"Watermelon Magic" puts young viewers under a gardening spell

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There are few foods that better represent an American summer, youth and sharing than a sweet, crunchy, deep red watermelon. Rich Hoffmann, Philadelphia filmmaker and owner of Spring Garden Pictures, a nonprofit children’s film organization, weaves these themes together in his new film “Watermelon Magic.” Now, he needs your help delivering this film to the public.

A fictional narrative with a documentary style, “Watermelon Magic” chronicles six-year-old, sandy-haired Sylvie (Hoffmann’s daughter) as she grows watermelons from seed to fruit. When harvest time arrives, Sylvie must decide if she will share her precious watermelons with the world.

This isn’t Hoffman’s first time creating for the silver screen. He is known for his 2009 film “Fridays at the Farm,” which chronicled his family’s experience joining a community supported organic farm. This time, Hoffman wanted to make something specifically for children. “Healthy eating choices really start when we are young,” says Hoffmann in the film’s Kickstarter video. He hopes “Watermelon Magic” will inspire kids to eat better and to learn about how their food grows.

Like in “Fridays at the Farm,” Hoffman uses a unique film style to capture the magic of growing. High-resolution still photos, shutter-burst frame rates and time-lapse sequencing engage viewers with the dynamic life of our food. For instance, viewers can watch the months-long process of a flower on a vine developing into a round, heavy melon in less than 30 seconds.

Not unlike its sweet subject, Hoffman wants the film to be big. His hope is for “Watermelon Magic” to be shown in museum IMAX theaters throughout the country. Surprisingly, IMAX has never featured a film on these themes of gardening, food production and healthy eating.

But to reach this goal, Hoffman needs your help. He has launched a Kickstarter campaign that ends on March 22. Donors will receive rewards like the acoustic guitar soundtrack or a screening and pizza party at Hillside Farm in Media, Pa. where the film was shot.

JULIANNE MESARIC is a food & farming writer and communications professional. She recently returned to Philadelphia after studying at Slow Food's University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy.