Do you have the feeling that you are getting to know your target audience better and better through these films? Or is there always a gnawing uncertainty about whether as adults you can really understand what moves children and young people today?
FW: Every year we learn something thru the films that we watch. But the films are not a one-to-one depiction of life. Similarly, we don’t have to find out in detail what’s really going on in German families or schools before we include a film dealing with these topics in our programme. A feature film isn’t a documentary. As real as it might appear, its strength lies in how it stimulates the imagination.
“Give this film to us and see what’s going to happen in the Zoo-Palast.”
TH: The selection committee is made up of four adults from very different personal backgrounds and takes a self-confident and at the same time critical approach to the films. Last year, in the case of Droemmen, we had a strong intuition that it was a great film for us. But we had to fight to get it. We said: “Give it to us and wait and see what’s going to happen in the Zoo-Palast.” We bet on what would happen, and were right: When the teacher in the film says to the pupils, “I have some sad news, our headmaster has died,” 150 children cheer on screen – and then 1,000 children cheer in the Zoo-Palast. Some adults find that a bit jarring but the film deals with it competently. It’s our job to sense things like that beforehand and then trust in the decision of our committee.
You apparently don’t feel it’s necessary to create a consensual programme.
TH: No, we don’t have to. We’re adults who put together a programme for children and young people. We don’t pretend to be children ourselves. But afterwards we read the questionnaires and see where we were right or wrong.
FW: Children find it good that adults create a programme for them that they feel takes them seriously, that trusts them and that encourages them to take a critical stance. I believe that is more respectful of children than if adults try to stoop to the level of children.
German cinemas recently reported an increase in box office sales in 2006. At the top of the charts you regularly find so-called “films for the entire family”. You stress that for you “films for children and young people” aren’t automatically the same as “family entertainment”. How important is it that parents go to the cinema with their children? After all, the cinema is a place of retreat, an intimate place, where you can discover your own secrets. Isn’t too much dialogue between the generations spoiling this potential?
TH: There are a couple of classical models of how our audience is structured. First families, then school classes that come with their teachers but also older children and teens who decide autonomously that they’re going to the Berlinale and what they’re going to see there. We like all three constellations. Through a pilot project with schools we hear about how our films can initiate a dialogue in the classroom. But we also see how great it is for families to go to the Berlinale on Sunday together.
MR: One shouldn’t forget that family, beyond the traditional idea, can also mean a flatmate, an aunt, the best friend of the brother. There are many older people with whom the young ones can go to the cinema.
FW: Of course it’s important to differentiate between a shared cinema experience and a didactical approach that assumes that children can only understand films if they are accompanied by an adult. The latter goes against our approach, because what we offer is aimed directly at the younger viewer. The website of the Young Journalists (Junge Journalisten) stands for the same thing – a true platform for exchanging opinions on the Internet. Our filmgoers know: “What happens at Generation belongs to us.”