Documentary Films for Children

"Quality must be provided for children"
Documentary filmmaker Boudewijn Koole

Interviews concerning Documentary Films for Children 3
Europäisches Symposium 2001

Boudewijn Koole is a documentary-filmmaker from the Netherlands who produces mainly films for children and young people. His films won prizes at international film festivals and were successfully broadcasted on TV. Many of his film were done for VPRO (Netherlands Youth TV), which he will represent in the workshop "Documentary Films in Children's programmes of TV channels". He will furthermore present his film "Letters from Belfast" on Sunday, 23 September during the Symposium.

For whom do you produce your films?
Most of the films I made are for children, some for young adults and some for adults.

Do you work in a different way when you address children or adults?
I see only one main difference between making films for adults and children. Children have less experience in life. For the rest I do treat them like an adult audience. For example concerning film-language: I think adults and children are the same. We all live in the same world, use the same language in words and in images. It is important to remember that we do not think about children as one homogenous group. Children differ from each other like adults do. Some children like fast videoclips, others like documentaries. I think most of my films are being watched by adults and children together.

Within the genre of documentaries do you have the impression that some subjects or formal aspects are of special high interest for the children? Are there some films that do not work at all for the children?
I think films are suitable for children when the subject is of their interest. This can be school, plays and music but children are also interested in war, photography, television news, art, the lives of other children in different circumstances etc.

What makes a documentary film a film that is suitable for children? Could you tell us about your criteria?
t is very hard for me to give you this list of qualities for a good children's documentary. I am not a scientist. Some people are able to communicate with children on their level without making themselves small. That is the way I try to make my films. I try to approach children with the same respect as any other individual. I try to find out what is their perspective on issues, and most of the time I find out that it is not all that different from my own. I think children don't want to be approached like babies by adults. I am adult so they don't think it is strange when I behave like one, and they think it is very normal that my film is not childish.

Do you think that it is significant to maintain the genre documentary for children?
I think it is important that children do have the right to see quality films if they want to. Like adults can choose between crap and quality. So quality must be provided.

Could you describe the film/TV-market in NL regarding documentaries for children?
In the Netherlands the VPRO youth television has a history of many years of producing and broadcasting documentaries for children. Till some years ago the VPRO was the only one. The last three years The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and the Dutch Fund for Cultural Broadcasting Productions (Stifo) make great efforts to stimulate the production of children documentaries. So you could say that children documentaries are in the lift. Ten famous Dutch documentary directors were lately invited to produce each a 20 minutes children film and they all agreed.

You realized a script which was developed in a competition for schools. What was it about?
The film I made in the competition was about Tommie, a young boy (11 years) whose father died. Tommie came up with the idea himself and we worked on the scenario together. It was the first children documentary funded by the Stifo. The competition was created by the IDFA and the Stifo. It was great to make the film, like always. More than in other circumstances Tommie had the idea this was his film and I felt like working together with him in a team.

Kontakt und weitere Informationen /
Contact and further information:
Petra Schmitz (Leitung / director) •
Stefanie Görtz • Bettina Schiel (Presse / press)
Dokumentarfilminitiative im Filmbüro NW
mail: dfi(at)