Compilation of characters in NFB films.


5 Free Short Films To Teach Kids About Tolerance and Diversity

Jun 28, 2017

These days, the world can seem like an ugly place. There’s a rise in hate crimes and a growing wave of intolerance toward immigration and the global refugee crisis.

Our kids are like sponges, hearing and absorbing everything. It’s important we raise them to be good people. We need to teach them about diversity, expose them to different cultures, and breed a level of compassion and understanding into them.

Films are a great way to expose young kids to new ideas. Here are five films from The National Film Board of Canada that will help your kids break out of their bubble and experience worlds other than their own.

From Far Away

From Far Away, Shira Avni & Serene El-haj Daoud, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Growing up in Canada, it’s impossible to imagine what life is like in a war-torn country. Adjusting to a new home is a Herculean feat, especially when you don’t speak the language. Meet Saoussan, a seven-year-old girl from Beirut who is doing just that since moving to Canada in search of a safer life.
This is a great film that will open your kids’ eyes to different realities and encourage them to be kind to others.

Jaime Lo, Small and Shy

Jaime Lo, Small and Shy, Lillian Chan, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

This little film has a lot to teach about sacrifice and the fact that we never know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Jaime Lo is a shy and quiet young girl from Hong Kong who lives in Canada. Now, Jaime’s father must return to Hong Kong to seek work and is gone for many months. This is the first time their family has split up, and it’s a sacrifice that Jaime’s father must make to provide a better life for his children. As Jaime comes to understand this, she expresses her gratitude in the most touching way.

Lights for Gita

Lights for Gita, Michel Vo, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Every culture comes with celebrations and rituals, and this sweet film teaches all about the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, while also showing how hard change can be. Gita is anxious to celebrate Diwali in her new Canadian home and invites her friends to light the diya and see the fireworks. But her plans are thwarted by an ice storm and she is left longing for her celebrations back home. Through her story, your kids will see what it’s like to leave behind everything you know and love, but still create new traditions that are just as meaningful.

Roses Sing on New Snow

Roses Sing on New Snow, Yuan Zhang, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

This beautifully animated film tells the story of Maylin, a young Chinese woman forced to cook in her father’s restaurant, only to have all the credit, and tips, given to her brothers. A woman’s place in society differs depending on your cultural background, and it may be an eye opener for some kids to see how Maylin is treated. But what I love about this film is that, when given her moment at the end, she stands up for herself and sets an example for every little girl — and boy — watching.

The Friends of Kwan Ming

The Friends of Kwan Ming, Christine Amber Tang, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

After his father’s death, Kwan Ming is forced to leave China to find work to provide for his mother. He makes new friends on his voyage, but none of them can find jobs. When the work does come, Kwan Ming cedes the best jobs to his friends and gets stuck with the worst one, but he soon learns that generosity and loyalty pay off. This film exposes kids to the immigrant experience; teaches the value of friendship, loyalty and hard work; and has just the right amount of magical realism thrown in for fun.

Article Author Julie Matlin
Julie Matlin

Read more from Julie here.

Julie Matlin is a writer living in Montreal with her 3 children (ages 9, 11, and 44) and a 4-month-old puppy named Zoe. She’s been working in the Canadian film and television industry for close to 25 years, and has been writing since childhood. Julie has a full-throttle, half-assed approach to life, and is constantly chasing sleep. In addition to her freelance work, Julie co-wrote an animated short called Freak of Nurture, which is currently in the final stages of production, and has a feature film in development. She is also a certified chef and dabbles in stand-up comedy.