Today we saw a sweet IMAX movie called Watermelon Magic. If you have a young child, and you like gardening or the outdoors or the forest kindergarten movement or like seeing five-year-old children who are empowered and supported in independent play and in pursuing a long-term project, you will like this movie.
Click on the trailer at the top of the post to get a sense of what the movie is like. Our son fell in love with this trailer when he was three years old, and it finally came to Seattle! (It’s at Pacific Science Center IMAX theater now: www.pacificsciencecenter.org/IMAX/watermelon-magic)
Audience: This is a movie aimed at the under 7 crowd. My son is four, and loved it. I talked to the mom of a two year old who enjoyed it though his mom said he was squirmy. The other 5 people in the theater were grandparents and an aunt… It was not high entertainment for the adults, but not annoying like some kid movies. It was an easy, relaxing, gentle and sweet movie.
Plot: It is a very simple story. The brief plot is: 5 year old Sylvia plants watermelon seeds, tends the garden, and sells them at a farmer’s market. There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the big picture.There’s also very little dialogue – it’s show… not tell.
The parts I liked best were: Sylvia has a magic wand at the beginning and uses it to play some harmless tricks – it’s a fun little bit of fantasy at the start of the movie. Later, after the watermelon have begun to grow, her little brother keeps accidentally tromping on them, so she has the idea to build a fence. She gets the saw out, saws the bamboo, sets the bamboo posts, and ties the cross-beams on. By herself. Remember, this a 5-year-old who is doing the work. (Yes, I’m sure she had supervision, and had help when the camera wasn’t filming, but there’s no reason to think a 5-year-old couldn’t be taught to handle this project safely.) She staffs her own stand at the farmer’s market and collects the money herself.
Mood: it’s sweet, gentle and slow-paced. Kind of like spending time outdoors in a garden.
Film: This is shot in time-lapse photography style. There’s lots of very cool scenes of plants growing, including close-ups of sprouts pushing up out of the soil. There’s some fun sunrise and sunset time-lapses and rainstorms. These are all pretty fabulous. But… my only complaint about the movie is that the whole thing is time-lapsed, and frankly it gets a little tiring to see the “stuttering” quality of that throughout the whole movie. There were times when Sylvia was talking with her mom where they slowed down the frame speed and would hold the image of each of them for longer… I liked that better. And although the time-lapse helped the movie feel “magical”, I wished some portions had just been done as video.
Possible activities you could do with your child before or after this movie, to extend the learning:
- watch other time-lapse videos. there’s LOTS on YouTube
- make a time-lapse video. We may try doing this… I don’t have the patience to do it with a growing plant, so I’m thinking it would be something that changes more quickly… maybe water beads going from their dried up form to fully grown, or the “Magic Grow Capsules” – those capsules where you put them in water, and the foam inside grows into a dinosaur or whatever. These changes happen over 8 – 20 hours, so my son is familiar with that process, and if we time-lapsed it and then played the video in 20 seconds, he’d get a better grasp of time-lapse, and then we could talk more about how the plants didn’t really grow as fast in reality as they did in the movie
- you could plant watermelon seeds and tend them till you have watermelon (I say “you” because I know I’m not likely to do that… I’m not a gardener)
- the next time we eat watermelon, we’ll talk about this movie
- If you live somewhere watermelon grows, you may be able to find a you-pick watermelon farm
- help your child come up with a big long-term project they would like to try
If you see the movie, let me know what you think!