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The Heroes


Jaffer

Iraq



Name: Jaffer
Age: 12
Residence: Karbala
Way to school: 6.5 km
Hobbies: Football
Characteristics/specifics Brave


Synopsis
Jaffer is a smart young boy. He thinks beyond his young alter. His road to the school is a hard one, but in the same time interesting, he passes through various natural and historical places. A desert, oasis with green orchids as well as a historical place.

Directors Note
Terrorism and the bad Security situation in Iraq makes the shooting process almost impossible ! I was worried about Jaffer and his friends, In case a car explosion happens near us in the side! But in the end we were lucky and everything passed peacefully ! It was such a unforgettable experience!

Director: Ali Kareem





Sanjana

India



Name: Sanjana
Age: 12
Residence: India
Way to school: 30 Minuten
Hobbies: dancing like heroines in Bollywood films.

Characteristics/specifics
Sanjana is a very talkative girl. She knows every single person and all to the last gossips going around her area. She’s like a little adult taking full care of the housework and at times even explaining life to her illiterate and dreamy mother. Sometimes totally out of the blue she could burst into dancing or singing and make the onlooker think Sanjana was living in the nicest place on Earth.


Synopsis
At the age of 12 Sanjana is well aware of what prostitution, sex slavery and rape are. Born in the red lights area in the poorest part of India she is one out of the seven children her mother gave birth to after being forced into prostitution at the age of 9. On her own will and at her own risk Sanjana is crossing the red lights area towards the school dreaming of becoming an educated and rich Bollywood star and turning her home village into a nice place.

Directors Note
The shooting in doors had gone smoothly and I’ve been getting ready for the outdoor part, when suddenly Sanjana came up to me and ordered: “we’ll have to be very quick there”. “What’s the rush” – I thought, but right after I had started filming Sanjana on the dirt road, the first rock landed on my head and shortly there was a whole avalanche of rocks thrown at us by the pimps as their form of protest. This would have meant the end of the shooting if not a sudden appearance of women yelling and threatening at the pimps. And so we continued: Sanjana walking in front, me following her with the camera and a squad of women pacing behind to protect us.

Director: Lina Luzyte





Finya

Germany



Name: Finya
Age: 12
Country: Germany
Residence: Cologne
Way to school: 3 1/2 km with skateboard
Hobbies: skateboarding, parkour, painting, drawing and reading.


Synopsis
Finya loves to drive fast on her skateboard, so that she can feel the wind in her hair. Her way to school leads her through an industrial area where the big trucks drive through. She loves adventures. And now she likes going to school again, which wasn't always the case before. This is why she didn't go to school for a while. But now she found a school which suits her really well.

Directors Note
One ought to think it's easy to film a way to school in Germany. But here, too, a way to school can be adventurous. The big trucks which cross Finyas way seem quite threatening. And what we learned: not every train in Germany comes on time. At least not the freight trains, for which we were waiting without luck. Then finally a train arrived - two hours late. Finyas patience was impressive, when we tried out how to do the driving shots in the best way, when a rain cloud approached...

Director: Insa Onken





Luniko

South Africa



Name: Luniko
Age: 12
Country: South Africa
Residence: Khayelitsha
Way to school: One hour by foot and by bus
Hobbies: Football


Synopsis
Luniko lives in the second biggest and the most dangerous township of South Africa, Khayletisha. More than 1 Mio. People live here. Luniko is HIV-positive and experienced lots of sad things in his short life. His father died of AIDS. He goes by foot and with little rusty busses, called "taxi", to school. His way to school is dangerous and he is always frightened of muggings. Just before our shooting, the headteacher told me, Luniko came to school sobbing. He cried a full hour and nothing could calm him down. A gang of teenalterrs had badgered him. He didn't want to tell how. Simultaneously and despite of all the poverty and criminality, a township is a colourfull and culturally very intersting place. I enjoed staying there. Luniko is lucky because the centre of "Ubuntu Africa" takes care of him every day - medically as well. There children obtain a warm and healthy meal and get supported medically, psychologically and educational, and, especially, devotion

www.genubuntu.org

Directors Note
Before shooting I visited Lunikos school to speak to the headteacher. The rental car I parked in front of the schoolhouse. During our talk an employee approached and pointed at the monitor. I realized that my car has been crushed. The driver was an old and cardiac man who had to be rescued. And I had to go to the township police station..- To shoot in a township is a special occasion, because there always covibrates a little fear. "If there's a white face, they see money" a collaborator of "Ubuntu Africa" told me one day, especially emphasized by bringing camera equipment of course. However, I had great protectors from the township and a south african team with me, who helped pushing when the school-taxi from Luniko refused to start up. (Director: Sigrid Klausmann-Sittler)

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Anish

Nepal



Name: Anish
Age: 11
Country: Nepal
Residence: Kharidhunga, Dhading
Way to school: 1 hour
Hobbies: a game of Chukka and climbing up the trees


Synopsis
Having fed the buffaloes and goats, Anish hits the steep mountain path towards the school. Entering into the jungles Anish feels no fear at all. He knows that if a bear appeared he would have to run down the hill and in the case of a tiger he would have to climb up the tree. “Important is to not mix the directions and that’s it”, says Anish. Happy to have met no predators this time, Anish jumps into a metal calter fixed on a cable stretched across the river and swooshes down to the other side, where his friends are already waiting. Along with the boys Anish runs to the school to learn about the beauty of the world.

Directors Note
The first time Anish saw me he started crying thinking I was a ghost. It took couple of days and a lot of effort by the locals to convince him that I was just a “white woman from the other world”. After I had introduced the camera to him, Anish burst into tears again and disappeared for the whole day. When we finally began shooting the interview and I asked him “what changes would he make if he were the President of Nepal”, Anish went into tears another time for he didn’t understand nor the word “the President” nor “Nepal”. However, a bumpy beginning developed into a real interplanetary friendship with Anish instructing me how to behave in case the tiger crossed out way and on my side trying to explain to him what the traffic lights or the cars or the planes were.

Director: Lina Luzyte





Annalena

Germany



Name: Annalena
Age: 9
Country: Germany
Residence: Neukirch im Schwarzwald
Way to school: 3 km through the woods and with the small school bus.
Hobbies: Meeting my girlfriends

Characteristics/specifics
misses friends who live around the corner / wants to get by without extra tuition in order to spare her pocket money, she is saving towards her driver's license.


Synopsis
Annalena is a cheerful child, living high up on the mountain with two younger siblings, parents, grandparents and animals on a farm with breathtaking view. Her way to school, which she often walks alone, leads through the woods for long stretches before she boards the bus, bringing her to elementary school in Neukirch. She's on the road for about one hour. Her elementary school is facing closure because there are less and less children. Annalena wants to become a nurse.

Directors Note
Annalena's story was my very first Little Heroes movie, together with camera operator Pascal Schmid, so everything was new for me, too. We even tried shooting the way back, just to try it, since the way back tells different stories than the way to school, which normally has to be completed in a bit of a rush. There was time, for example, for catching pollywogs in the pond, for the crossing of a little stream, a picnic in the woods and so on.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Enjo

Switzerland



Name: Enjo
Age: 11
Country: Switzerland
Residence: Quinten am Walensee
Hobbies: Reading
Way to school: 6 km through the woods, across the lake by boat, through the village, and to school in Quarten by means of two school busses via Unterterzen

Characteristics/specifics
Enjo is a little philosopher


Synopsis
Enjo lives in a witch's cottage in Quinten, located directly on the lakeside, with his parents and two cats. Towering behind the little home are the „Churfirsten“. He has a very special connection to these mountains and his own, philosophical thoughts on them: „I am filled with fear, respect and affection.“ Asked about school, he spontaneously replies: „I don't jump for joy when I have to go.“ However, he loves researching. His fields of specialization are „atoms“ and „nuclear power plants“. What he likes about himself is his curiosity, which he compares to Google. He is deeply troubled by the ongoing destruction of nature. He says it is conceivable that there might be a nature apocalypse. „What I am especially concerned about is that people don't seem to get it – even after Fukushima.“ (Enjos remark to a „pro nuclear power“ sticker)

Directors Note
During my first phone call with Enjo it already became clear to me that this was no typical 11-year-old, but a thinker and a talker, someone capable of wolfing down whole mountain regions of books and following up on philosophical and scientific topics – for which he has the time, too. Friends don't just hop over to Quinten, a small hamlet, which is often referred to as the smallest village of Switzerland. The only way to get there is by boat. Out of all schools I have seen so far, Enjo's is the most beautiful, located in a place where other people spend their vacation: on top of the mountain, with a breathtaking view of the Walensee. It might be precisely that which has sharpened his view: living in these wonderful surroundings. Enjo's greatest motivation during shooting was that he'd get to swivel the camera after we'd wrapped. He knew afterwards he was going to be a camera operator.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Perla

Iceland



Name: Perla
Age: 12
Country: Iceland
Hobbies:Singing
Way to school: 10 minutes (but almost daily with a detour to the shore) together with her sister Urdur

Characteristics/specifics
The kids were very strong and resilient.


Synopsis
The weather kept changing, it was pelting, raining, then the sky brightened and the sun shone again. The storm became so strong at times that the camera kept jiggling on its stand. When it started raining on top of that, we were limited to shooting into one direction only, because the rain would have hit the lense otherwise. I have come to immensely appreciate working with a domestic camera operator. Jón Karl Helgason is a wonderful operator.

Directors Note
It's exciting for me to encounter people with the camera, because the time you share is way more intense. Because of filmmaking people converge. Perla and her sister Urdur are wonderful girls and they almost adopted me. They spoke even better english than I did because they'd had an english speaking AuPair-Girl and they where joking about me and I can still laugh about it. I admire Urdur because she had a lot of endurance during the interview and we all knew: this girl will make her way.

Director: Ariana Kessissoglou





To

Laos



Name: To
Age: 12
Country: Laos
Residence: Ban Muang Keo, Provinz Luang Prabang
Hobbies: Shooting Birds
Way to school: Two hours by foot, by boat and tuktuk


Synopsis
To is a little scallywag who only seems to be shy. He is a smart boy and has a critical view on his society. He wants to become a policeman - also, to do something against drug business. To get to school To needs two means of transportation and his own legs. His way leads him through slash-and-burned areas (a topic affecting whole south-east-asia) and two times across the Mekong. In between there is a 16 km long dusty land road he crosses by Tuktuk-bus. To's topics are slash-and-burn (which threatens his own villalter!) drug difficulty and the fact, that his school is so far away from home and his parents spend a lot of money for his weekly joruney. School: Secondary School - in Chom Phet, on the other Mekong-Side, as seen from Luang Prabang. By now there are elementary schools in almost every villalter in Lao. As soon as the children need to go to secondary school, they have very long ways to school though - mostly even longer than To.

Directors Note
From 11 h there is more than 30 degrees. To get a shooting permission we needed a lot of stamps, 1000 Dollar for two days of shooting and we had to call a laotian official, pay for her journey and overnight stop and accept her attendance during the shooting. That was quite a lot. She seemed to be happy to escape heroffice and made no problems. I had a wonderful team from vietnam with a cameraman I would be happy to work with again.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Luka

Slovenia



Name: Luka
Age: 9
Country: Slovenia
Residence: Belo
Way to school: 50-60 min walk
Way of transportation: walk or winter carry
Hobbies: boy scouts , intrest in animals and plants


Synopsis
Luka is the oldest kid in the family living on a beautiful hill Katarina with a an incredible view on the capital of Ljubljana in the distance. His school is located on the other hill 50 min walking distance. He is a born environmentalist, helps around the house with the essential works around the house. He is a born leader and does not take no for an answer, even if he has to fiscally fight for it. He gets’ in trouble regularly. His parents are calm and lovable people, he is not only visually different , his eyes with his looking for trouble red-haired freckled face but also , stands up in as a different kid in any aspect. He is special person a grownup in a child’s body.

Directors Note
Fortunaly I know Luka really well he is a good friend of my daughter they have similar attitude and get along really well, he took this shooting as a challenge, he even showed us some of the hidden spots and fall in water. But he has not much concentration since he is so interested in so many things at the same time it would be a hard job to work with him if he was not fond of us , my daughter helped a lot since she is experienced and has worked on 4 documentary films. He jumped in river so he made it to school in wet shoes , they were waterproofed but he manalterd to get weather in from above. (Director: Petra Seliskar)

Director: Petra Seliskar





Vincent

Austria

Name: Vincent
Age: 11
Country: Austria
Residence: Feuerkogel, Ebensee
Hobbies: sports, computer games
Way to school: 1 hour 20 minutes, on skis, by car


Characteristics/specifics

While still attending elementary school in Ebensee, Vincent's parents ordered an extra cable car daily (early morning hours), which cost them more than 5000€ per year. Now that Vincent attends secondary school in Ischl, he would have to take an even earlier cable car. It simply became too expensive for his parents. Vincent started practising the descent on skis – it is among Austria's 10 most difficult slopes – and now, given acceptable snow conditions, Vincent makes his way on skis, joined by his dad, to Ebensee, and then to Ischl by car.


Synopsis
Vincent's home is on top of the Feuerkogel, a mountain in Austria, where his parents run a mountain guesthouse. The number of friends up there is zero. Whenever he wishes for someone to come to visit, they have to take the cable car up the mountain. At other times Vincent plays with the guests' kids. Vincent's demeanour is sober and pensive, and he is in worry about world affairs time and again. And if there's something he truly loves, it would be his tomcat „Socke“ („Sock“).

When Vincent and his dad take to the slope it is still dark outside. Headlights lead their way. The descent down the Feuerkogel begins „harmlessly“ – the slope is groomed in its upper part. Part 2 means moguls skiing at a 50 degree slant. After that it's off into the „Gasseln“, a narrow, steep and curvy path through the woods. One day there was such heavy fog that Vincent and his father would nearly not have found their way out again.

Directors Note
Shooting up at the Feuerkogel was a unique experience. Thorsten Harms and Clemens Krüger were two artists by my side who shot their images on skis or snowboards, plodding through deep snow, basically chained to Vincent's heels, no matter how risky the ride. I was in great awe of that. It was also a beautiful experience getting to film this very special story of father and son. There is nothing comparable among the Little Hero portraits so far.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Valeria

Peru



Name: Valeria
Age: 12
Country: Peru
Residence: Arequipa
Way to school: 1 hour, when traffic is jammed often 1 ½ hours
Way of transportation: on foot and by school bus
Hobbies: being with friends, she is a nature activist

Characteristics/specifics
Valeria attends the German Max Uhle school in Arequipa. In light of the public school system she knows exactly that she is among the privileged kids of Arequipa.


Synopsis Valeria is 12 years old, but she seems older and more mature than her peers. Her thinking is very reflected and also critical, and friendship means everything to her. In order to be happy, she needs reliable relationship in her life first and foremost. This might have to do with her parents' divorce not too long ago, which was greatly stressful for her, causing her nearly not making it to the end of the school year.

Valeria lives out of town, in the middle of nature, as she says, bordering on terrace fields. These terrace fields are characteristic of the surrounding scenery. They have been left by ancestors, but are being constructed upon, increasingly illegaly so. This might be the reason why Valeria is such an impassioned nature activist. What she has told us about river Chili, for example, was very touching. Her way to school runs across these terrace fields, always accompanied by her mother, to the bus stop. This is where she boards the school bus. The school bus runs down parts of Pan Americana, a road stretching from Feuerland until Alaska.

Directors Note
The movie about Valeria was supported by the Foreign Office, on the condition it feature a child whose way to school leads her or him to a German school. I was unhappy about this at first because I had set my mind to something completely else. I wanted to shoot in the Andes. Then I contacted the Max Uhle school, and we were soon talking about Valeria. Today I am very glad to have done her portrait, because it shows how kids, who are relatively rich, are affected by sad biographies all the same, it also shows how much we can learn from them and experience first hand the way in which they engage in the fight for a better world.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Sai

USA

Name: Sai
Age: 12
Country: USA
Residence: Flushing Queens, NYC
Hobbies: figure skating, reading, writing, swimming
Way to school: about 1 hour, on foot, by three trains

Characteristics/specifics
Sai emigrated from India with her parents at the age of 5. Her parents took this step in order to pave the way to a better future for her.


Synopsis
Sai says of herself that she had passion for wisdom. After difficult years at elementary school, during which she was repeatedly being bullied because of her background, she applied to a school for the gifted that does not charge school fees. There are not many of these schools. Up to 3000 kids apply each year and have to pass highly demanding exams in order to be accepted. Sai did it – thanks to her determination, but also thanks to the joy she finds in learning.

Walking to the metro takes Sai about 15 minutes, across a part of town that might just as well be in China. There is Chinese lettering everywhere, Chinese merchants are offering their goods. She then rides three trains to get to Manhattan. Knowing how common it is for NY parents to accompany their kids to school over the course of many years, it is all the more noteable that Sai undertakes this journey, not hazard-free for a girl, all by herself.

Directors Note
Sai baffled me. The knowledge she possesses is enormous for a 12-year old, and she has her very own thoughts on a great number of very different topics. After learning about her taking part in debating and spelling tournaments, nothing could surprise me anymore. On top of that she plays the clarinet, does classical Indian dance, she enjoys reading, writing and swimming, in short: Sai is an allround talent. That in mind, I was especially driven to find out about the child behind the diligent student. Sai wants to become a neurosurgeon.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Ekhlas

Jordan



Name: Ekhlas
Age: 12
Country: Jordan
Residence: Provinz Ira
Hobbies: Meeting girlfriends
Way to school: an hour on foot and on a donkey, across the mountains

Characteristics/specifics
Ekhlas is a Beduin girl, living in a desert like area in tents with her large family.


Synopsis
Ekhlas is part of the younger half of 13 siblings, a strong and enchanting girl. She usually undertakes her way to school with two younger siblings, making her the oldest of the group, which puts all responsibility on her. The relationship between the children is affectionate, their strong sense of solidarity is quite tangible. Their life is tough and full of deprivation, and, depending on season and weather situation, the family relocates several times a year within the region. Their way to school right across the mountains takes about an hour, even longer when the weather is bad. Some passages are dangerous with their narrow, stony pathways, right along steep chasms. They have to go the long way round sometimes, when a snake crosses their path for example. Their home is made up of a tent, parted down the middle, all of their belongings are kept in boxes. There is a kitchen tent right next door, but no toilet. If you ask for one, you will be led outside the back of the tent.

Directors Note
Preceding the shoot I walked the whole way with Ekhlas and her siblings once, from school back home. It was 1 pm. We had to walk literally over hill and dale, temperatures as high as 35° Celsius, hardly a strip of shade anywhere. I thought we would never make it back! At that point already I was full of respect for what she and her siblings accomplish every day. It also took some time to build up a fair amount of trust, but upon saying good-bye we all wept. The Beduin kids are not among the best of the students, as I was told by the school principal: „They are already worn out when they arrive in the morning.“ At the same time though they are well aware that without education all dreams for the future are nil, so they hit the road day after day. The memory of meeting their mother is especially fond to me. We were sitting on their self-made cushions in the living tent together, drinking goat yoghurt, she was smoking a roll-up. The tobacco grew right in front of the tent. I sat there thinking: „Two mothers, each wearing a wedding ring and both driven by the same desire: for their kids to have a good future.“

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Zacheo

Namibia



Name: Zacheo Jansen van Vuuren
Age: 8
Country: Namibia
Residence: N / a an Kuse Sanctuary & Wildlife Farm
Way to school: 65 km. Zacheo covers the first part of the route through the bush on foot (barefoot!) and is then taken to town on the back of a pick-up truck.
Hobbies: Animals

Characteristics/specifics
Zacheo was raised with the San, natives of Namibia, and is one of the few white people who are fluent in their language.


Synopsis
Zacheo lives on the Wildlife Farm N / a an Kuse, east of Namibia's capital Windhoek, with his family. The farm is a kind of Noah's Arch for orphaned or injured animals. Lions, leopards, giraffes, antelopes, monkeys are being tended to in the animal hospital, taken care of and released back into the wild. Zacheos way to school takes him through the wilderness and the vastness of Africa into a completely different world – the loud and bustling capital of Namibia

Directors Note
Witnessing family van Vuuren's dedication not only for animal protection, but also for the San, is impressing. Namibia's natives are at the very bottom of the social ladder and are being ostracized by many ethnic groups of the country. For generations, the van Vuuren family and San families have lived closely together, the kids grow up with the San, learn their language, rites and culture. Practiced racial communication made easy, carried out in every-day life – without fuss or frippery.

Director: Reinhold Geneikis





Yamabuki

Japan



Name: Yamabuki
Age: 11
Country: Japan
Residence: Tokyo
Way to school: 3 km across town
Hobbies: Animals

Characteristics/specifics
Yamabuki is NOT a girl, as many tend to think. Long hair is in fact untypical for Japanese boys his age. Yamabuki's way to school is multi-facetted: small alleyways with bars buzzing with life at night time, roads with lots of traffic and people dressed in black and white, typical Japanese business attire. Kids in Tokyo seem very independent, they are not escorted to school by their parents. Most parents are employed and work hard.


Synopsis
Yamabuki, his parents and two younger siblings are in very privileged living conditions in comparison to other families, who live in very tiny spaces. This is a reality even for families in average financial situations. Yamabuki's parents have their own house, next to a small park. „We are very lucky to live like this“, Yamabuki says. Yamabuki is a sensible, attentive boy with a fine sense of humour. He thinks Tokyo is great, but also knows how lost you can get amid the many skyscrapers that all look alike: During our shoot he was addressed by a woman desperately looking for her son. Side by side with his friend So, „He is so very warmhearted“, he cruises to school every day, full of shenanigans at all times. I have not witnessed one parent driving a kid to school. All parents are working, their kids become independent at a very early age. Of course I was especially excited to know what Yamabuki would have to say about Fukushima, a topic that children are preoccupied with the world over, and that also scares them.

Directors Note
Bringing up the topic of Fukushima will not exactly find you friends in Tokyo. In the beginning I kept trying to contact schools in search of a child who had witnessed the catastrophy first hand and was now living in Tokyo. I was up against a brick wall. School principals zipped up as soon as I addressed the matter. About 90% of all Japanese children attend extra tuition, taking place on the week-ends, complete with exams and all the trimmings. There is not much free time. Private schools are booming. There are admission tests even for private kindergarden.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Rebekka

Switzerland



Name: Rebekka
Age: 12
Country: Switzerland
Residence: Wangenried, Kanton of Bern
Hobbies: Animals, horseback riding
Way to school: 1 hour on foot and by three trains, to Zollikofen

Characteristics/specifics
Rebecca is visually impaired. Her visual capacity is at 20%, black and white and blurred. When it is snowy or sunny she cannot see anything.


Synopsis
When we started filming with Rebekka, she had just finished her „way to school license“, meaning she was now allowed on her complex way to school without accompaniment, but never without a white stick and never without her glasses that protect her from light.
Rebekka lives out in the countryside, in a small village within a beautiful Switss landscape. She has parents and a sister and is lucky for being raised in caring surroundings. Still however, she feels lonely quite often because her classmates from blind school are 40 km away from her home. She can't go to school in her village because of her visual handicap. Rebekka: „Sometimes people think I need help, even though I don't need any. I tell them: 'Thank you, I don't need any help.' But I say it in a nice way.“

Directors Note
Rebekka is a joyful, strong girl. She radiates a great amount of positivity, likes to laugh and giggles a lot. When she is in familiar surroundings, one hardly notices her inability to see practically nothing. She does not get involved much with the things happening in the outisde world, which might be due to her having to concentrate so much on being in the here and now.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Lucila

Argentina



Name: Lucila
Age: 12
Country: Argentina
Residence: Tigre, Buenos Aires
Way to school: 2 hours by boat along the Tigre Delta


Characteristics/specifics
There is no reliable time table for the ships. Lucila and her sister have to change boats a number of times and if the first boat is late, the second one might sometimes not wait. If that happens they are left standing on the platform of a former gas station for ships, not knowing if, how and when they will ever be picked up again, by whom and to where.


Synopsis
Lucila lives in the Tigre Delta with her older siblings and her mother. Her violent father lives elsewhere in the Tigre Delta, separate from the family. She misses him despite everything. Lucila is a true artist and loves performing. She acts on stage of a leisure centre, to where she also gets by boat and within a very limited period of time only. Lucila would like to study acting, which will only happen if someone can be found to support her.

The Tigre Delta is a fascinating and beautiful place, increasingly covered in building sites. Rich people build their houses, clearing whole islands for the purpose, the river delta is becoming noticeably polluted. There is a lot of poverty and too little employment. Lucila feels very connected to the place and wants to preserve its beauty. Lucila: „When I close my eyes and just listen, I am at ease, right here, where I am. I can hear the voices of the wind and the waves.“

Directors Note
I have a sad note to add to Lucila's story: shortly after finishing the shoot I learned that Lucila's father had beaten up her older brother so brutally he ended up in hospital. After hospital he fled to Buenos Aires and is temporarily staying in the apartment of friends. Lucila keeps acting at the theatre and making the best of her life.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Alphonsine

Ivory Coast



Name: Alphonsine
Age: 11
Country: Ivory Coast
Town/villAge: Amelekia
Way to school: 40 min
Hobbies: meeting friends, being alone in peace.


About Alphonsine:
Alphonsine is a very sensitive and quite girl. The most important thing in life for her is education, which, she believes, empowers a person to get a job and earn his own money, yet Alphonsine herself is not allowed to school – when her mother died, Alphonsine was taken in by her aunt, for whom she has to cook and clean and help in the cacao plantations.

Way to school:
Alphonsine gets up at 4 am every day. She sweeps the courtyard, makes fire and cooks food. Once done Alphonsine goes to her aunt and picks up a huge box with food, which she carries all the way to school. Usually Alphonsine meets her friends who help her carry the load but only until they all reach the school – then the friends run off to classes, whereas Alphonsine stays to prepare the counter, where she’ll sell the food to the children during the break. Alphonsine is not allowed to attend school – she has to work.

Director’s note:
Alphonsine’s story was the most challenging for me to film as well as to experience. This gentle Ivorian girl is a true Cinderella of modern day yet her story has no good ending. Thinking of ways to help Alphonsine I bumped into many walls: her family see no problem in her not attending school, same as the people in the villalter. The fact that Alphonsine is slaving in cacao plantations is also acceptable and even welcomed – the not-well-to-do land needs cheap child labor. I hope and wish all the best for Alphonsine and that’s pretty much all I can do.

Director: Lina Luzyte





Wiktor

Poland



Name: Wiktor
Age: 12
Country: Polen
Residence: Warschau
Way to school: 20-50 min. by car depending on traffic
Hobbies: modelling small ‚glider’ airplanes


Characteristics/specifics
sensitive, thoughtful, philosophical, insightful, artistic, long red hair.

Synopsis
Wiktor drives every day by car to music school in Warsaw with his mother. His passion besides music is modelling glider airplanes. Maybe Wiktor wishes to be closer to his father by constructing the tiny planes to be sent into the sky?

Director’s note:
I have never worked with children in my films before, so it was both a big challenge and positive surprise for me to take part in this noble project. What started as a portrait of one day in Wiktor’s life turned out a story about dealing with sorrow and holding on to the artistic side of life.

Director: Jacob Dammas





Diego

Guatemala



Name: Diego
Age: 13
Country: Guatemala
Residence: Esperanza Amakchel
Way to school: 20 min
Hobbies: Football


Characteristics/specifics
On the one hand, Diego is very shy, but very strong on the other. When he chops wood with his machete, all pieces are of exactly the same length.




Synopsis
Diego is the second eldest of five children. In the previous year, his father died working on a plantation. Since then he, together with his older brother, is responsible for doing the work out in the field. However, he also goes to school, unlike his parents and grandparents have done. Diego worships his young teacher – „class is great!“ –, he is his role model because he wants to become a teacher himself. The way to school runs from hill to hill, through the village. Like all other kids he also carries two pieces of wood at all times. The film will tell you why. The topics of the movie are poverty, education opportunities, but also love of one's native land: Diego wants to remain in the village for his entire life, because it is so beautiful. The film allows for an authentic glimpse of a remote Maya village.

Director’s note:
It is a long and also partly cumbersome way from Guatemala city to Esperanza Amakchel. Some streets are not paved, we have to drive round several pot holes. The young teacher had prepared a casting, but the children were scared of us. They are not used to strangers coming to their village. In the end only Diego remained as a protagonist for our film. All other kids were too shy. But Diego was exactly the right one! Whether he will be able to keep attending school after 6th grade we do not know. His mother cannot afford the textbooks. The APEI society is engaged with his case at the time. December 2018: Good news from Esperanza Amakchel. Diego's mother has confirmed that Diego will be attending boarding school with good teachers and tutors, run by the „APEI“ society, for three years. We are told that the film team's visit to the village has been vital for the development of these events. His teacher and idol Mateo had apparently strongly advocated for him after the filming was done. We are immensely happy for Diego and thank „APEI“!

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Zozooloi

Mongolia



Name: Zozooloi
Age: 12
Country: Mongolia
Residence: Altai Mountains
Way to school: 120 km
Hobbies: Surfing in the Internet, basketball


Characteristics/specifics
First on horseback, then by „Russia Jeep“




Synopsis
Everybody calls her Zozooloi, even though that is not her real name. She lives with her parents, Nomads, and her younger sister in a yurt, at an altitude of 3400 – only during school holidays, however. Zozooloi is worried about climate change, by which they are heavily affected: Nomads are actually facing extinction. Her school is in Tsengel. She is lucky that her grandmother lives there, so she can live with her. During her times at home she works like a boy, because she does not have a brother: milking, working with the axe, dragging water, tending yaks and sheep, high up in the mountains, two hours away from the yurt, in wind and weather. Zozooloi wants to become a teacher one day.

Director’s note:
During the filming up in the breathtakingly beautiful Altai mountains we grew used to the living conditions of the Nomads: sleeping in tents, washing in the river, eating groundhog and drinking undrinkable schnapps made from yak milk. Zozooloi was a very shy protagonist. She was not used to speaking about herself and her feelings. I am all the more thankful that she gave us her story.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Miral

Palestine



Name: Miral
Age: 11
Country: Palestine
Residence: Beith Jala
Way to school: 20 min on foot
Hobbies: football


Characteristics/specifics
Like in all Palestinian cities, traffic is extreme. At several points along her way, Miral has to make it through the chaos of cars. Many parents have signed contracts with cab drivers and send their kids to school in these cabs, for fear of accidents.


Synopsis
Miral cannot take one normal step. For some stretches of her way to school she simply runs. No stone, no empty can is safe from her. She kicks everything, as a rule. Miral is a highly talented football player, but not only that: She is wise, very attentive and goal-oriented. Miral also reflects upon the situation of her country, the lack of personal freedom, like a grown person. All stories in Palestine wind up being political, because the occupation by Israel's military forces compromises their everyday lives. Miral describes in very impressive terms what it is like to not be able to move freely in your own country, but she never speaks with hate.

Director’s note:
Shooting in Palestine was very upsetting for me. There are so many stories about the Middle East, but not until I went there myself, having to pass the checkpoints daily on my way to the set from Ramallah to Beith Jala, did I get a grasp of what it means to not live in freedom. We were beset by a constant uneasy feeling. Ramallah has a fantastic night life, one of the bars is called „Berlin“. I am keeping up with Miral's story. Her goal is the ladies' team of Palestine.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Newo

Israel



Name: Newo
Age: 9
Country: Israel
Residence: Del Mont
Way to school: 15 min
Hobbies: Theatre Make up, ballet


Characteristics/specifics
Newo rarely leaves the house without one of his dogs slipping out of the door with him. Patiently, Newo carries him back inside and starts his way over again.


Synopsis
Newo has long, blond curls and is different from most of the other boys, and he knows it. He attends classes in classical ballet and wants to become a dancer one day. The boys from his class, he tells us, bully him for it. They don't understand why he dances. Apart from dance, Newo is interested in make-up art and also in the art of making wigs. He lives in a beautiful house with his mother. Dreamy as Newo might be, he is not carefree, feeling the constant threat of someone opening fire near him.

Director’s note:
Different from all other schools in which I have filmed so far, this one sports an armed man at the gates, letting the kids into the school yard in the mornings. What deeply impressed me is Newo painting a wound onto his face, right in front of the camera. He clearly is a very talented boy in many different ways.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Olivia

Burkina Faso



Name: Olivia
Age: 11
Country: Burkina Faso
Residence: Ouagadougou
Way to school: about 3 km
Hobbies: Riding the bicycle


Characteristics/specifics
Olivia is a very religious girl.


Synopsis
Olivia lives in the „AMPO“ orphanage even though she still has a father. However, since her mother died, her father cannot take care of his three daughters alone, which is why they were distributed. Olivia is aware of the chances she is given by living in the orphanage: evenings are study time, which is not the case in her classroom of 127 children. There is always enough to eat, she has clothes and, above all, the orphanage pays her tuition fees. Once a month, her father takes her home. That is when memories come back about what life was like when her mother was still around. On her way to school she transitions from one world into another: unpaved roads with little merchants and free-roaming goats interchange with multilane motorways. Traffic in Ouagadougou is violent, it is always loud and dusty, air quality is bad.

Director’s note:
Temperatures rose to 37° Celsius while we were shooting, making us use the benefit of the very early morning hours, sometimes as early as before sunrise. We slept in the orphanage's guest rooms, beneath mosquito netting, next to a four-laned street. No chance of finding sleep until after midnight. The orphanage itself is like an oasis amid a roaring city. During our stay in Olivia's house, we wanted to generate footage of her helping her sister with meal preparation, but it turned out there was nothing in the house to prepare a meal with. We gave them a bit of money, and Olivia went to the market to buy rice and some vegetables.

Director: Sigrid Klausmann





Ilyas

Italy



Name: Ilyas
Age: 11
Country: Italy
Residence: Rome
Way to school: Ilyas walks his way to school and rides the metro. It is not a long way, measured in kilometres; rather though, it symbolizes the burdensome path into a world in which prejudices are broken down and new horizons and perspectives are opened up, into a future without discrimination, within a multicultural society.
Hobbies: Basketball


Characteristics/specifics
Ilyas is a well-integrated Muslim Italian boy with many friends, who is a fine basketball player and attends the most progressive and prestigious school in Rome.


Synopsis
What does it mean to feel like a stranger in one's own city? What does it mean to be different from what society expects you to be? We tell Ilyas' story, an 11-year-old boy born in Italy, son of an Italian catholic mother and an Algerian Muslim father. Ilyas can definitely be seen as the world ambassador within our little hero kaleidoscope.

Director’s note: When I started looking for the best story for the project in Italy, me and my team started questioning ourselves on where to look. Then we met Ilyas, a children son of a Muslim father and a Catholic mother. Ilyas is living in the suburbs of Rome and he is going to one of the best school in the centre of the capital. He told us that Italian public schools are full of children with different origins: South American, Arab and African children meet and grow together in the public schools of the capital. So we wanted to know how Ilyas deals with this situation.


Director: Valerio Tassara





Jesús

Mexico



Name: Jesus Gonzales Galicia
Age: 11
Country: Mexico
Residence: Xochimilco, Mexico-City
Way to school: It takes around half an hour for Jesus to reach his school. First he uses the boat to make his way through one of many canals in Xochimilco reminding of Venice, then he walks the rest of the road.
Hobbies: Play with his little sister, dance and feed his little pigs and dogs.


Characteristics/specifics
Coming from a poor family Jesus is an extraordinary bright child, who dreams to become either a policeman, who’ll stop violence in his are, or a doctor, who’ll help so many people in need.


Synopsis
Jesus is 11. He lives in Xochimilco, a province of Mexico-City that reminds a lot of Venice due to it’s immense net of canals. He gets up at 7am so as to have time to feed his little pigs and angry-looking dogs that are actually very kind. Jesus’s best friend is his little sister, who not only plays with him but also stands by in good and bad. Being a very kind child Jesus lives in a neighbourhood, where kidnaps is an every day issue - that’s why he wants to become a policeman and stop the violence.

Director’s note:
Jesus family was very welcoming and friendly throughout the shooting. They did their best to feed us well - in the end of the shooting all of the crew had a few kilos plus. When our dear cinematographer felt off the boat and painfully damalterd her finger, the family took us to the hospital, faces worried they sticked to us until the injured hand was sewed.

Director: Lina Luzyte





Mathis

Sweden



Name: Mathis Marsja
Age: 12
Country: Sweden
Residence: Kiruna, North Lapland
Way to school: around 15min
Hobbies: skiing, spending time with friends.


Characteristics/specifics
A very philosophical Sami boy who lives a double life - a Swedish and a Sami one.


Synopsis
Mathis Marsja is 12. He’s a Sami boy living in Kiruna, the northernmost part of Lapland. Since Kiruna hosts the biggest iron ore mine in the world, the town will be moved elsewhere since it’s not safe to live in it anymore. Mathis takes this philosophically. He’s more into reindeers, an occupation Sami people are in for hundreds of years. When the herding time comes Mathis is excused from the Swedish school in order to go to a villalter of Kaitum to help his dad to separate the reindeers.

Director’s note:
Shooting in Kiruna was special first of all because of we were in a town that will soon cease to exist - it’s a rather unknown feeling. Yet the most exciting experience was to be in the midst of some thousand reindeers, to see them as well as to hear them - it was a sort of a meditative experience.

Director: Lina Luzyte





Cynthia

Burundi



Name: Cynthia Nshimirimana
Age: 12
Country: Burundi
Residence: Muyanga
Way to school: around 30 minutes on foot.
Hobbies: Singing.


Characteristics/specifics
A very philosophical girl, who wants to become a Parliament member and have a decent life.


Synopsis
Cynthia Nhimirimana lives in Muyange, in the poorest area of Burundi that’s already quite a poor land. When she gets up in the morning, she doesn’t eat breakfast. During the day she doesn’t eat lunch either. Why? Because there is none. If her auntie that she lives with gets a day job in the farming fields Cynthia will have an austere dinner, if not - no dinner. Cynthia’s mum and dad died of malaria. Many people in her land also die from AIDS. She studies hard at school to become a member of Parliament so as to have a life she’d be proud to live.

Director’s note:
Shooting in Burundi was a shocking and a very sad experience due to immense poverty people live in there. A good example to illustrate this would be a situation I got myself into one day: organising the next day’s shooting I suggested to meet after breakfast. The Burundian family didn’t get me, “What is breakfast?” They had to be explained by my interpreter that breakfast is a meal people have in the morning. The Burundian family do not have this luxury. I was deeply ashamed.

Director: Lina Luzyte





Rania

Syria



Name: Rania Al Akhres
Age: 13
Country: Syria
Residence: Refugee Camp Za’atari, Jordan
Way to school: 15 min.
Hobbies:


Characteristics/specifics
The way leads through a refugee camp.


Synopsis
Which topics are addressed? Since 2013, Rania has been living in Zaatari refugee camp, a container city in the Jordan desert. Buses have been installed some time ago and run through the camp indeed, but Rania walks to school with her girlfriends. Her schooling usually takes place in the morning, in the afternoon it is the boys' turn.

Director’s note:
I got to know Rania while visiting the refugee camp, drinking tea with Rania's neighbour. As is often the case, some neighbours came by to say hi. This is how I met Rania. Rania had caught my attention before, because she is so curious and interested but at the same time serious and cautious. She was more grown-up at her 13 years than I am. Her neighbour, a boy of the same age, was also taking on a lot of responsibility for his family, but he kept behaving in a way that made everybody laugh about him. While he was busy making up reasons for going to school, she was diligent and had a refined plan for her future. Rania was reason personified, in the best sense of the word.

Director: Gessie George





Ignas

Lithuania



Name: Ignas
Age: 12
Country: Lithuania
Residence: Vilnius
Way to school: Ignas’ way to school is about 2km length and takes him about 45 minutes. But Ignas has many different ways to school that he chooses according to his mood: sometimes he walks past a flower market, other times he takes a bus, sometimes he goes alone and sometimes he joins his friends. His route to school follows city streets and courtyards of Soviet built blocks of flats.
Hobbies: computer games, robotics, spending time with friends, keeping pets.


Characteristics/specifics
Ignas is a boy who suffered bullying in his first years at school but later he learned to ignore and resist what was greatly helped by his two best friends. Ignas holds friendship as one of the key virtues in human’s life but at the same time he senses the loss of it, therefore, once he’s grown up he has an idea to create a video game that’s core will circle around friendship - people will only be able to overcome obstacles if they will be friendly to each other. The biggest threat to Ignas opinion is war and in particular the present Russian aggression towards Eastern European countries.


Synopsis
Badly bullied in his childhood now Ignas is a self-confident boy who has good friends and big plans for the future - sensing loss of human contact he dreams of creating computer games for adults that will force people to communicate and be friends. His day starts around 6:30am, when he gets up, washes, spends a bit of time playing computer games or organising his tiny robot, then comes time to feed his pets - sea fishes and a guinea-pig - and then finally has has breakfast himself. Before leaving to school only his mum is at home, whereas his stepfather is off to work. Then a big moments comes when Ignas has to choose the way to school. Ignas is mostly preoccupied with war - he senses that big Russia is a constant threat to Eastern European countries and especially to Lithuania, a country he lives in, since Lithuania has that little stripe of land so tempting to Russia.

Director’s note:
The shooting went rather smoothly since Ignas is a very smart and devoted boy aware that making a film requires time and waiting and freezing as was in our case since Lithuania in early spring is usually cold and rainy. However, one incident did happen on a bus, when the whole filming crew suddenly realised they forgot to punch tickets! The control lady was about to fine us all but then Ignas stepped in and with his skills of a diplomat he saved us by convincing her to be understanding.

Director: Luna Luzyte





Viola

Austria



Name: Viola
Age: 11
Country: Austria
Residence: Vienna
Way to school: Down the hill by scooter and to the tram station. Then again by scooter to school.
Hobbies: Friends, animals, cooking, cinema, girl stuff


Characteristics/specifics
Viola is bright-eyed but pensive at the same time. She has her very own view of the world.


Synopsis
11-year-old Viola lives in Vienna and attends the free Rudolf Steiner School in Vienna West. She leaves the house around 7:25 each morning with her 8-year-old brother Joachim to whizz down the hill to the tramway. This is where she meets her friends. They continue by tram, then the 'gang' takes to their scooters once more until they reach the school. Sometimes Viola is a little annoyed by her brother riding on her coat tails – also because he sometimes ends up boarding the wrong train. On her way to school, Viola's thoughts are concentrated on friendship, on the effects of city life, where the rich and the poor live side by side and where one is exposed to such unnecessary things like pollution and constant advertisements. She would much prefer speaking to the poor directly, to ask them about their concerns...

Director’s note:
On a beautiful day in autumn we came to witness how swiftly a scooter can move through the city. And how interesting it is to engage with an 11-year-old's view of the world, caught between reflection and the simple directness of inexperience.

Director: Burkhard Feige





Samson

Kenya



Name: Samson Karani Akinyi
Age: 12
Country: Kenya
Residence: Nairobi
Way to school(-length): 5km


Characteristics/specifics
Part of the way leads across the slum, through which one can only move on foot, because the streets / alleys are too narrow for cars, let alone buses. In rainy weather these stamped dirt paths are slippery and partly sloping. Walking on them is not easy and sometimes dangerous.


Synopsis
Samson liked going to his school, but it meant getting up at 5 am. His way to school leads, at first, by bus via Biber Drive through nearly the whole town of Kibera, then a stretch of way by minibus and finally by foot, across the lower part of Kibera to the school. This journey is not hazard-free; minor muggings do occur in the narrow alleyways. For that reason the students usually move in groups. In the meantime, Samson has been transferred to Secondary School. He is a socially very intelligent child, his desire to do something positive for people is, and always has been, very strongly developed.

Director’s note:
All camera positions had to be exactly thought through on the days before each filming, so that we would be able to shoot very quickly. As soon as the word spreads that someone is working with cameras, gangs show up quickly and the equipment is gone. Those living in immediate surroundings don't steal anything, but organized gangs are notified via text message where there's something in it for them, and they're there in no time. The cooperation with two experienced camera operators from Slum TV was a very good one for us.

Director: Stephan Bruckmeier





Chryssi

Greece



Name: Chryssi
Age: 13
Country: Greece
Residence: Neo Petritsi / Serres
Way to school(-length): Chryssi wakes up at 5:30 to get the bus at 06:00. The bus drives through Strymon river valley, passes from villages to pick up the pupils, and arrives in Serres in approximately 1:00 hour.
Hobbies: Music, painting, bicycle


Characteristics/specifics
Chryssi’s spontaneous love for music, and her consciousness of the value of nature, and family in life.


Synopsis
Chryssi lives with her parents, her older sister and her younger brother at the border village of Neo Petritsi. Her love to music led her to attend the only Music School in the area, which is located 1 drive from her home. This is the road she takes every day by bus, in order to pursuit her dreams of becoming a musician. Her home is close to the shore of Kerkini lake, one of the most important wetlands in Europe, with a rich population of wild life and birds. Chryssi’s love to nature is expressed in a spontaneous and yet consciousness way. Chryssi becomes an example of the notion of value of simple things in life.

Director’s note:
Following an extensive research in various directions, looking for our little hero with our producer Panos Karkanevatos, we ended up at the Greek Bulgarian border. There we met Chryssi; we met her family, her teachers, and her school. The Music School of Serres. Music as a narrative element appeared to be an interesting path to reveal our little hero, Chryssi. The area where she lives is also exceptional. Lake Kerkini and the surroundings is one of the most beautiful places in Greece. Although we shot the doc in late March, winter was still there; and shooting in a preserved area of wild life such as lake Kerkini, created also a special frame to our work. In general we have the feeling we handled with sensibility and in a gentle way what Chryssi and her family offered to us by opening her heart.

Director: Elena Dimitrakopoulou