Belmont World Film

Belmont World Film’s Family Festival is marking its 20th year. This month the event is running from Jan. 14 to 22, with both in-person screenings and workshops, and with some films available virtually from Jan. 20-22, a news release said.

In-person screenings are taking place at the Regent Theater (5 Medford St., Arlington), the Brattle Theatre (40 Brattle St., Cambridge), the Majestic 7 Cinema (81 Arsenal Yards Blvd., Watertown) and the West Newton Cinema (1296 Washington St.).

Most of the films are based on international children’s books, with many making their North American premieres, including 11 feature-length films and 30 short animated and live-action films grouped into five separate programs. Most in-person films will be shown in their original languages with English subtitles read aloud through headphones.

“We are thrilled to be back to an in-person festival again after two virtual ones, especially during our 20th year,” said Belmont World Film Executive Director Ellen Gitelman in the news release. “Being able to watch these adventurous films, many of which feature fascinating locations outside the US or hand-drawn animation, is something children will never forget.”

Tickets for in-person screenings are $12 for feature films and $8 for shorts programs; virtual screenings are $15 for feature-length films and $11 for shorts. Workshop tickets are $20 each and must be purchased in advance. In-person film passes are $50. In-person full-festival passes are $75, which includes all films and all workshops.

VIP Festival passes are $120 and include all films, all workshops, a T-shirt and recognition in the program for a year. EBT and Connector cardholder tickets are half price. Tickets and more information are available at or by calling 617-484-3980. A program guide with places, dates and times of screenings is available on the website.

The festival is intended to provide children age 3 to 12 and their families and caregivers the opportunity to see some of the world’s most remarkable current films for children that can’t be seen anywhere else, organizers said. Films this year are from the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. Filmmakers from around the world will also participate in virtual Q&As.

Films and workshops 

Film subjects include everything from a sassy young boy becoming captivated by movies in a village in India and a mischievous little comic character named Nicholas from the creator of Asterix to a school wherein students receive their own magical animal companion and a society in which all children have their own personal robots. Films based on children’s books include "How I Learned to Fly" (Serbia), "Little Nicholas: Happy as Can Be" (Luxembourg), "Oink" (The Netherlands), "The School of Magical Animals 2" (Germany), "The Path" (Germany), "The Websters" (Czech Republic), "Icarus and the Minotaur" (France), and "My Robot Brother" (Denmark).

Also planned is a selection of short film programs from Scholastic/Weston Woods based on picture books, including some by Mo Willems, and some about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among other topics. Some of these include narration or character voice work by major film and television stars.

Workshops are to include an animation class and talk with renowned animator Jamy Wheless ("Star Wars" prequels, "The Hulk"), online Gromit and Shaun the Sheep clay modeling workshops led by Aardman’s (Wallace & Gromit films) senior model maker and a workshop on film criticism led by Boston Society of Film Critics members Joyce Kulhawik and Tom Meek.

Featured films

Feature-length films are listed here in alphabetical order (in-person-only screenings are marked with  an asterisk):

"How I Learned to Fly": Based on the novel by Jasminka Petrović in which a seemingly boring cellphone-free vacation with a grandmother and great aunt on the island of Hvar off the Croatian coast turns into an invaluable, unforgettable life-changing experience for an adventurous and funny 12-year-old girl. [East Coast premiere | Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovakia | Serbian with subtitles | 2022 | 87 min. | Age 10+]

"Icarus and the Minotaur": Former Pixar animator Carlo Vogele’s ("Monsters University," "The Brave," "Cars 2," "Toy Story 3") independent animated film that reimagines the mythical story of Icarus as a little boy. [North American premiere | Luxembourg, France, Belgium | English | 2022 | 77 min. | Age 8+]

*"Journey to Yourland": In 10 year-old Riki’s dreams is a fantasy world called Yourland, where robots wander around deserts, monkeys serve as army generals, ravens act like mysterious spies -- and one small shiny stone is the most important source of energy. Riki has to fight for this small treasure to save both Yourland and his own world. [East Coast Premiere | Slovak Republic, Belgium, Czech Republic | Slovakian with subtitles | 2022 | 85 min. | Age 8+] In person only

*"Last Film Show": India’s submission for the Best International Feature Film Oscar! Samay, a 9-year-old boy living with his family in a remote village in India, discovers films for the first time and is absolutely mesmerized. Against his father's wishes, he returns to the cinema day after day to watch more films, and even befriends the projectionist, who, in exchange for his lunch box, lets him watch movies for free. He and his friends eventually make their own film projection equipment—until the day the film cans stop coming. [New England premiere | India, France, U.S. | Gujarati with subtitles | 2022 | 110 min. | Age 8+] In person only

*"Little Nicholas: Happy as Can Be": Winner of the famed Cristal Award for a Feature Film (the top prize) at the Annecy Film Festival, the film brings to life one of the most iconic figures of French children’s literature while telling the story of the invention of cheeky schoolboy Nicholas and his classmates by writer (and Asterix creator) René Goscinny and cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempém. [East Coast premiere | France, Luxembourg | French with subtitles | 2022 | 80 min. | Age 6+] In person only

"Lucy Wanted": When the ice-cream machine at her parents' gelato shop breaks down, the otherwise kind, well-behaved and studious 10- year-old Lucy decides she needs money to buy a new one to save her family’s business. Coached by the school's bad boy, Lucy and he quickly develop a plan, code-named “Operation Lucyfer," in this madcap, mouthwatering adventure. [North American premiere | Germany | German with subtitles | 2022 | 92 min. | Age 8+]

"My Robot Brother": In the near future, the climate crisis is solved, people live in harmony with nature, robots work as personal assistants and all children have their own robots in this film based on a novel by Morten Dürr. Eleven-year-old Alberte’s old teddy-bear-like android, Robbi, is an embarrassment to her, even though she loves that he still reads her bedtime stories. For her birthday she receives a new robot that is alleged to not even be on the market yet, and with whom she feels a real connection. Suddenly her popularity spikes, until ... [North American premiere | Denmark | Danish with subtitles | 2022 | 90 min. | Age 8+]

"Oink": Based on the book "Oink's Revenge" by Tosca Menten, this hilarious stop-motion film is set in a charming small-town world inspired by the Holland the director grew up in. When her vegetarian mum refuses her a dog, 9 year-old Babs is nevertheless delighted with a piglet birthday gift from her long-lost American grandfather. Irresistibly cute, Oink nevertheless proceeds to break all household rules, unleashing copious poop and mayhem, but Babs is determined to keep him, encouraged by Grandad, who secretly has an eye on the local sausage competition. [East Coast premiere | The Netherlands | Dutch with English subtitles | 2022 | 70 min. |Age 7+]

"The Path": In this thrill-a-minute family drama based on a true story, two children, a journalist father and a dog flee from the Nazis and must make their way through the hazardous Pyrenees on their expedition to New York City. [New England premiere | Germany | German, Spanish, Catalan, French and English with English subtitles | 2022 | 99 min. | Age 10+]

"The School of Magical Animals 2": Set in an extraordinary school where students in grade 5 secretly each receive a magical animal companion, this warm-hearted adventure follows the students as they write and perform a show celebrating the school’s 250th anniversary. This is based on Margit Auer’s beloved children’s book series that’s been translated into 20 different languages and published all over the world. [North American premiere | Germany | German with subtitles | 2022 | 90 min. | Age 10+]

"The Websters": Young spider Lili Webster lives with her brother, her parents and her grandparents in the machine room of an elevator, but her world is so much bigger than just the family spider web. After many adventures, she is now in for the biggest and most dangerous of them all: meeting a human being. This is based on a series of popular books. [North American premiere | Czech Republic, Slovak Republic | Czech with subtitles | 2022 | 65 min. | Age 6+]

Short film programs

Short film programs include (in alphabetical order):

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Stories about Dr. King, his ideals and his contemporaries have been interpreted by Weston Woods Studios. "Martin’s Big Words" by Doreen Rappaport and narrated by Michael Clarke Duncan; "Coretta Scott," Ntozake Shange’s tribute to Coretta Scott King’s civil rights movement; "Rosa," about how Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Alabama, by Nikki Giovanni; Newberry Honor winner "Show Way," the journey of eight generations of quilt making (a “show way”), which has been passed down from slavery to the present day, by Jacqueline Woodson; "Amazing Grace," about a girl who wins the title role of Peter Pan in a play even though she is previously discouraged by her classmates from trying out because she’s black and a girl, by Mary Hoffman; and "He’s Got the Whole World," an adapatation of the beloved folk song, by Kadir Nelson. [English | USA | Age 4-10]

LOL with Mo Willems Films: Children's author Mo Willems not only writes and illustrates his own books, but he also narrates the animated films created by Weston Woods Studios. This will include "Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale," "Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs," "Edwina the Dinosaur," "Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus," "Nanette’s Baguette," "Leonardo the Terrible Monster" and "Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator." [English | USA | Age 3-8]

"The Smeds & the Smoos": A Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler ("The Gruffalo") picture book comes to life in the "The Smeds & the Smoos," starring double Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins ("The Shape of Water") and Adjoa Andoh ("Bridgerton"). The red Smeds and the blue Smoos must learn to overcome their differences and work together to find their children, who eloped to escape their families’ longstanding rivalries. In "Zog," featuring the voices of Kit Harington ("Game of Thrones"), Hugh Skinner ("Fleabag") and comedian Tracey Ullman, a keen but accident-prone dragon learns how to fly, roar, breathe fire and save a princess during his first year at Dragon School. "The Smeds & the Smoos" [US Premiere| English | UK | 2022 | Age 3-8] and "Zog" [English | UK | 2018)]

What’s New from Scholastic/Weston Woods Studios: These are the studio’s newest films not yet available to the public including "The Pigeon Will Ride the Rollercoaster" by Mo Willems; "Mel Fell" by Corey R. Tabor; "The Little Red Fort" by Brenda Maier; "The Little Butterfly that Could" by Ross Burach; "Be Strong" by Pat Zietlow Miller; "Watercress" by Andrea Wang; and "Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess" by Tom Gauld. [US premieres | English | USA | Age 3-8)

You’ve Got a Friend: Live-action and animated films from around the world about friendship, including "The Pig on the Hill," based on John Kelly’s book and narrated by Pierce Brosnan; "Hush, Hush, Little Bear," based on a Latvian lullaby; "Andy," about a puppy learning to become a service dog; "The Smortlybacks Come Back!" about a herd of splendid smortlybacks in search of greener pastures; "Sand Pie," about a girl’s sandbox toy that’s stolen by some bullies, only to be retrieved by a new friend; and "Children of Gainmore," about a magic stone that suddenly appears in the kindergarten playground. [New England premieres | No dialogue, English | Age 4-10]

Festival sponsors include the Consulate of Denmark in New York (Nation Sponsor) German International School of Boston (Nation sponsor), Dutch Culture USA (Province sponsor), and Belmont Day School (Capital Sponsor). Boston Central is the Media sponsor.

Belmont World Film is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that promotes cross-cultural understanding through the powerful universal language of film screened for both adults and children, accompanied by topical speakers, cultural performances and international food experiences. 

March 15, 2021: Belmont World Film's 19th annual series held

This news announcement was published Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, based on information from Ellen Gitelman. YourArlington volunteer Kim Haase prepared it for publication.