Family-Oriented Features at the 2017 Florida Film Festival

By Leslie C. Halpern

Held throughout Central Florida each spring, this year’s Florida Film Festival (April 21-30) presents more than 180 feature-length and short films from 40 countries, in addition to celebrity guests, special events, film forums, and parties.

This year’s Festival includes competing films in narrative features and documentary programs, plus special screenings of food films, international films, midnight movies, and Florida films. Though focused primarily on programming for adults, in keeping with its annual tradition, the Florida Film Festival also offers a variety of entertainment for children throughout various categories and genres.

For Tweens and Teens

Menashe. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.


Based largely on the true story of the film’s star, Menashe Lustig, this film explores family life in the heart of New York’s Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn. Within this ultra-Orthodox community, a mother is required to be present in every home with children. So when Menashe’s wife dies, tradition demands his young son be removed from his home to live with a married relative. The film looks at the final week before the wife’s memorial service, when father and son spend their last few days together. The movie was shot secretly within the Hasidic community that it depicts.

  • Director: Joshua Z. Weinstein
  • Run time: 81 minutes
  • Rating: This film is unrated
  • Additional Information: In Yiddish with English subtitles
  • Part of Spotlight Features.

Step. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.


This documentary chronicles three inner-city Baltimore girls in their senior year of high school at The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. Members of the Lethal Ladies dance team, Blessin Giraldo, Tayla Solomon, and Cori Grainger look ahead to next year in college (where each will be the first in her family to receive a higher education) while currently working on the Bowie State step competition.

  • Director: Amanda Lipitz
  • Run time: 83 minutes
  • Rating: This film is rated PG (for thematic elements and some language)
  • Part of Spotlight Features.

Circus Kid. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Circus Kid

Growing up in the circus led to a lifetime of performing in public for Lorenzo Pisoni, who entered the ring at age 2. Now an adult working as an actor in television, film, and theater, Lorenzo looks back on his time being a clown partner to his perfectionistic father, Larry, who owned and operated The Pickle Family Circus. This documentary examines the artistry of this innovative circus, the behind-the-scenes work involved in producing such a show, and the family dynamics of having both parents, two children, and several employees working closely together in a traveling act. Though alcoholism is briefly discussed as a contributing factor to problems within the circus, the overall content is family-friendly and interesting for all ages.

  • Director: Lorenzo Pisoni
  • Stars: Lorenzo Pisoni, Larry Pisoni, Bill Irwin, Geoff Hoyle, Margaret Snider
  • Run time: 71 minutes
  • Rating: This film is unrated
  • Part of Documentaries in the American Independent Competition.

For the Little Ones

Albion: The Enchanted Stallion. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Albion: The Enchanted Stallion

In its Florida Premiere, this adventure features a 12-year-old girl (Avery Arendes) who encounters a mysterious black stallion that leads her to the magical world of Albion. Only she can bring peace to those who live there and save the entire race of people from the evil General Eeder (John Cleese). Filmed in Bulgaria, Florida, and Michigan, this movie features exotic locales and comedy in an imaginative coming-of-age story suitable for the entire family.

  • Director: Castille Landon (who also plays the part of a young warrior), Albion: The Enchanted Stallion
  • Stars: Jennifer Morrison, Debra Messing, Stephen Dorff, Daniel Sharman, Liam McIntyre, and Richard Kind
  • Run time: 103 minutes
  • Rating: This film is unrated
  • Part of Family Programming.

Supergirl. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.


This documentary introduces audiences to 12-year-old Naomi Kutin, an Orthodox Jewish girl from New Jersey who is breaking worldwide records in powerlifting. Although she seems to be a normal girl, going to school, studying the Torah, and spending time with friends, she’s simultaneously struggling to maintain her title as the strongest girl in the world who can lift three times her body weight. Her ever-present mismatched knee socks and sweet smile belie the determination and courage of this one extraordinary supergirl.

  • Director: Jessie Auritt
  • Run time: 80 minutes
  • Rating: This film is unrated
  • Additional Information: Preceded by the four-minutes short film Big Booom, a brief history of humanity and the world in claymation, as seen through the eyes of Russian director and writer Marat Narimanov
  • Part of Family Programming.

Click here for information about special guests at the Festival, and check the official website for show times, ticket information, and additional films of interest.