Emma O'hare
Advisor MEDIA - Creative Europe
e.ohare [at] dutchculture.nl

Creative Europe projects: Interview with Heleen Rouw, General Director of Cinekid

Creative Europe projects: Interview with Heleen Rouw, General Director of Cinekid

With funding by Creative Europe MEDIA, Cinekid is developing a travelling MediaLab. "Our goal is to throw open the doors and windows to the world around us."
By Emma O’Hare

The publication Creative Europe 2014 - 2020 gives an overview of the Dutch participation in the Creative Europe programme during this period. It not only shows the relevant statistics but also offers background information to the projects that were funded under this initiative. One of the organisations that have been successful is Cinekid, and so we decided to interview Heleen Rouw. Heleen has been Cinekid’s general director since early 2020 and in this interview, she talks about what drives her, what her aims are and about her dreams for the future for the renowned children’s film festival.  

Children are the future

“As a child, you are essentially curious, open and receptive to the influences of the world around you. It is important to ensure that children retain this open perspective and to help them develop their creativity in their own ‘language’. At school, the focus is less on creativity and more on cognitive skills and learning. Nowadays, children are already tested in groups 1 and 2. Education tends to be all about the children’s cognitive performance and there is little room for developing creativity in a broad sense.

When I first started talking to Cinekid, two things came together: helping children develop into global citizens and the major role that film and media play in children’s lives. This is their world and they are very quick to discover and experiment with moving images.  

There are so many wonderful stories made specifically for their life world. Stories that expand their worldview and provide new perspectives. Film is a wonderful medium to bring relevant themes and topics to life and to discover and connect cultures. Besides storytelling, film is a great way to personally discover and shape stories. Cinekid sees both perspectives as essential, and this is reflected in everything we do."

Heleen Rouw, director of Cinekid
Heleen Rouw, director of Cinekid
More than just a festival

"Cinekid has been a well-known name for almost 35 years when it comes to high-quality film and media for children. However, we haven’t yet made the most of all the opportunities that are available to us. Some of these opportunities are a result of the corona pandemic and others arise because of a fast-changing world.  

We want to help children become citizens of the world: the annual festival in Amsterdam, where the celebration of film, exploring and discovering takes place, is the perfect place to start. We also want to make sure that Cinekid is accessible to all children and this is why we are also organising a national programme, Cinekid on Tour, at 34 locations throughout the Netherlands. We also have a comprehensive educational programme, where we provide context for film and new media, in a way that allows children to fully express themselves creatively.  

Next to that, we launched the Cinekid Play platform during the pandemic in 2020. Children can use this as a guide throughout the year."

We want to help children become citizens of the world
Reaching new target audiences

"One important question today is: how do you offer an alternative for the algorithms that all send children in the same direction, namely the commercial one? It all starts with awareness among parents and teachers and providing solutions. Of course, some parents already have this sensitivity but it is also important to reach those parents and children who are not yet so aware.

We do this in partnership with social initiatives and partners who are already in contact with these groups, but do not have always have the tools required. Cinekid acts as a source of inspiration by directing them to content that they may otherwise never have come across."

In Europe, together with a network of children’s festivals, we have applied for funding from Creative Europe MEDIA which will be used to develop a travelling MediaLab. 
The industry

"The Netherlands is a major international player with regard to high-quality children’s film and Cinekid plays an important role in promoting this industry.  

Training programmes, co-production markets as well as meetings are the main focus in our professional's programme. We help makers to fund their productions whether they are traditional or immersive. Children increasingly move between the physical and digital world and this is why research increasingly focuses on these new forms and how to support makers with this."


"You cannot become a world citizen if you only offer Dutch content. Our goal instead is to throw open the doors and windows to the world around us. Film is a great medium for this since children are very visually oriented.

Cinekid works with lots of European film festivals. We have contacts on all continents and are continually looking into ways to share expertise. In Europe, together with a network of children’s festivals, we have applied for funding from Creative Europe MEDIA which will be used to develop a travelling MediaLab. Cinekid is a pioneer in this area and we want to share our knowledge with other festivals. We develop workshops and media installations that are relevant for the entire network. Since this is developed collaboratively at the European level, it gives our festival a truly international outlook. We also learn a lot from each other’s experiences. Festivals have an important role in Europe as they support the whole film making chain and process. This is why it remains important that every festival presents a clear and transparent profile, while at the same time seeking options for collaboration.”

You cannot become a world citizen if you only offer Dutch content
Heleen Rouw's tips for future applicants
  • Cinekid would not be here if it was not for Creative Europe. Integrity and independence are incredibly important, particularly when you develop something for children. This is why Cinekid is so successful. We are well funded* and therefore take our responsibilities very seriously.  
  • Make sure that what you do is relevant and adds value, not just for yourself. There needs to be an intrinsic drive, something you think is urgent and important. Make sure you elaborate it systematically and carefully.
  • Have frank discussions with other parties about how you can help each other, rather than getting in each other’s way.  

* Cinekid is funded by various MEDIA schemes

More info about Cinekid

Are you interested in participating in the Creative Europe MEDIA programme? Please contact our advisor Emma O'Hare.

Read this article in Dutch.

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