Tumbleweeds Film Festival kicked off March 14 with a party at Pierpont Place.


Photo by Sam Askins

Families were able to mingle and get their photos taken in front of a Tumbleweeds backdrop. It was also one of the few parties we've been to that offered both cupcakes and beer (to the adults, of course). The kid-friendly pasta, salad and breadsticks dinner was catered by Utah Food Services. The opening night screening of Knight Rusty was held at the Rose Wagner after the party.

On March 15, we also caught the Tumbleweeds showing of The Black Brothers at the SLC Library. Though very different, both films touch on one of the most important aspects of any childhood—friendship.

Knight Rusty

Rusty: "Are you sure this is safe?" Cole: "Who cares? It's fun" 

Cole, the little dragon and Rusty the robot's best buddy is right. It is fun . . . for the kids. Parents might enjoy Knight Rusty, but shouldn't make any real effort to see it without kids in tow, which is sort of the point of Tumbleweeds. 

Rusty, a robot with headlight eyes and a cash register core, lives in Scrapland with his mechanical horse Chopper, best friend Cole and best girl friend Bo. Dreaming of becoming a real knight, Rusty enters a jousting competition and unknowingly fits Chopper with a stolen motor he traded for Bo's sewing machine. Unfortunately, Rusty is accused of stealing the motor and is stripped of his knighthood. Upset, Bo leaves and is taken in by Prince Novel, who is plotting to overthrow the king. Rusty and Cole set off to reclaim Rusty's knighthood, save the kingdom and regain Bo's friendship.

This is Tumbleweed's first 3D film. It's hard to tell who's a robot and who's not in this animated film, which means there may be some human/robot romance involved. The visuals are pretty cool, and the music is great—though more songs kids could learn and sing with would make it better. The robots in Prince Novel's army . . . look and act a lot like Gru's minions.

We appreciated the small details in the animation and a few of the jokes, but Knight Rusty is really made for the kids.

Knight Rusty is directed by Thomas Bodenstein and is for all ages.

Upcoming screening of Knight Rusty: 1 p.m., March 16 at Park City Library 

The Black Brothers

Despite the small crowd at our screening, The Black Brothers is one of the best kids films we've seen in a long time.

The film is based on Lisa Tetzner's book with the same title. Giorgio, a 14-year-old Swiss boy, is sold into a life as a chimney sweep by his father for money to save his dying wife. The film goes on to reveal the truth of child labor during the 19th and early 20th centuries in a kid-friendly way, as Antonio Luini, the man who bought Giorgio, puts all of the boys he has bought on auction in Milan. Soon the boys form a gang called the Black Brothers, rivaling with a local gang of bullies called the Wolves. Watching each others' backs, the Black Brothers set out to bring Luini to justice and return home. 

The Black Brothers offers adventure for the kids and a compelling story to keep parents engaged. We love the cinematography in the Swiss mountain scenes. And to keep it from becoming too emotional, the film offers some witty dialogue and jokes along the way.

Unfortunately, The Black Brothers only screened once at this year's Tumbleweeds Film Festival. Hopefully, the Utah Film Center will screen it again to a larger audience. The film was screened in German with English subtitles.

The Black Brothers is directed by Xavier Koller and recommended for ages 8+.

Ernest & Celestine, Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang

We caught two of this year's films at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Click here for our review of Ernest & Celestine, screening 11 a.m. March 16 at the Park City Library, and here for our review of Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang, screening 3 p.m. March 16 at the Park City Library.

Now we're pumped for the closing night film, The Wizard of Oz, 7 p.m. Sunday, March 16 at the Rose Wagner Theatre.

Click here for a full schedule of Tumbleweeds screenings.