Blizzard Storms Chicago Children’s Film Fest

The 21st Annual Chicago Int’l Children’s Film Festival awarded the Best of the Fest prize to the Canadian-made Christmas special, Blizzard, directed by Reading Rainbow host and Roots star LeVar Burton.

Blizzard tells the tale of a young skater named Katie who becomes friends with Santa’s most gifted reindeer, Blizzard, voiced by Whoopi Goldberg. The film also stars Kevin Pollack and Christopher Plummer.

Burton, well known for his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation, attended festival screenings of his film and spoke with children afterwards about the themes of friendship. He also visited Chicago public schools to speak with students about the importance of literacy and address questions regarding the process of filmmaking.

The festival’s closing night awards ceremony, sponsored by American Airlines, was held on Sunday, Oct. 31 at the Vittum Theater. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star James Avery hosted the gala as hundreds of movie lovers gathered to celebrate the most popular films of the festival.

Among the other festival winners were Javier Fe for Binta and the Great Idea (Spain, 2004) won the Kenneth F. and Harle G. Montgomery Prize for best film or video by an emerging director; Michael McGrath, whose Escalating (U.K., 2003) was awarded the Kenneth F. and Harle G. Montgomery Prize for the best film or video for the best child-produced film or video; Malene Vilstrup, whose Zafir (Denmark, 2003) received the Liv Ullmann Peace Prize; Aaron Greer, whose Gettin’ Grown (U.S., 2004) won the Rights of the Child Award; and two-time Emmy Award winner Shia LaBeouf and fellow actor/co-director Lorenzo Eduardo, whose directorial debut, Let’s Love Hate (U.S., 2004) was awarded the Children’s Jury Second Prize for Best Live-Action Short Film or Video.

A complete list of awards and winners, complete with descriptions of the films, is posted on-line at www.cicff.org. The Chicago Int’l Children’s Film Festival is presented by Facets Multi-Media, Inc., a not-for-profit film and video organization.