A teenage sparrow raised by a stork family and who thinks he is one of them, is the lead character in German directors Toby Genkel and Reza Memari’s “Richard the Stork,” a CGI-animated feature that presented its first footage at the New Nordic Films market, which ran Aug. 23-26 during the Norwegian Intl. Film Festival in Haugesund, Norway. The animated pic is close to finishing production after 2½ years, according to Norwegian-German producer Kristine M.I. Knudsen of Berlin’s Knudsen & Streuber Medienmanufaktur which produced with Bergen’s Den Sidste Skilling. Munich’s Global Screen has sold the pic worldwide “except for North America, the U.K./Ireland, France and Spain, where the distributors want to see it first, but there is a strong interest,” she explained.

A film enthusiast, Knudsen began her cinema studies at university, but realized it was too academic for her; instead, she began working for film production company Nordisk Film in Bergen. “I found out production was for me, I love to keep many balls in the air at the same time, and pull the strings,” Knudsen recalled.

At the time Norway did not yet have a national film school, so she went to Germany and attended the Filmakademiein Baden-Württemberg. With German producer Tom Streuber, she set up Berlin’s Knudsen & Streuber Medienmanufaktur in 2006, and in 2011 she added a Norwegian company, Den Siste Skilling, in Bergen.

She produced German director Matthias Glasner’s drama “Mercy”  in 2012, and it was selected for the Berlinale, while last year she produced her first Norwegian production, Kjersti Steinsbø’s thriller “Revenge.” “Richard the Stork” is her biggest-budget project, at $10.8 million.

“Eight years ago I met Memari, who later wrote the script and co-directed. He told me about his story, he already knew all the details, but he never thought it would become a film. No producers wanted original material for animated productions, and in Germany family entertainment is risky business. However, we decided to give it a try.”

She learned quickly that animation is a much different beast than live action. “Financing and producing CGI animation is a long process – in a week an artist can produce 11 seconds – so it took another four years [of production]. There are still two months of work on the production, which has used animation studios in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Norway,” she said.

Knudsen produced with the “European road-movie – family entertainment, targeted at 6- to-10-year-old children” with Germany’s  Ulysses Filmproduktion, Senator Film, Walking the Dog-Belgium, Melusine Productions-Luxembourg. Wild Bunch Germany will handle German distribution, with he local premiere scheduled for April 13.

She has no plans to board another eight-year project, but Knudsen & Streuber Medienmanufaktur has recently acquired the film rights for Saudi Arabian-Canadian author Ensaf Haidar’s book “Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom:  My Husband, Our Story.”

A Saudi Arabian social activist and blogger, Badawi was in 2014 sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes; he has since received the European Union’s Sakharov Prize and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Now living in Canada with their three children, Haidar and Amnesty International continue to fight for her husband’s release.


Pictured above: Toby Genkel and Reza Memari’s “Richard the Stork”