This year’s Tumbleweeds Film Festival, a family-oriented occasion put on by the Utah Film Center, is set for April 22 and 23 at the Viridian Event Center in West Jordan.
The theme of the festival will be “Our Magical World,” featuring animation, shorts and feature-length films, as well as activities and workshops led by professionals in the film industry. Julie Gale, festival director for Tumbleweeds, said presenting the festival is vast but exciting for her and her team.
“We’ve been working in earnest on the film festival nine months out,” Gale said. “We start thinking about … theme, our goals, and who we want to serve literally when the books are closed on the previous year. It’s a very long process.”
Tumbleweeds has two parts: Field trips on April 19 and 20, where classrooms can register to see “Goodnight Oppy” – a documentary about the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity – and the main festival on April 22 and 23, open to the public.
For activities, Gale said kids and now parents can look forward to participating in selected aspects of the filmmaking process, such as stop motion and writing a screenplay. Gale added that the decision to include parents was based on feedback from previous festivals.
More general activities include coloring and craft tables, photo booths, virtual-reality stations and caricature artists.
Because the Utah State Board of Education funds the festival in part, all films to be screened fall under family-friendly criteria and follow the same guidelines as public schools. Gale said the festival’s mission and goals were always aligned with funders.
“We aim … to bring great stories into Utah, and [we] share the idea of watching great films to become better humans, because we get to learn about people around the world – how we are similar and how we are different,” she said.
She added that the festival’s films often intersect with science, history and language arts core curriculum standards.
Films set for this year’s festival:
- “Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out” (2022)
- “Bangla Surf Girls” (2021)
- “Dragon Princess” (2021)
- “Luisa and the Feathered Snake” (2022)
- “My Fairy Troublemaker” (2022)
- “My Life as Lotta – Okey Dokey Alpaca!” (2022)
- “Pirates Down the Street” (2020)
- “Totem” (2022)
- Black, Bold & Brilliant Kids Short Film Program, a collection of short films curated by Utah Film Center’s Black, Bold and Brilliant team.
- Tumbleweeds Shorts Celebration, a collection of short films curated by Utah Film Center.
Gale said Tumbleweeds has historically invited international film participants, but ongoing travel restrictions in some parts of the world due to Covid-19 continues to place this aspect of the festival on hold.
“We’re hoping to return to that in earnest,” she said. “Last year we did the festival in person, and it was our first time since 2020. The next phase is to bring back international filmmakers to Salt Lake City.”
In partnership with Utah Education Network, Tumbleweeds will also feature a kids’ film competition, wherein industry professionals and educators choose the best films submitted last year by students in three categories: grade K-3, grades 4-6 and grades 7-8.
Audiences can also pick their favorite in each category through a user-friendly ballot – children simply tear off their choice and submit it.
“Kids are making a lot of media, more so than any other generation, so we said, ‘Let’s celebrate that,’” Gale said. “We’re going to have a red carpet, reporters to talk to the child filmmakers, and awards. We’re very excited and surprised how many kids submitted.”
Entry costs and transportation
Day passes for Tumbleweeds, which allows entry to any movie on the pass’s corresponding day and access to club house activities, comes in at $8 per person. Without the pass, film entry costs $5. Workshops are not included in the day passes and cost $20, though the festival will offer four workshops at no cost.
To ensure the most people can access the festival’s range of activities, Gale said some film screenings and workshops are open to accepting payments below what’s marked if a family cannot afford otherwise.
“We want to make it so families do come and [are] … not stressed about the cost,” she said.
With a day pass, UTA will provide free transit to the West Jordan City Center Station, five minutes east of Viridian Event Center (8030 S. 1825 W.), the area hosting Tumbleweeds. Gale noted that the event center will offer free parking.