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 ( Funding from Stanford University, The Freie Universität- Berlin and DAAD 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,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Value of the Olympia International Children and Youth Festival in Greece

Concurrent with the last post highlighting Renate Zylla's view of strong European countries, I've learned that important film festivals, namely Amsterdam's Cinekid and The Olympia Festival in Greece are at dire risk of losing their national funding. Like Cinekid, The Olympia Festival is unique in its concept and extends the rich cultural experience of the international film program through other festival facets that provide a place for young people to meet, collaborate and see each other's audiovisual work through new technologies.

Olyfest's Camera Zizanio has collaborated to bring Screen 360’s annual Bay Area Progeny program as the sole American youth voice to Greece since 2003, initially as a measure against communication collapse resulting from the bitter news of the Iraq War.
Camera Zizanio annually hosts dozens of young film/videomakers and their short works for days of art and communication exchange.

With this worldwide economic crisis demanding budget slashing, we ask for the wisdom of public ministries to stay focused on the future, its nation’s developing citizens. Disabling these established links in the media industry that deliver unprecedented impact to its audiences, education systems and across borders, would be short sighted.

Both Cinekid and "The Olyfest" provide important models and invaluable exchange points for the developing field in the United States. Cinekid is needed to extend the unique Dutch perspective and Olyfest is needed to extend the unique Greek perspective.

Olyfest hosted me in 2003 to launch Bay Area Progeny and then again in 2006 as a member of the international jury. From the warm hospitality of the robust Greek families I met there and the Olympia Festival production family, I gathered invaluable insights to family dynamics and raising children. Set in Pyrgos, capitol of Ilia Prefecture to the west of the Peloponnes mountain range and next door to ancient Olympia, Olyfest offers a particularly rich model for bringing international film to where it can make the strongest impact--in places far away from major metropolitan areas. Director Dimitris Spyrou's model inspired Screen 360's work in Vale, Oregon in the high desert of rural Eastern Oregon.

As we’ve learned through our FINDING FELIX research, cinematic memories - especially those affixed with discussion in the film festival model - live long and continue to contribute to the lives built upon them. For those living in rural areas or far away from cities, those memories can potentially direct a life to venture out beyond or can simply enrich satisfied lives outside of the city.

Renate Zylla on Europe's leading countries in the treatment of films and media for young audiences: Denmark, Germany, Holland

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Renate Zylla's name is the most known around the world in the realm of international film festivals for young audiences. After 25 years as a revered festival director, 18 spent steering the Berlin Film Festival's Kinderfilmfest, she continues to influence the field promoting valuable quality films as a European festival agent. In short, Renate Zylla is the person who knows the pulse of this branch of the film industry.

I asked her directly, "Which country is doing it best?" Denmark, Germany, and The Netherlands, she responded, each for support of production, education and promotion. Ms. Zylla points out Cinekid as an innovative and unique force in The Netherlands.

Concurrent with this post, I've learned that Cinekid, under the tireless visionary direction of Sannette Naeyé, is at risk of losing its national funding. With this worldwide economic crisis demanding budget slashing, we ask for the wisdom of public ministries to stay focused on the future, its nation’s developing citizens. Disabling such an established media industry link as Cinekid - an institution that delivers unprecedented impact to its audiences, education systems and across borders--would be short-sighted.

As we’ve learned through our FINDING FELIX research, cinematic memories - especially those affixed with discussion in the film festival model - live long and continue to contribute to the lives built upon them. We can see evidence of the this best in established children's film festivals, especially in the 25 year-old Cinekid.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Finding Felix Trailer with music from Tim Blok/Tuxedo Music

Our trailer, pretty close to perfect thanks to the music of Tim Blok, engaging singer/songwriter met in a moment of Amster-magic at a Suriname take-out joint in Amsterdam. Thanks to Tim and his friends who let me eavesdrop on their rhythmic conversation then start one with them. Thanks to my lovely hosts Sannette Naeye, director of the Cinekid Film Festival and her husband, Arjan.

In veteran festival director Renate Zylla's experienced opinion, The Netherlands, Scandinavian countries and Germany are the most productive European countries in the realm of media content for children. In the German state of Thuringen special funds are earmarked for children's media: education and development of makers. I attended the beginning of the Goldener Spatz festival in Gera and while I was in Amsterdam, the second half of the festival in Erfurt which brings together the makers for TV and Cinema. There in Erfurt, like at the BUFF film festival in Mälmo, Sweden, anotherl Kids Regio pitch session presents possibilty for new works to find funding.

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,
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.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Die Erste Erinnerung: The Very First Memory of an International Film Imprinted Today

Ist das dein erstes Mal auf die Berlinale? Is this the first time at the Berlinale? Ist das dein erstes Mal mit einem Film in einer anderen Sprache? Is this the first film in another language?

On 15 February, Kurzfilm I, the program of short films for the youngest filmgoers, ages 4 and up, brings in masses of school children to fill the 1000 - seat theater. Festival Director Maryanne Redpath says, "It's always on the first Tuesday and it's always an extraordinary scene." That it was, with school groups coming early and planting themselves on the lobby floor for snacktime, some nearly forty-five minutes before showtime. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to find out just how many first memories of international films were being made on this day. That is indeed extraordinary. Studies in cognitive development state that the recognition of the first event in conversation will help secure the memory. We hope to have helped in that regard today, despite the stumbles in the interviewer's elementary German.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Twins x 2: This family chooses cinema.

A family with two sets of twins, infants and five year old girls, have brought their daughters to the Berlinale since they were two years old. They don't watch television so look forward to the annual program at the film festival. Dad says the girls have a collection of short films which they watch often and know in detail.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dieter Thomas, film memory: King of the Grizzlies

Dieter Thomas, son of two school teachers, Chef de Cuisine and writer, is not short on thoughts and ideas. His vivid memory of his first international film came with a vivid memory of the day around the viewing: the town's local theater wanted to fill the vacant daytime hours with films for school children.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Opening Night 10 February

More filmgoers and young journalists telling us about their memories of their first international films at the opening night of the Generation section of the Berlinale.

The two lead performers from Opening Night film from Norway, "Jørgen + Anne = Sant" on the redcarpet, rote Teppich.

Filmgoers waiting to enter the 1025-seat capacity theater. Posters of each Generation film, feature and short, line the balustrade.

Photos: Gintare Malinauskaite

Berlinale Generation, February 10-20

Opening night of the Berlinale Generation section brought out the youngest journalists, the youngest performers and the youngest audience members along with adult counterparts to each. The Opening Night film was the Norwegian film "Jørgen + Anne = Sant" a funny, sensitively and authentically told story of fifth-grade love.

Photos: Gintare Malinauskaite

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gregor Hochmuth, "We saw ourselves reflected in another place in the world..."

Gregor Hochmuth offers insight learned from his experience on the Berlinale Kinderfilmfest's (now Generation) kinderjury and tells us how his experience with this film genre is met in his new home in the United States.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gregor Hochmuth, Film Memory: BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (EISENSTEIN, Russia, 1925) and NOSFERATU (F.W. Murnau, Germany, 1922) at the Arsenal Kino

Gregor Hochmuth came to us via Skype. This former Berliner, former Kinderjury and Jungjournalisten member now resides in San Francisco and works for Google. Gregor explained that his parents had met in film school in Moscow and he was raised watching films "through their eyes," so his circumstances with relation to access to international films were quite special. His memory involves watching the magic of cinema from the projection booth.

Watch for more clips of Gregor speaking about his experience on the Kinderjury and Jungjournalisten team. Watch the Berlinale Generation section through the young journalists webiste, originally built by Gregor:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sandra Andrews-Strasko, Film Memory: MY LIFE AS A DOG/ Brigitta Andrews, Film Memory: A SUMMER PLACE

Sandra and her mother Brigitta moved to Berlin
with Sandra's husband, a rabbinical student.

Brigitta was born in Hamburg and raised in Beirut before moving to the United States.
Sandra was born in Seattle and moved to Berlin.

Dagmar Meyer, Political Scientist

Dagmar Meyer shares a thoughtful perspective on fairytales. Fairytales are often used as storylines for cinema for young audiences and because they are well-known, they are considered acceptable. Dagmar suggests that the value of folklore can wait until later.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Looking for Felix an die Straße

On a cold, foggy day we took to the streets looking for Felix and hoping to collect a few stories. We were met by curious visitors at Potsdamer Platz and, to be sure, they went away thinking of their childhoods. We did find a Felix, and though he was not "our" Felix, we hope he contacts us at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Almost Felix...

Christoph, student at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design in Potsdam (d. school Deutschland) could be Felix....but he's we're still looking. Meanwhile, we continue to hear rich stories of early film memories....keep watching the posts and keep your eyes open for someone who looks like Christoph.

Only three weeks until the Berlinale, February 10-20. We'll be taking interviews at the Berlinale's 31 year-old children and youth section, Generation, at their new location at Der Haus der Kulturen der Welt, which brings the section's two parts, KPlus and 14Plus together again under one roof. Take a look at the press release for a list films in the upcoming program: Explore the rest of the Berlinale site for it's many offerings like the Talent Campus (Katy Kavanaugh, participant in 2003, 2004), The European Film Market and the World Cinema Fund.