MR: A good example of this is the Chinese contribution Lala’s Gun by Ning Jingwu. Among the Hmong people, a minority in China, there is a tradition of fathers giving their sons a gun as an initiation rite. But the main character in this film grew up without his father, so he sets out in search of him in order to continue an old tradition and make it his own. It’s a real coming of age story, only set in an exotic cultural milieu.
Which is interesting not only for young people, but for adults too.
FW: Cinema should be an entertaining experience for everyone and not a school lesson about the search for identity aimed at particular target groups. Still, subject matter that directly relates to the lived reality of young people is especially intense and gripping for the 14plus audience members, who are roughly in the same age group. And that of course is the kind of thing we specifically set out to find.
Several of the Generation films this year explicitly address the – also not always easy – living conditions and problems in affluent Western societies, such as drugs in Afterschool and Cherrybomb or suicidal thoughts in My Suicide. The growing rate of poverty in many countries around the world might lead us to assume the opposite. Or is this kind of comparison not very helpful?
MR: I think you can put it that way, although we do try to avoid dividing the world into different problem areas. Many young people in Western societies don’t have to worry about their survival; their problems have more to do with emotional poverty—which is no less difficult. They often lack traditions and social as well as societal points of reference for developing their own philosophy of life. This is the case in all three of the films you mentioned—on the surface it doesn’t seem like these young people have anything they could or need to rebel against, but they still rebel. And of course they ask themselves why they act the way they do.
Do you choose films with the intent of sparking discussions?
FW: We just choose the best films we can get. Our audience’s thematic and formal preferences are extremely diverse, which generates a tremendous amount of energy every year. So you can count on there always being a number of good discussions at our screenings.
Classical Subjects Revamped
Do young people today have an increased interest in unusual forms of media and film, or are they at least more open to them than previous generations were? Does this year’s programme also take up the mediatization of society by means of computer games and the Internet like last year’s did with Ben X?
MR: It certainly does. In My Suicide by David Lee Miller a young man announces that he is going to stage his own suicide on video. This film uses multi-media in the true sense of the word, ranging from Internet clips to CCTV recordings to found footage from other films. The main character brings together all these forms of media in his home studio and uses them to construct his own version of the world. Incidentally, this film has its viral origins in a youth project that also maintains a website for youth at risk of suicide.