If the term “independent film film festival” conjures up thoughts of off-beat dramas and weighty documentaries, think again.

This month, the Belmont Family Film Festival is back for its 17th year, bringing an array of action and animated films for kids from around the world to the Bay State, along with animation workshops, story times and more. 

The event, dubbed “Where Stories Come Alive,” takes place over MKL weekend, Jan. 17-20. Theaters in Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge are taking part, providing families the opportunity to see some of the world’s best current films for children ages 2 to 12. 

The programming features a thoughtfully curated lineup of international films,  with nearly 40 animated, live action, and documentary films, many based on children’s books and several making their North American or U.S. premieres. With movies from China, Denmark, France, Latvia, Mongolia, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the US featured, It’s a unique opportunity to see family-friendly films beyond the parameters of mainstream cinema.

“In an increasingly multicultural world, parents recognize the importance of fluency in more than one language, and the Family Festival offers children age 3-12 the opportunity to hear and understand multiple languages in a fun and natural way,” says Belmont World Film Executive Director Ellen Gitelman. “The films also tell rich and unusual stories that don’t rely entirely on special effects to create a sense of wonder.”

The festival will also host live events, such as the interactive “ Very Hungry Caterpillar Show Storytime,” an audience participatory puppet show and story time featuring two Eric Carle stories followed by a photo opportunity with the caterpillar puppet. 

At two animation workshops, writer-director Cinzia Angelini will teach children how to draw the silly yellow minions from her work on The Minion Movie, or how to create a storyboard. Angelini’s credits include the recently released Abominable, The Minions Movie, Despicable Me 3, and Spider-Man 2. 

Opening night at the Regent Theatre on Friday, January 17, at 7:30 p.m. features the east coast premiere of Hacker, a Danish film about a boy whose scientist mother disappears under mysterious circumstances one night. At 13 years old, the orphaned boy, who has become an expert computer hacker, discovers that she may still be alive. The trail points to top-ranking officials in the Danish Secret Service, and it’s up to him and his new friend to chase down the truth. The screening is sponsored by the Consulate General of Denmark in New York and the Innovation Centre of Denmark in Boston.

Each subsequent day revolves around a different theme: Saturday is devoted to the animal kingdom, Sunday to short film programs, and Monday to the ideals and values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Individual tickets are $6 for shorts, $10 for feature-length films, $15 for “The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show Storytime,” and $20 for workshops. Full festival passes are $50, which includes admission to all programs except workshops. The festival participates in the “EBT Card to Culture” program, offering half price tickets at the box office when showing the EBT card. 

Tickets are available in advance online at www.belmontworldfilm or on the day of show in person at the theaters’ box offices.