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Heleen Rouw • Director, Cinekid Festival

“We try to see creativity as a superpower and aim to make room for the way children view the world”


- Cineuropa sat down with Cinekid new director Heleen Rouw to talk about the forthcoming edition in the context of the pandemic

Heleen Rouw  • Director, Cinekid Festival
(© Krijn van Noordwijk)

Every year, Cinekid captures the imagination of children and adults alike as the largest festival dedicated to children’s film and media. Since 1986, the festival has worked on improving the quality of visual culture for children through screenings, workshops, a co-production market and more. This year will turn out a little different. Cineuropa sat down with new director Heleen Rouw to talk about the forthcoming edition in the context of the pandemic.

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Cineuropa: What can you tell me about your first experience as Festival Director of Cinekid?
Heleen Rouw:
I started as the festival director in January within a very experienced team, which was great. I would have been able to ease myself into it, were it not for everything changing so suddenly. As the world went in lockdown, everything wasn’t just new to me, but to the entire team. The vital question became how we could bring our line-up to children at home. Would we be able to organise an event at all? Together with The Netherlands Film Festival (NFF), the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), we started developing an online form for our festivals. Not a VOD platform, but something that could deliver the festival experience. Each festival has its own unique way of presenting itself to the audience. In our case, we called it Cinekid Play. This will be the immersive heart of our festival. It’s a universe where children travel between planets which all carry a specific theme. The planet Zoodiak offers content related to nature and animals, for example. Basically, we try to see creativity as a superpower and aim to make room for the way children view the world. I believe we’re still able to do that. Creativity and curiosity are what will save us in the end.

What were the challenges you faced?
As a physical festival, we had very little in-house knowledge on how to set up these online platforms. We would jokingly say we were working on a start-up, having to develop the entire thing from scratch. Time will tell. The first trial by fire will be the NFF, a week before we take our turn. This online form of our festival does allow us to reach more children than ever before. And we’re no longer organising one big physical festival in Amsterdam either, we’re hosting smaller events throughout the country. It allows us to have more of a national focus and to work with other theatres in different ways. Creativity and flexibility is of the essence, but I believe we’re making it work. And we’re learning a lot in the process, too. It’s already offered us new perspectives for editions to come. One big challenge, though, is compensating for the informal moments which take place between scheduled events at physical festivals, where a lot of connections are made between professionals, for example.

How are you shaping Cinekid’s professionals programme?
Unfortunately, the professionals programme is entirely online. But here, too, we’ve been able to extend our reach. People from all over the world who might have found it difficult to attend the physical festival can now log in and participate. But we will have to go back to physical gatherings as well. Informal contact is part of the festival’s charm. It’s especially difficult for people who are new to the scene. It’s difficult to bond via Zoom as everything is more to the point. We’re trying to help with this by recruiting good moderators who can also serve as matchmakers.

Do you have any recommendations?
The opening film Calamity [+see also:
film review
interview: Henri Magalon
film profile
by Rémi Chayé is such an amazing work. It’s a hand-drawn animated film that also won several awards at Annecy. It’s about a feminist avant la lettre, set in the Wild West. It brilliantly links that world to how society is structured nowadays. And we also have interesting keynote speakers, such as Nicolas Mirzoeff (US), Alison Gopnik (US) and the award-winning director duo Dawid Marcinkowski and Katarzyna Kifert (UK) of The Kissinger Twins.

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