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Imagine Kolle 37

"Imagine Kolle 37" is a short documentary/narrative hybrid film about two girls who imagine their way to Kolle 37, a real adventure playground in Berlin, Germany.

Recently called “the mother of all Berlin playgrounds” by The New York Times, Kolle 37 enables children to build and climb three-story wooden structures, make fire, and use hammers, saws and axes. Founded in 1990, Kolle 37 invites young people ages six through sixteen, without their parents, to embrace risky play in the "adventure playground" under the loose supervision of playworkers.

Although about 1,000 adventure playgrounds exist in Europe, there are only a few in the U.S. where the concept of "free play" is becoming an endangered concept. But adventure playgrounds not only encourage young people to play outdoors in all seasons, they also provide children a chance to face risk, learn skills, and build confidence.

Ultimately, "Imagine Kolle 37" poses the question—can we, as Americans, imagine Kolle 37, which in fact is a real children's playground in Berlin?

  • Michele Meek
    Director
    Red Sneakers, Bubble Gum Ice Cream
  • Elizabeth Donius
    Producer
    World's Largest
  • Michele Meek
    Producer
    Red Sneakers, Bubble Gum Ice Cream
  • Mirabelle Meek
    Key Cast
    Bubble Gum Ice Cream
  • Alice
    Key Cast
    McGill
  • Natasha Sharpe
    Animator
  • Sabrina Zanella-Foresi
    Editor
    Twisted, Touched, Photographic Memory, Shadow of the House
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student, Other
  • Genres:
    Children, Women, Hybrid, Family
  • Runtime:
    7 minutes 8 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 28, 2016
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Germany
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    HDV
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    Yes
Director Biography - Michele Meek

Michele Meek is an award-winning filmmaker, writer and educator. She has written and directed several narrative and documentary short films, including “Red Sneakers,” which won the 2nd Place Children’s Film Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and screened at numerous film festivals across the country, including the Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival, the Woods Hole Film Festival and the New Hampshire Film Festival. Since 2008, her films have screened at the Anthology Film Archives in New York, Kendall Square Cinema in Boston, and the Somerville Theater near Boston.

Michele founded NewEnglandFilm.com, which is now a leading online resource, magazine and film festival for the film community in New England. She also led the transition of the 30-year-old film magazine, The Independent, to the nonprofit Independent Media Publications where she remains a board member.

Michele received the 2005 Baldwin Award for Alumni Recognition in Film & Video by Boston College and the 2000 Image Award for Vision and Excellence by Women in Film & Video New England. Her successes have been lauded in Inc. Magazine, National Public Radio, and The Boston Globe, and Rhode Island Monthly. She co-edited the book “The Independent's Guide to Film Distribution” in 2014, and she has written on film in both scholarly journals and industry publications including MovieMaker Magazine and Indiewire. She is also currently an assistant professor at Bridgewater State University.

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Director Statement

I once heard a director speak who said that when audience members approached him after screenings and asked, “what happened?” he knew he had succeeded. I am not interested in documentaries with pat answers or experts who tell us how to think. For that reason, I chose a much more experimental format for this film. I wanted to evoke a disorientation of space and time when we first witness the girls playing in this unusual space, and I wanted to bring in animation to show how childhood play emerges through fantasy.

The signs posted along the outside wall of the adventure playground Kolle 37 in Berlin, Germany state simply that it is a place for ages six to sixteen, and there are no cameras or pets allowed. From the outside, you might hear hammering and children playing or see a few intriguing wooden structures sticking up from behind the wall. When I first passed it, I could not even imagine what lay behind the wall—a summer camp for children? But—with hammers?

In fact, behind that wall exists the “adventure” or “junk” playground Kolle 37 that New York Times writer Anna Winger calls “the mother of all Berlin playgrounds.” It is one of approximately a thousand such playgrounds throughout Europe, along with a small handful in the United States. The initial inspiration for Kolle 37 began with an ad hoc program on the streets of East Berlin during the GDR. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Kolle 37 officially formed in 1990 as a play space for children loosely supervised by playworkers.

Decades later, parents and adults are still not permitted in Kolle 37, except for “family day” on Saturdays. At Kolle 37, children arrive independently after school to build and climb three-story wooden structures, make fire, and use hammers, saws and axes. In many ways, Kolle 37 epitomizes a philosophy of childhood more ubiquitous in Germany. In Berlin, children often take the subway or ride their bikes to school on their own. In preschools, children as young as three-years-old play with toys like wooden hammers and pushpins. At snack, they use metal silverware and drink out of glasses.

Ultimately, my film poses the question—can we, as Americans today, imagine Kolle 37, which in fact is a real children's playground in Berlin? What are our ideas about “childhood,” “risk,” and “play”? How do these ideas shift across cultures and eras? And how might we want to change our fixed ideas?