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Five must-see movies at this year's New York International Children's Film Festival

David Ehrlich

Since its founding in 1997, the New York International Children's Film Festival has become an annual Cannes for kids. Billed as the largest film festival for children and teenagers in the United States, NYICFF isn't just a great excuse for parents to avoid watching Frozen for the 492nd time, it's also an opportunity for them to lean on the festival's reliable programming and expose their kids to a wider world of movies they might love. And as the fest has grown, it's also become an increasingly significant event for cinephiles of all ages, a fact that this year's slate makes more apparent than ever.

Running from Fri 27 through Mar 22 (with most of the action taking place on the weekend, when the target audience isn't stuck at school), NYCIFF 2015 is stuffed to the gills with 100 short and feature-length films spread among some key Manhattan theaters, along with a bunch of other miscellaneous goodness. With opening night just around the corner, here are five titles to keep on your radar:

Girls' POV The short film programs have always been an NYICFF highlight, and this year's looks to keep that tradition alive in proud style. Each of the sections has its merits, but Girls' POV might be the most exciting of all. A selection of seven different shorts, (combined, they run just 80 minutes) Girls' POV does what it says on the tin, collecting an internationally diverse assortment of perspectives that young girls seldom get to see reflected on screen: their own. SVA Theatre, Sun 1 at 3pm; Village East, Sat 21 at 11:30am

Hocus Pocus Alfie Atkins Geared towards the youngest kids in the crowd, the debut feature from Academy Award-winning director Torill Kove breathes new life into the seven-year-old hero of a beloved children's book about a boy who really wants to own a dog (we've all been there). Unfortunately for little Alfie, his dad isn't so keen on the idea, so the boy enlists the help of a local magician to see if he can make his dream come true through supernatural means. Cuteness ensues. SVA Theatre, Sat 28 at 10:30am; Village East, Sat 21 at 4pm

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow Chang Hyung-yun's delightfully strange debut follows the romance between a space satellite and a pop singer who's turned into a cow. Needless to say, any kids in the audience who've been exclusively raised on Disney fare will never have seen something like this. SVA Theatre, Sun 1 at 5pm, Sat 14 at 6:15pm

Shaun the Sheep Movie Aardman Animations (the beautiful Brits behind Wallace & Gromit) gives their favorite farm animal his own movie, in which the wooly hero and his pals have to round up their lost farmer. Told without a word of dialogue, Shaun the Sheep Movie promises to be every bit as adorable and visually clever as the claymation delights that first put Aardman on the map. DGA Theater, Fri 27 at 6pm; SVA Theatre, Sat 21 at 1pm

When Marnie Was There Unquestionably the marquee event of this year's fest is the North American premiere of When Marnie Was There, which threatens to be the last feature film from Japan's globally worshipped Studio Ghibli (at least for the foreseeable future). While it may not have been directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro) or his similarly revered partner Isao Takahata (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya), When Marnie Was There nevertheless promises to be touched with that inimitable Ghibli magic. Adapted from a Joan G. Robinson novel by The Secret World of Arriety director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the studio's swan song tells the story of a young girl named Anna who makes a mysterious new friend soon after moving her aunt and uncle's remote seaside village. For many animation fans, this is nothing less than the movie event of the year. DGA Theater, Fri 27 at 8:30pm; SVA Theater, Sat 7 at 2pm 

Be sure to visit GKIDS' site for tickets and information, and check back with Time Out New York for reviews of the fest's biggest films.


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