Alesia Johnson, founder and film festival firector with 9-year-old film winner, Nitza Young. She wrote and produce the short film “Find a Unicorn.” Her aunt, Tolora Nichal, directed the film and helped Nitza produced the film.

During the run of the 16th Annual Atlanta Children’s Film Festival from June 9-25, organizers hope to promote media literacy for the children and families who attend. 

The festival, which is put on by a media arts nonprofit called Kids Video Connection (KVC), will kick off with a free Opening Day Celebration on June 9 at the Fulton County Public Library. From there, the festival will feature a mixture of in-person and virtual events and screenings for children and their families to enjoy. 

According to KVC’s Board President Amy Aidman, this year’s roster includes films from the United States as well as from 20 other countries. 

“The quality of the films that we get from these independent filmmakers is just amazing,” Aidman said. “They’re the kinds of stories that you’re not really seeing in mainstream media. They’re very personal stories, many of them. And to me, that’s exciting because it gives children and families the opportunity to see a different kind of content.” 

KVC started in 2006, but the festival began a year later in 2007. Through the film festival and other initiatives, KVC aims to help teach children media literacy skills and how to think critically about the media they see. Alesia C. Johnson – CEO and founder of KVC as well as the director of the film festival – gave the example of teaching children to look for upward-facing camera angles in political advertisements, and how those angles can be used to make a candidate appear larger than life. 

“We specialize in teaching children media literacy, communication skills, and video production,” Johnson said. “The main thing is media literacy.”

But for KVC, the concept of media literacy extends beyond political adverts and into the film, television, and other media that kids consume everyday. 

“Everybody’s always vying for our attention, and they don’t really want us to maybe think about things too much,” Aidman said. “But when you start really paying attention and you realize that every single thing that happens on the screen, whether it’s visual or whether it’s audio, that it involved decision makers, and that it involved different people and different equipment, and lighting decisions and sound decisions – when you start to think about it that way, it deepens your appreciation of what you’re seeing.” 

Aidman said during the submission process for the film festival, selectors were looking for films that were educational, entertaining, and well made. The films are made for children, but oftentimes, they’re also made by children. Last year, Aidman said, the festival had submissions from kids as young as seven years old – with the help of their parents, of course. 

The festival offers access to more than just films, however. During the opening day event on June 9, there will be a media career fair for young people, workshops throughout the week, and a Film Camp from June 12-16.

“During the festival, we’re introducing underserved youth to careers in media,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the point [where] the festival is so unique.” 

Both Aidman and Johnson said they were excited about multiple films playing the festival this year, but both singled out films about climate change and environmentalism. One film playing the festival this year comes from a 10-year-old girl from the Bahamas and details her concerns about oil drilling and the potential harm that it could bring to her home, said Aidman.  

“It’s a beautiful film – it’s only three minutes long, but she is expressing her fear and her love for her country,” Aidmand said. “It’s extremely convincing and compelling, and it really sticks with you.”

The full schedule of events for the Atlanta Children’s Film Festival can be viewed online. According to a press release, films made by youth will be available to start screening virtually free of charge on June 9, and all other films will be available beginning June 17.

Writer and Journalist Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.