Finding Felix Project

My photo
Berlin, Germany
The Finding Felix Project is a work for screen and publication from Katy Kavanaugh, a curator and filmmaker (katykavanaugh.weebly.com). A fellowship from Stanford University and The Freie Universität- Berlin allowed her to return to the Berlin Film Festival's 35 year-old Generation (formerly Kinderfilmfest) to collect evidence of the directive impact that international films seen in childhood can have toward shaping the breadth of a person's view of the world and the decisions they make. This investigation focuses on one eleven year-old film festival-goer whom Kavanaugh met while serving on the Kinderfilmfest's international jury in 2001. Ten years later, Kavanaugh wants to know how a childhood full of international films influenced Felix's life so far. Meanwhile, with help from Media Consultant Tina Toepfel and Gintare Malinauskaite, PhD History at Humboldt Universität, Felix has been found and is now in post-production. To help meet its completion goal, please consider contributing via our fiscal sponsor, Cinefemme.net.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What Mom couldn't find at Cannes is at the Berlinale for her children.

Fabienne was more than delighted to find the Berlinale's Generation programming for young people especially because she didn't have this opportunity when she was a child. She noted that she could not find this type of programming at her home festival in Cannes. She is so enthusiastic that she organizes groups from her daughters' school when the teaching staff is unable to. At ages nine through twelve, these children have grasped two languages and working on the third.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Benjamin Kiesewetter, film memory: WRONY (Crows) 1995 D. Kedzierzawska, Poland

Benjamin Kiesewetter is completing a PhD in Philosophy at Humboldt Universität, Berlin. He sat on the children's jury in 1990 at age 10, one of the youngest, when the festival section had just one jury. A habitual newspaper generator, he and a friend organized the first child-reported journal at the Kinderfilmfest, called "Regenbogen" or rainbow and printed the newspaper for several years following. He was the sole Berlinale journalist asked to interview the actress Sophia Loren. He wrote for newspapers all through school but decided that the writing he wanted to do was to be compelled by Philosophy, and now particularly his thesis question, "What should I do?" Prototypes of that question occur, he believes, earlier than most people think--around age six.

The film WRONY Crows was directed and photographed by the same team of Dorota Kedzierzawska and cinematographer Arthur Reinhart, whose film JUTRO BEDZIE LEPIEJ Tomorrow Will Be Better won the International Jury's prize in this year's Generation section.

Friday, April 8, 2011

4th Graders at Berlin's JFK Schule respond to THE STRONGEST MAN IN HOLLAND, 2 weeks after seeing it at the Berlinale

Nine and ten year-olds in Karen Wingo's Fourth Grade class at The John F. Kennedy Schule, a public German-English grammar and high school established in the former American sector of Berlin in 1960, watched the Dutch film THE STRONGEST MAN IN HOLLAND (The Netherlands, dir. M. deCloe, 2010) at the Berlinale's Generation section. The class could not stay for the question and answer session following the film but did have a discussion in class the next day. We arranged to interview the class ten days later. You'll see the clarity of their memories some responses to what they liked and didn't like and we got some of the "why's" woven into other responses throughout the 60-minute interview. Teacher Wingo stated that their responses from the day following and ten days later hadn't really changed and she was especially surprised by their memories of the previous year. With two recall events following the screening, THE STRONGEST MAN IN HOLLAND will be well-fixed in their memories.

In addition to the questions covered in this clip, the class talked about their handling of the three languages involved: the films original Dutch dialogue, English subtitles and simultaneous translation (Einsprache) in German. Some said that they switched back and forth, a few picked up a couple Dutch words, another said the she listened to the German because the subtitles were too fast, and one replied simply, "I'm staring at the screen so I might as well read the subtitles." In general, though it might be a bit disturbing for some, most children find that once engrossed in the film, the multiple language treatment seems "as if it was only one language."

The Strongest Man in Holland, www.nlfilm.tv
Special thanks to Syd Atlas!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Finding Bruni

Bruni had been one of the earlier fascinating stories in this research because of her immediate physical transformation. When she'd learned about the project, her memory seemed to have catapulted through the years, up through her feet and out of her eyes like projector beams. I begged her to hold on to the story until I could capture it on camera. She agreed to be in touch, but hadn't been. I'd given her my card, she'd given me only her first name, so I had thought for three months until I came across her full name. Miraculously, Bruni was the first of the forty listings I dialed. I was delighted and honored to have her story revealed as evidence of the lasting impact of cinema on childhood memory.

She begins her story by informing us that she was "flüchtlings kind" or refugee child at the time of her memory. It was around 1948 in post-war Germany and the feeling of joy, she explained, "just didn't happen often in this place" but it did on Sundays when she and her sister could go to the cinema. She said that in those days, despite the work and hardship, she had always imagined herself as a princess, like the girl in the Russian Märchenfilm (fairytale) of her memory.

Fellow filmmaker, Elise Fried originally met Bruni at a performance from the beloved Berlin choreographer Sasha Walz and company and thanks to Bruni's tickets, we could see the concert. In her interview, Bruni stated that she had studied with modern dance pioneer Mary Wigman in London before she married her prince and returned to Berlin to teach nursery school.

A Bilingual Family: Getting in all the Good Movies and Expecting Something not so Scary...soon.

Uwe's earliest memory of an international film is the animated Disney rendition of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" (1967, USA) directed by the Munich-born Wolfgang Reitherman, which he recalls seeing twice at drive in theaters!

As a director and a father, Uwe is surprised there are few films for, say, five year-olds that simply delight and amaze without such scary parts that leave little ones frightened. That sounds like a challenge.

Despite that, between the two, Syd and Uwe, program a rich screen exposure for their boys including those American musicals, classics like "The Crimson Pirate" (1952, R. Siodmak, US) and even starting the James Bond series with Henry.
Syd and Uwe are raising a bilingual family in Berlin. Both parents work in the film industry and relish the medium as means to extend language, culture, history and aesthetics. With German spoken predominantly in their lives, some of the favorites watched currently are English-speaking musicals like "West Side Story" (1961, dir. J. Robbins, R. Wise, USA), "Singing in the Rain" (1952, dir. S. Donen, G. Kelly, USA) and "Mama Mia" (2008, dir. P. Lloyd, U.K.). The comic gangster film "Bugsy Malone" (1976, A. Parker, USA) made a memorable impact, too, revealed in ten year-old Henry's keen recall of a specific detail....while four year-old Sam helped collect memories as camera assistant.