When you coordinate a 10-day event for families that takes place in locations around downtown in February, you get accustomed to making accommodations and announcements on the fly. It seems like nearly each year the start of the Providence Children’s Film Festival (PCFF) – planned to coincide with public school vacation week – is met with a large dumping of snow, presenting all kinds of issues from walkability to parking. Even adding a pandemic to the wintry mix, Artistic Director Eric Bilodeau assures that the screens won’t go dark on his watch. “We are hoping that in a time when we all might feel a little disconnected, the films in this year’s festival might help us feel reconnected even from afar,” says Bilodeau.
PCFF was founded in 2009 by a group of local parents dedicated to offering a range of shared cinema experiences to families with the types of movies not likely found in your local multiplex. During the most recent festival, PCFF screened 12 feature-length and over 200 short films including live-action, documentary, and animation made by filmmakers from around the world. In 2014, PCFF introduced the Youth Filmmaker Showcase, a juried program of films, followed by an opportunity for young filmmakers to talk about both the fun and the challenges they face during the creative process.
Bilodeau, who joined PCFF in 2010, is known around town as the guy who ran the Cable Car for 18 years; he has his own traveling pop-up, Cricket Cinema, and is also the children’s film programmer for the The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival and an advisor to the International Kids Film Festival of India. At press time, Bilodeau was still busy putting the final touches on plans, which include securing outdoor locations for what he calls Long Johns Cinema, where he will create a magical outdoor theater with hay bale seating, warming stations with bottomless cups of hot cocoa and cider, and many strands of lights. “Our motto is ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad choices of clothing!’”
Virtual options will also be part of this year’s plan. “Following the lead of every major festival in the past eight months, we opted for the safest, most distant method to connect our community to a world of films,” says Bilodeau, who has “some really good features and short films coming in so families can pop some corn at home and watch.” Taking a sip of coffee, Bilodeau says with a determined smile, “Our 2021 festival does coincide with the entire state’s school vacation week and it can snow like the Dickens this year since most of the festival can only be seen on our online, virtual platform and not venues where we usually congregate, so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”
Visit ProvidenceChildrensFilmFestival.org for updates.