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In 2001, when Dieter Kosslick took over the Berlinale, it already had a thriving children’s section called the Kinderfilmfest. Recognizing a good thing when he saw it, Kosslick helped grow the sidebar by introducing the 14-plus program and shepherding it into what is now known as Generation.

“We had problems with big companies that didn’t want to give us films,” he says, “because they thought: ‘We don’t want these to be children’s films.’” Instead, “they wanted them to be family entertainment, which [is what] they were.”

Kosslick is being honored with Variety‘s Achievement in International Film Award at Berlin.

But it was also important to show that the Berlinale took kids seriously. Because kids live in a world, “especially in Berlin,” he points out, “where you have all the problems, from crime to immigration.”

So in 2004, Kosslick and the section’s curator, Maryanne Redpath, added “14plus” as part of the existing program. In 2007 they changed the section’s name to Generation. Today Generation Kplus is the former Kinderfilmfest, while Generation 14plus is the new competitive strand.

Immediately the audience doubled for this section and since then has grown “nearly 400%,” Kosslick boasts, from 15,000 to 77,000 tickets sold last year.

Another important aspect of Generation is that the market started paying attention, notes Redpath. As did the trades and other press, “and everyone else,” because “what we are doing is actually unique.”

Over the years Generation has screened films “that are really in-your-face,” she says, and also “political films, cultural films, films that are full of revolutionary spirit and want to change the world, and others that are much more subtle.”

In this latter category is Catalan director Carla Simon’s understated autobiographical debut “Summer 1993,” which Redpath cites as a major discovery for Generation. After it world-premiered in Kplus in 2017, this delicate pic about a 6-year-old girl sent to live with her aunt and uncle after both of her parents died from AIDS won that year’s Berlinale prize for best first feature and went on to make an international splash.

This year’s Generation 14plus opener is the similarly themed “We Are Little Zombies” by Japan’s Makoto Nagahisa, about four youngsters who all lose their parents around the same time. Realizing that they are devoid of emotion, they put together a band to try to recover their ability to feel.

Redpath proudly points out that in Generation 2019, more than half the films will be from women directors. She credits Kosslick with giving her “lots of freedom” and also ensuring that the selection has stayed “totally bound-in” with the rest of the Berlinale.