallery, Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Aikido of Maine and Cyclemania. 

Originally conceived by East End Community School parents and teachers, the annual film festival is designed to connect Maine children and families to people within their own cultures, as well as to expand the world views of all those attend the various films. 

“It’s also a way to get busy families back out into the greater Portland arts community,” Boxer-Macomber added. 

The festival this year is bringing more than 12 top films and presentations suitable for children aged three years and up. They include award-winning documentaries for older, elementary-school children, such as “Flying Paper,” about Palestinian youth trying to break a Guinness World Record for flying kites; exciting mystery-adventure films, such as “Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang” from Spain; outstanding animated films, such as the beautiful, fable-like “Mia and the Migoo” from France and the sci-fi animated “Summer Wars” from Japan; and fun shorts for younger children, including “Kid Flix Mix” and “Party Mix.” 

Last year’s Young Filmmakers Contest, for all kids, groups and classrooms in Maine, drew more than 60 entries, “and we’re expecting many more this year,” according to Lynn Kuzma, PCFF Steering Committee member. This year’s theme for the young filmmakers is “Change.” The competition will culminate with the announcement of the winners at the invitation-only Red Carpet Night, Thursday, April 3, at USM and with two public film presentations at 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., Sunday, April 6, at Nickelodeon Cinema, Portland. 

“The filmmaker’s contest provides a shared art experience for children,” said Kuzma, who also is dean of USM’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. “It’s a means to enhance their visual literacy and communication. It’s also a lot of fun, and the submissions are really wonderful.” 

The PCFF will kick off with the public showing of “I am Eleven,” the extraordinary Australian documentary that looks at the lives of 11-year-olds across the world at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 2, at Hannaford Hall, Abromson Education Center, USM, Portland campus. Audience members not only will view the film, but also have the opportunity to remember and share their own experiences of being 11 through the international “I am Eleven” project. 

Through the project, individuals will complete the phrase “When I was 11 … “ on a template form and have their photo taken while holding the form in front of them. The photo then will be uploaded online for public viewing on the project website and shared at a gallery at Abromson Center. The event is sponsored by USM’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. 

The PCFF also will hold a sneak preview of “Imba Means Sing,” an American documentary on the African Children’s Choir, and introduce its producer, Erin Levin, award-winning journalist and filmmaker, at 12 p.m., April 5, Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library. The choir recently performed in Portland, sponsored by Portland Ovations, and visited East End Community School. Levin will discuss her experience of following the Ugandan children while they are on tour around the U.S. The free event is sponsored by USM’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. 

This year’s “One City-One Book-One Film” event is based on “The Watsons Go to Birmingham,” an enlightening film story of a Flint, Mich. family’s experience of southern segregation in 1963, based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Paul Curtis. The film will be shown 2 p.m., Saturday, April 5, Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library. 

Tickets for the film showings and events vary from free to donations accepted to between $5-10. For complete information about the Portland Children’s Film Festival and ticket information, go to