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Children Commandeer Grindel Cinema
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

Hamburg’s second Children’s Film Festival opened with a lot of excitement and chaos. The theater was full of young viewers excited to see television moderator David Wilms, who is an expert in making kids feel important and interested in the topic of the moment. He handed out autographs and then lined the kids up to get autographs from the teenage band The Lollipops. Adrian and Paul even got in line for the autographs. They were excited to get one from David but then when it came time to get one from the two teenage singers the boys looked at each other and said, “Mädchen, yuck!” The girls seemed disappointed with that reaction so I took their photograph.

Wilms also introduced the children’s jury, consisting of seven members from different parts of Hamburg. They all answered an advertisement in the Hamburger Morgenpost where they had to write about filmmaking or why they would make a good film critic. I spoke to one member of the jury, Yannick Renke (whose mother is American). He said that he was very excited about the festival. He said that they had to watch each film and decide not only which one was best but they also had to explain why it was the best. The best film would then receive the Michel award and a check for EUR 2000.

The opening of the film festival took quite a lot of time and for kids under nine years old, there was a bit too much talking. They did get to see the Lollipops sing the title song to My Brother is a Dog. Adrian found the music cool, so he decided that the girls weren’t too bad after all. Adrian also had the good fortune to sit in front of the two stars from the movie: the sweet little white dog Tobi and Maria Ehrich who played 10-year-old Marietta.

Adrian loved the movie and was disappointed that this year the film festival was geared for a teenage audience rather than for younger kids. The animated film The Nutcracker and the Mouseking (Nussknacker und Mausekönig) was for age four. Yannick said it seemed out of place when comparing it with the other films and it was his least favorite film. That and My Brother is a Dog for age six were the only two films suitable for younger kids. The two Asian films When I was Nine and Homerun were for kids age eight and above, as were the Dutch film In Orange and the Swedish film Misa Mi. The rest were for 11 or older. Each film seemed to cover a range of serious topics. They ranged from peer pressure to divorce to sickness to death. The movies in general tried to give tips to children on how to deal with difficult situations which come up in life. Naturally this was done with humor and often with a moralistic ending.

All the films that I saw were well done, but of course I am not completely sure that children age eight or older need to be seeing all these very heavy films. What happened to all the light comedies and fantasy films for kids? I feel that childhood is so short that it is important for children to maintain their fantasy world. Later we all have to face reality, so why rob the kids of that fantasy world too soon and through such a powerful medium as film?

What I really enjoyed about this festival was the audience. The Korean film was packed with Koreans who reside in Hamburg. The Spanish film had many Spanish-speaking people, and it was nice to talk to some of them and get their opinions about the films as well as how they like living here in Hamburg. It is also always amazing to me to see, for example, a film in Spanish with English subtitles, and then to have a German translator in the audience on top of that and it works. Our brains somehow can separate out all that information.

When the final day of the film festival arrived, a patient audience waited once again for the talks to come to an end. The audience award went to In Orange and the Michel Award went to Station 4. The award was late in arriving because the bicycle courier had an accident on Hallerstraße but luckily the crystal glass award was not destroyed. The commentator also warned the children to wear bicycle helmets while traveling through Hamburg because it is such a dangerous place to ride.