The Ashland Independent Film Festival has a message for parents before they pick up the phone to call the babysitter — bring your kids to the festival.

Known for offering thought-provoking, non-mainstream fare, film festivals can sometimes seem like adults-only events.

But the annual AIFF that kicked off Thursday and runs through Monday has lined up films to appeal to the younger set. And while adult tickets are $13, students tickets are $6.

Recommended for kids as young as 3, the "Family Shorts: Kid Flix" features 11 animated and live action shorts, with a total running time of one hour. The inventive films have themes and story lines that are sure to appeal to kids — a big brother is not just older but physically gigantic, a herd of acrobatic giraffes takes to a pool, a bathroom becomes the setting for an all-terrain chase between a fly and a spider, a zebra develops super powers.

"Family Shorts: TweenScreen" offers five short films that delve into deeper material. In one, a young man steals a car but finds something unexpected in the back seat.  A documentary follows middle school reporters as they interview actors, politicians, and business leaders including Oprah, Ben Affleck and Bill Gates. In an animated film, a sheriff returns to the scene of an accident he has tried to forget. Other shorts feature a boy who wants to wear dresses and a lamp that appears to be haunted.

For science lovers of all ages, "CineSpace" is a collection of space-themed shorts that range from documentaries to science fiction tales, including a story of a girl journeying to water her grandma's plants in the geysers of a Saturn moon, and a robot on a spaceship who must send a crucial message to Earth in the year 2175.

"Locals Only 1" showcases short films made by regional student filmmakers. They range from a documentary about a school yoga program to a film about the historical novel "Chains," in which an enslaved girl fights for her freedom.

In addition to collections of shorts, AIFF has a number of full-length movies and documentaries.

In the Monty Python-esque "Bill," William Shakespeare is a terrible lute player who travels to London to pursue his dream of becoming a playwright. Recommended for tweens and up, the story features murderous kings, foreign spies, lost loves and an assassination plot.

Recommended for teens, "The Fits" is a coming-of-age story about a girl trying to fit in on a dance team, whose members suffer a mysterious outbreak of fainting spells.

AIFF recommends "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for drama club enthusiasts.

"Addicted to Sheep" portrays a year on an English sheep farm, with parts of the film told from the perspective of children. For teens and up, the film does show a bloody birth scene and a dying sheep.

For teens interested in social issues and cultural diversity, "In the Game" is a documentary about Latina girls facing long odds as they compete on a soccer team.

"The Seventh Fire" is a haunting documentary about life on an American Indian reservation today.

A gang leader on a remote Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota faces prison for a fifth time, and must confront his role in bringing crime and illegal drugs into his beloved community. His 17-year-old protégé dreams of the future, and must decide whether to reconnect with traditional Ojibwe ways or be pulled towards the illicit lifestyle of his mentor.

To view a full schedule of events — including other family-friendly special events — and to buy tickets, see www.ashlandfilm.org.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.