Maryanne Redpath has been involved in the youth programme of the Berlinale since 1993, and in the last 8 years, she has been the head of selection of both of the Generation programmes. The Kplus and 14+ selections represent the unique voice of youth through shorts and feature films, and offer a wide range of films for children from the very early age of four. Maryanne highly enjoys the great weirdness of the films, and of course seeing a cinema full of excited children.
interview by Janka Pozsonyi
What is the most challenging task when you create a selection about youth, or when you narrow it for a younger audience?
Curating short or feature film programmes for the younger audiences is actually not much different than selecting films for adult audiences. For shorts, I’m looking for a rich harvest of style and content with a running length of maximal 20 minutes, then I curate the selected films into five tight short film programmes and make recommendations according to which age you could begin to watch, enjoy and get the most out of a particular film. Of course I always have to consider the Generation audiences, their interests and concerns and whether a film could be relevant. Thankfully the audiences are also very diverse and the age recommendations are open upwards. If there is a difficulty it is because there are too many wonderful films to choose from and we only have a small window to select for. It’s sometimes difficult explaining to sales agents that we often select films which have not primarily been made for young people and that we are very careful with the classification ‘Children’s Film ’ – which is loaded as we all know.
The topics of this year’s short film selection are truly diverse – dealing with grief, the first overwhelming love and the absence of a father, all told in various genres and with interesting techniques too. We praise the short film format in general, but why do you think it’s important to focus on shorts too at the Generation, and not only on the promising features?
One of my favourite screenings during the festival is the premiere of the shortfilm programme recommended for four years and up. A cinema full of excited children, for many of whom it is the first time. It’s often difficult to find something suitable and outstanding for the very young ones, but not in the short film arena. Take for example those Russian animators, I call them the last of the Mohicans, busy animating their films at five seconds a day over many months and years. I am proud to be able to give them a platform at the Berlinale, their films must be seen! Then if I consider the short films in the 14plus programmes I see them as complementing the features’ programme in a myriad of ways and vice versa. It’s all about the mix. They are of course much more ‘hardcore’ than the Kplus films but generally the short format is pleasing for younger audiences because it’s so contrasting and diverse. No time to be bored because you know something exciting could be just around the corner.
You have seen a great number of feature and short film selections over the past years. What do you think are the most popular topics, patterns or maybe techniques that are returning almost every year? What seems to be the most common topic this year?
I often see well made narratives which give me the impression the director would have rather made a feature-length film. It’s hard to fit those into the Generation shorts programmes – not only because of their length but because of their narrative form. Over the years I have increasingly looked for fresh shorts which explore less conventional structures, often rather abstract or purely atmospheric – and which surprise me personally. There are some real discoveries in this year’s line-up. I like to be entertained, made to think, made to laugh and cry in a short amount of time. That’s what cinema is all about – for young and old. This is the real challenge for the film-makers. For Generation it is important that voices of the young protagonists are transported in a form, fitting the content. This year there are indeed several shorts dealing with young and tender love, gender, family relationships, grief and illness but also more abstract conceptual films with titles like The Body is a Lonely Place to Be or Léchez-nous, Miaou, Miaou!. I must admit to having a predisposition towards films with a certain factor of weirdness. Humour is also important, as seen in several films in this year’s programme.
How short was the shortest film you’ve ever selected? And which one had the most memorable story or technique? Do you have a personal favourite short or feature from the last years?
The shortest film was a Swedish animation many years ago. As far as I can remember, it was only 70 seconds long and was called Leaning Backwards. No favourites, sorry. I regard programming holistically. My passion is the way in which films talk and relate to each other when they are side by side. This is particularly relevant when regarding the way a short film programme flows and ebbs with all its different elements.
World of Young Cinema focuses on shorts and first and second features. Based on your observations, what would be your advice for a young filmmaker who is just about to switch from short film to feature?
Try and stay true to and keep exploring your original voice – and at the same time develop your knowledge of audience and marketing.