Child sitting in red theater seat with popcorn and drink

Photograph By AntonioDiaz/AdobeStock

5 must-see films that will teach your kids about the world

These picks at the TIFF Kids’ International Film Festival will educate and entertain

March Break planning can evoke feelings of light panic with a touch of eye-twitch if you’re a parent of school-age kids. But fret not—there’s a new contender for cool activities in Toronto this year: TIFF’s popular Kids’ International Film Festival is now running from March 9 to 18, 2018, to coincide with the break, and it’s packed with must-see films from around the globe. 

The festival is an incredible opportunity to introduce children to stories about places and themes that will expand their worldview. “The goal of the festival is to bring lots of different perspectives to our doorstep,” says Jennifer Barkin, senior programming manager for the festival. “With broadened points of view, we all start to question our own values and consider something that wasn’t on our radar before.” 

Content advisories on each film explain what to expect and highlight any potentially sensitive areas. And don’t worry about subtitles. “Where there are subtitles, we have an experienced ‘reader’ in the theatre to read them aloud for kids,” says Barkin.  

The 10 days of programming includes 40 feature-length and short films from more than100 countries, for kids ages five to 13. “Ultimately, I hope that people leave transformed in some way—big or small,” Barkin says. Here are five of our top picks.

Girl in pajamas sitting on couch with Frankenstein monster

Photograph Courtesy of TIFF

Adventures From Around the World

This collection of shorts is a great starting point for younger film buffs and has a strong variety of English content. Films center on the lives of children in countries like India, Australia and Italy. The overall vibe is positive, focusing on themes of friendship, teamwork and the power of hope. Doctor of Monster (Brazil) looks wonderfully charming, though if your child is sensitive, the monster costumes are noted as being potentially scary.  

(Recommended age: 6-8) 

Three boys sitting on stairs scene from DHH

Photograph Courtesy of TIFF


A feature-length film in Hindi with subtitles, this film from India is about three boys who blow off school to go see their favourite magician perform. Afterwards, they write him a letter asking for a magic trick to help them pass their exams. It’s a classic hijinks movie with a mix of action, laughs and touching moments of sensitivity and friendship between boys, which is lovely to watch.  

(Recommended age: 8-10)

Two boys hugging in scene from Home Away From Home

Photograph Courtesy of TIFF

Home Away From Home

The kids in these short films have home lives deemed unstable due to their location, and whether they escape or are forced to leave, rebuilding must begin. In the documentary Hello Salaam, two boys meet at a camp for migrants and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos. The film explores the friendships between the boys, who are there because their mothers are volunteers, and the kids who call Lesbos home. (You may find yourself tearing up at the trailer alone.) 

(Recommended age: 9-11) 

Two Afghani boys sitting on wall scene from The Breadwinner

Photograph Courtesy of TIFF

The Breadwinner

Parvana lives with her loving family under strict Taliban rule in Kabul, Afghanistan. After her father is unfairly imprisoned, she disguises herself as a boy to become the family’s breadwinner, while simultaneously trying to clear her father’s name. This gorgeous and inventively animated film is partly a Canadian production, along with Luxembourg and Ireland (Angelina Jolie is a producer). Some subject matter may be too much for small children as there are themes of oppression, war and violence. Based on the award-winning book, this film was also nominated for “Best Animated Feature Film” at the 2018 Academy Awards. 

(Recommended age: 9-13) 

Illustration of a group of Jewish children from holocaust

Photograph Courtesy of TIFF

It’s All Relative

This series of shorts explores themes of family, loss, coming of age and personal conviction. The Holocaust is frankly discussed in The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm (USA) as two boys learn about their family history. In Bachir in Wonderland, a boy who lives in a refugee camp in the middle of the desert longs to swim in the sea—will a travel opportunity grant his wish? There’s a common thread of kids who have to deal with the tougher aspects of life, but there’s always at least a glimmer of hope at the end. 

(Recommended age: 11-13) 


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