Festival Spotlight: Kids of the World
Written by Alli Rock | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
“Eleven Kids, Four Stories, One Park.” Maine filmmaker Craig Saddlemire’s film Kids of the World is locally global: a story created and told by kids of the world who have come together in Maine’s Kennedy Park. The result is something not quite documentary, not quite fiction, but ‘all fun.’
Alli Rock: What inspired you to work with these kids and create this film?
Craig Saddlemire: Most of the performers in this movie are young people (ages 11-14) who live in low-income neighborhoods and are also refugees from East Africa. They are constantly exposed to pop media that tells them what it means to be cool in America. In addition, there are many journalists who are fascinated with the stories of people in poverty or who are fleeing serious tragedies such as civil war. Rather than impose an adult narrative on these kids’ lives, I wanted to create an opportunity for them to represent themselves. They got to decide what personal challenges they were most interested in expressing. They got to be the stars of their own movie, both the producers and consumers of their own media.
AR: You call this a “documentary of imagination,” part reality and part fantasy. What led you to tell the story of the park and the kids like this?
Saddlemire: The process behind making this movie is very important, and I wanted to foreground that process for the audience. The kids helped develop the stories in the movie and perform versions of themselves in this place they have in common, Kennedy Park. Kennedy Park is viewed by many people, especially suburban adults, to be a bad place. A symbol of urban danger. The kids’ stories acknowledge that conflict does take place in the park, but they generally see it as a fun place that is unfairly judged by outside adults. I wanted the audience to be constantly thinking about who was authoring these stories, and that even if the stories are staged performances, they still speak to a truth about the kids’ feelings towards the park. Many film theorists say that all movies are fiction, because through selective camera angles and editing the director makes up their own story. Regardless of the raw material, the final production is a work of creative fiction. By choosing to call this movie a ‘documentary of imagination,’ I’m looking at the flip-side of that theory. Even if the product is a work of fiction with regard to the facts of the story, it is still telling you something truthful about the psychology of the author. I wanted to really expose the process and the authorship, so we incorporate scenes of the kids inventing stories and talking about their first-hand experiences in the park. This is cut together with scripted scenes, and the result is a documentary of their feelings about this place.
AR: What was it like working with the kids? What was their reaction to the finished film?
Saddlemire: Working with the kids was a lot of fun but also very challenging. Very few had ever acted before or participated in the production of a movie. Movie-making involves a lot of patience and can sometimes feel very boring. But once they started seeing the daily rushes of footage, they started to get into it. Some had a real natural talent for acting and knew exactly how to hit their marks again and again. They all watched the movie and had a chance to veto anything that they didn’t like. They also chose the movie’s name, which was important. The working title of the movie was something like Kids in Kennedy Park. But they made it clear that their collective identity was bigger than just this park, and the final title, Kids of the World, obviously reflects that.
AR: How has living and working in New England affected who you are as a filmmaker?
Saddlemire: I love living and working in New England. I see myself as a community videomaker. I’m dedicated to my region and see it as a constant source of inspiration as well as the audience to which I am accountable. I think media is much like food. Local media is more healthy and its production process is more accountable to the people who consume it.
AR: How was your experience at the Maine International Film Festival?
Saddlemire: The Maine International Film Festival is a wonderful event. The organizers always offer excellent opportunities for moviemakers in Maine to share their work, connect with one another, and celebrate the power of international and local cinema. It was great to share Kids of the World with in the Maine shorts program and challenge the typical story of Maine, which is often lobsters and lighthouses. The people at MIFF are not afraid to expose the audience to unconventional and experimental work, and I am very appreciative of that.
Kids of the World is screening as a part of the NewEnglandFilm.com Festival from Sept 1 through October 15. Check it out here.