In the world of independent documentary filmmaking, it’s not every day that you get to compete with major blockbuster titles. Remarkably, this is something that a project powered by Film & Campaign has now achieved. In Part Three of our knowledge-sharing series on DIE KINDER DER UTOPIE (Children of Utopia), we look back on the trailblazing success of how this film with a small budget made a big impact.
On 15 May the top two most popular films in German cinemas that day were predictable enough: Avengers: Endgame and Pokémon Detective Pikachu. At number three, however, there was a rather different title.
DIE KINDER DER UTOPIE (Children of Utopia), an independent documentary film that makes the case for inclusive education, found itself propelled to the top of the nation’s cinema charts, thanks to a unique campaign focused on launching the film all over the country as part of a single day of action.Read more
This is the first in a three-part series about our biggest campaign to date, around the new German documentary DIE KINDER DER UTOPIE (Children of Utopia). Over the coming weeks, we’ll be providing behind-the-scenes insights into a campaign that we’re excited, proud, and a little nervous about.
Germany likes to think of itself as a leader: pragmatic, progressive, rational. But one area where Europe’s biggest economy is falling behind is inclusive education. In contrast to many other countries, the practice of including disabled children within mainstream education only really got underway a decade ago.
Since then, the practice of segregating children with disabilities remains deeply ingrained in many parts of the country. Although the highly federalised nature of government means experiences vary greatly depending on what state a child is born in, in 4.9 per cent of students in Germany studied at special schools during the 2008 to 2009 school year. Eight years later, the figure was 4.3 per cent — a mere 40,000 fewer children.
Inclusion – a human right still being questioned
The slow pace of this change has not gone unnoticed, but many Germans would argue that there is still a deep indifference and in some cases outright scepticism towards the concept of inclusive education.
DIE KINDER DER UTOPIE (Children of Utopia) is a film aimed squarely at challenging this. Following the experience of a cohort of pupils at an inclusive school, this painstaking documentary charts the lives of one mixed class from childhood to adulthood.
For director and producer Hubertus Siegert, it was also clearly a labour of love, on a subject dear to his heart. But there was an obvious problem. In the crowded and competitive field of German documentary films – with more than 70 new feature docs released in cinemas every year – how could this film stand out? How would this vital contribution to an ongoing nationwide debate reach a mass audience?
At the Mittendrin offices. From left: Ben Kempas, Tina Sander, Eva Thoms, Christine von Kirschbaum, Hubertus Siegert, Suse Bauer, Raúl KrauthausenRead more
Case study: Our biggest campaign yet, with a nationwide day of action beating the blockbusters and changing audiences' attitudes.
- 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
- Content and social media producer: Suse Bauer
- Publicity: Edith Kleibel, Media Office
- Influencer contacts: Lia Gänzler
- Outreach managers: Dubi Petrak, Film & Campaign / Tanja Grundmann, mittendrin e.V.
- Databases and event publishing: Aga Slawinska, Film & Campaign
- Graphic design: Propaganda B
- Website build and publishing: Film & Campaign
- Campaign funders: Aktion Mensch / SAP / Bertelsmann Stiftung / DATEV / Randstad Stiftung
The biggest campaign we’ve ever worked on, DIE KINDER DER UTOPIE (Children of Utopia) would find itself competing with cinema blockbusters thanks to innovative outreach work bringing the first ever 'cinema on demand' campaign to hundreds of screens in cities and towns all over Germany.
From the earliest stages of this project, it was clear that this film, about inclusive education, already had several of the crucial ingredients required to build a compelling campaign – a strong message, a great cast and creative team, and a fresh perspective on a topical issue.
But the task of bringing those qualities to the fore was far from simple. Like many independent docs, Children of Utopia’s distinctive voice risked being lost in the clamour for attention in an industry where funding and high-profile exhibition slots can make the difference between success and failure.Read more
As I sometimes refer to myself as a "cultural refugee from Germany", it's very good to see the Germans finally getting their heads around the importance of outreach campaigns for documentaries.
Here's a talk and discussion recorded at a Filmfest event in Hamburg, hosted by Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Hostein and Deutsche Filmakademie. I had been asked to do an 'impulsvortrag' (an 'impetus speech'). That was a new word to me, and I admit I had to ask a German friend what it involves: a short talk to kickstart a longer discussion.
Anyway, if you can spare 10 minutes and understand German, this clip may give you a better idea about our work:Read more
- A film by Alexander Dittner and Ben Kempas
- Produced by Xframe GmbH for Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg (RBB)
- 44 minutes
TAKE ON EAST GERMANY's regime and pay the ultimate price
This is the story of Michael Gartenschläger, an early political prisoner in East Germany.
Sentenced for life at the age of 17, and later redeemed by the West, he could not stop fighting the socialist regime.
He boldly dismantled spring-gun mines at the Iron Curtain to reveal their presence to the public. The Stasi killed him in 1976.