Case study in progress: one film – one subject – one night
- Director and producer: Hubertus Siegert, SUMO Film
- Campaign host organisation: Christine von Kirschbaum / Eva Thomas / Tina Sander, Mittendrin e.V.
- Campaign strategist: Ben Kempas, Film & Campaign
- Fundraiser and spokesperson: Raul Krauthausen
- Additional content and social media: Suse Bauer
- Publicity: Edith Kleibel, Media Office
- Outreach managers: Dubi Petrak, Film & Campaign; Tanja Grundmann, Mittendrin e.V.
- Databases and event publishing: Aga Slawinska, Film & Campaign
- Graphic design: Propaganda B
- Campaign funders: Aktion Mensch / SAP / Bertelsmann Stiftung / DATEV / Randstad Stiftung
Sometimes a film comes along with a compelling message, a great cast and creative team, and the potential to have a big impact on a topical issue.
From an early stage, it was clear that The Children of Utopia was one of those films: unique, independently made and all too easily lost in the clamour for attention in an industry where funding and high-profile exhibition slots can make the difference between success and failure.
But without the kind of major financial backing to make an “off the shelf” distribution plan work, how would it be possible to ensure that this remarkable film reached as wide an audience as possible?
Always keen to welcome a new challenge, we knew that, with an innovative distribution model, this film could make a big impact.
The Children of Utopia takes us into the lives of six young people on the cusp of adulthood as they look back at their time at an inclusive school – a radical concept back then – in Berlin. Some would be described as disabled, but several reject that label – and it is seen to be incidental anyway. Instead, their focus, as they discover the new lives they’ve each made in the 12 years that have passed, is on the ups and downs of life: love, careers, doubt, and determination. This charming and entertaining coming-of-age movie shows how the respect fostered in Class 5D has only grown over the years, as we witness several poignant moments of honesty and compassion.
Responding to this thoroughly authentic film, prominent inclusion activist Raul Krauthausen said:
“I am convinced by the movie that finally those who are directly affected by inclusion — the children themselves — are heard. All too often only so-called experts without disabilities are consulted on the topic. This movie speaks to me from the heart.”
From the outset, it was clear that an independently produced documentary such as The Children of Utopia would probably receive little attention in a normal theatrical release. It seemed regrettable that a film about shifting our perceptions about weakness and strength might get lost in an ultra-competitive sector.
With no celebrity backing and sparse funds, there was one obvious strength that the film had — a strong potential to tap into audiences engaged with the concept of inclusive education. The question was, how could we get to that target audience directly? We knew they’d want to see the film as early as possible. If we could find a way to get the film to those people as a priority, word-of-mouth and grassroots activists networks could be key to making the film a success.
In response to this conundrum, our campaign turned the traditional model of reaching cinema audiences on its head. Instead of courting distributors, we decided to go for maximum impact and visibility by focusing on one 'night of action'.
On 15 May 2019, in more than 150 cinemas all over Germany, thousands of people will see the film simultaneously.
We’re proud to note that The Children of Utopia’s release will be the first time that a ‘cinema on demand’ model has been deployed in Germany. This is an exciting experiment, and one that we think is fitting given the values expressed in the film itself — a new model for maximizing the reach of original independent cinema, for a film that is all about cooperation in school and throughout society.