Hello Holland – Express Yourself

We’ve launched our festival programme! Read programmer Erik Tijman’s blog about this year's film and television selection and the state of the industry.

This year will be Cinekid’s 33rd edition, which makes our festival one of the longest-running children’s film festivals in the world. Since its inception, Cinekid has been dedicated to highlighting quality filmmaking for children and acquainting Dutch audiences with great stories from all over the world.

As a film lover who will be celebrating his own 35th edition shortly after Cinekid, I can testify to the impact that a film and series can have on a child. Going to the cinema or a festival can be a transformative experience for a child growing up, exposing them to an almost magical art form that they can cherish for the rest of their life, and open up worlds both remote and beyond imagination. With this year’s festival theme, Hello World: Express Yourself, one of our goals is to focus on the personal experiences and dreams of children all over the world. While in many parts of the globe what children do and say still often goes unheard or unrecognized, Cinekid will pay tribute to the importance of the stories they tell and the power of their creative expression.

Children’s films are thriving all over the world and we are very happy that in more and more countries children’s filmmaking is seen as a serious form of artistic expression. Cinekid feels it is essential to give its audience the opportunity to discover outstanding filmmaking from countries not represented in cinemas and to acquaint children with original stories from all over the world. This year, we are very proud to be able to present a diverse competition that includes films from five continents and showcases the breadth of the contemporary worldwide children’s film industry.

National film and television productions have always been a cornerstone of our programming. Traditionally the Netherlands is known for its high-quality youth films and series. For years, the Dutch have delivered touching original stories and wonderful adaptations that had people flocking to the theatres. Cinekid could never have become the successful festival or major international market place it is without the worldwide acclaim of films such as Miss Minoes and Kauwboy, or the international success of Dutch companies like BosBros, Lemming and The Film Kitchen. With an industry that has thrived with superb films such as My Giraffe and Fight Girl, there was never a reason to question Dutch pre-eminence within the international kids sector.

Unfortunately the results in recent years paint a different picture. Audience numbers have been steadily declining and the number of releases is shrinking. More and more filmmakers and producers seem to move away to explore the greener pastures of adult storytelling instead, and what we are left with is little other than blandness and uniformity. It is always easy to point fingers, but there seem to be many different underlying causes for this working in tandem. The funding of children’s film and series is simply not consistent with films for adult audiences. Very few theatres have experience in presenting youth titles and, like many distributors, often treat children’s films the same way as normal releases, with predictably disappointing results. As an aspiring filmmaker you won’t be taught how to make a children’s film at one of our film schools, while media will hardly pay any attention to any productions that you actually manage to complete.

This state of affairs is both contradictory and unnecessary, because until recently the Dutch children’s film sector was the most unique, vibrant and productive part of our national film industry. It was successful on two fronts. The films often reached a large audience and – unlike most Dutch arthouse films – were also appreciated internationally by critics and audiences alike. They were films which were selected for major international competitions around the world, and were subsequently snapped up by foreign distributors and broadcasters.

While the international children’s film industry has grown with original and unique productions originating from unexpected corners of the world, we unfortunately have to concede that the consistent quality and guaranteed success of our national youth industry is a thing of the past.

Cinekid believes it is time for radical change to breathe new life into this vital sector and reclaim the success of the past. The Netherlands needs to embrace and support its children’s films before we finally lose the most successful and renowned part of our film industry. All stakeholders, whether they are filmmakers, educators, producers, distributors, funders or festivals, please hear our call to arms, one that is both vital and heartfelt: Hello World: Express Yourself.

The children’s film world needs to come together and it needs to act now. Only then can we hope to once again deliver wonderful new productions to theatres full of eager and expectant children, films that will live in their memories forever.

Erik Tijman – Head of Film & Television