PORTLAND — Short films created by children from across the city will take center stage this weekend at the Portland Children’s Film Festival.

In addition to independent and international films, the festival will feature a red-carpet event honoring the winners of a student film making contest.

The festival runs Thursday, March 29, to Sunday, April 1, at Patriot Cinemas Nickelodeon, St. Lawrence Arts Center, Portland Museum of Art, Zero Station and East End Community School.

The festival was organized by East End Community School parents and teachers who wanted to couple an opportunity for families to view independent and international films with a hands-on program designed to allow children to explore film making.

Leah Coplon, a parent of two East End Community School students who helped put together the festival, said organizers were inspired to create the event by the diversity and creativity of the city and school community.

“We have some really exciting offerings, both in films and workshops. It’s a great opportunity to see what’s out there,” Coplon said. “We’re hoping this will continue to grow and really be part of the Portland community.”

Films to be shown at the festival include “Azur and Asmar,” a critically acclaimed film by Michel Ocelot about two princes on their journey from childhood to manhood, and “Kick Like a Girl,” a youth documentary about The Mighty Cheetahs, a girls’ soccer team competing in a boys’ division.

The festival also features a collection of full-length and short films from the New York City International Children’s Festival, including films from Turkey, Ireland, Hungary, Slovakia, Spain, Latvia, Denmark, Canada, Australia, England and the United States.

Hands-on educational workshops include opportunities for children to interact with screenwriters, filmmakers, actors and technicians.

Local artist and community activist Dovid Muyderman will lead a discussion about his current film project from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Lawrence Arts Center. The film, “The Lighthouse,” explores his experience as a homeless teenager in Portland. He also will offer a workshop where children and their families can create music videos.

Coplon said one of the most exciting aspects of the festival is the premiere of short films produced by Portland children ages 4 to 11 as part of the young filmmaker’s competition.The theme of the contest was “Out and About Portland – In and Around My Neighborhood.”

The red-carpet event will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at the Nickelodeon with a reception and screening of winning films. The winning films will be shown again at 12:45 p.m. Saturday at the Portland Public Library.

Kristina Hewey, a kindergarten teacher at East End Community School, helped organize the competition. She said 21 three-minute films were submitted to the contest by students in pre-school to fifth grade.

Films created by students include documentaries, live action, animation, stop-motion and computer-generated graphics. They were created with minimal help from adults.

“It was really amazing to me to see how different all the films were,” Hewey said.

Hewey said the contest generated excitement with students, some of whom wanted to make longer films.

“They couldn’t believe grownups were giving them this opportunity to make a film. They’re excited to share it with a broader audience,” she said.

Coplon said her own two children – 10-year-old Raizel and 8-year-old Oscar – loved making films that explore what they like about different Portland neighborhoods. Her son made a film from the perspective of a Lego man, while her daughter explored Portland from a dog’s point of view.

Organizers plan to make the festival an annual event and hope it will become a fixture of the city’s creative economy, Coplon said. Proceeds will be used for next year’s festival and to support arts and enrichment activities at East End Community School.

Gillian Graham can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @grahamgillian.