I am a children’s media scholar and film philosopher working as a university lecturer at the University of Bremen. I am the co-founder of KinderundJugendmedien.de, an online portal dedicated to interdisciplinary research on literature, films, and picture books for children and young adults. My most recent publications include Skepticism Films – Knowing and Doubting the World in Contemporary Cinema and Kinder- und Jugendfilmanalyse. This website features my research projects, publications, talks, and teaching activities.
One of the most popular picture books series is Sven Nordqvist’s Pettersson & Findus – no wonder that the German film director Ali Samadi Ahadi has recently directed a children’s film based on some of Nordqvist’s stories. For the 50th supplement of the (German-language) Lexikon des Kinder- und Jugendfilms I have written a small article that investigates the film’s production history and analyzes selected aspects of the film: Even though it mainly targets elementary-school-level children, Pettersson & Findus – Kleiner Quälgeist, große Freundschaft employs a surprisingly complex cinematic aesthetics, using the arsenal of contemporary blockbuster cinema.
I’ve been researching the way in which digital games have influenced contemporary filmmaking for a while. One of the outcomes of that research is an article that has just been published in the latest – and sadly last – issue of the (German-language) Lexikon des Kinder- und Jugendfilms, a cornerstone of the German children’s film research landscape. The article, “Computer-Spiel-Ästhetik im Kinder- und Jugendfilm” outlines basic varieties of computer game aesthetics in cinema: Film adaptations of computer games, computers as set pieces in film, game worlds in film, computer game characters in film, computer game paratexts in film, interactive films as new forms of cinematic narration. Within that framework, I discuss a number of films such as Wreck-it-Ralph, Spy Kids 3D, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Star Wars: Episode 1, Tron, eXistenZ, Run Lola Run, and others. You can find the article in the 50th supplement of the Lexikon des Kinder- und Jugendfilms, edited by Horst Schäfer.
Timotheus Vermeulen and I wrote an uber review of current German television studies: cartography of a debate, for the March 2016 issue of the journal Critical Studies in Television. We give an overview of some of the most exciting contributions to current German-language TV scholarship. Check it out – the entry is available for free.
At last! Apparently, some books take their time before peeking out into the world, in a Wittgensteinian fashion. This is certainly true for my Skepticism Films. Knowing and Doubting the World in Contemporary Cinema: almost ten years after I drafted my first ideas about the way in which mainstream cinema plays around with ideas of a rather philosophical provenance, the book is finally available in print and in ebook format, published by Bloomsbury. I am very happy about that – and about the wonderful design and haptics of the book. You can find more information about the book here, the link to the publisher’s homepage with additional online material is here.
Tobias Kurwinkel and I were invited for a talk at the Oldenburg symposium “farb klang reim rhythmus” (Colour, sound, rhyme, rhythm). In our presentation “Überlegungen zur Auralität im Bilderbuch” we sketched a way of applying our concept of aurality, originally developed for the analysis of the entanglement of sound and image in children’s film, to the analysis of picturebooks. The symposium, organized by the Forschungsstelle Kinder- und Jugendliteratur (OlFoKi, Research Center for Children’s Literature) of the University of Oldenburg, took place from november 12 to 14, and it assembled many brilliant and talented picturebook scholars as well as musicians, for instance the composer Henrik Albrecht, the conductor-researcher Reinhard Gagel, and the reseacher-publisher Christian A. Bachmann Thanks to the organizers, Mareile Oetken and Lars Oberhaus, for the kind invitation! Here is a link to the flyer of the program.
I reviewed the autobiography of Michael Ballhaus, the eminent cinematographer behind many of Martin Scorsese and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films, for literaturkritik.de. The review also works as a short overview of Ballhaus’ life and work. Again, it is in German, but whoever’s up to it: Here you go.
Frozen is the major mainstream animation musical film of the decade, not only because it busted almost all box office records but also because it has become a veritable cultural phenomenon in its own right, particularly among children. There are many reasons for it, with the academic debate just beginning: At bottom line, it is simply a good film that manages to evolve Disney’s classical narrato-aesthetic formula in surprisingly intelligent ways. And it is perhaps the first major Disney film to really hone in to the needs of its mainly female audience without falling into the oh-so worn princess clichés fairy tale films such as Snow White, Cinderella or Enchanted are notorious for. (Yes, it’s the first: Kiss the Frog tanked at the box office, and Tangled is, for all its merits, still based on a classical “True Love’s First Kiss” formula.)
I have written an analysis-based article on the production history, style and cultural success of Frozen for the (German-language) Lexikon des Kinder- und Jugendfilms, a cornerstone of the German children’s film research landscape. Thankfully, I have been allowed to re-publish it for KinderundJugendmedien.de, making it accessible online for everyone who wants to know more about the movie whose songs dominated the musical repertoire of kids all over the world (and, accordingly, tortured the ears of the adults who had to suffer the endless song loops of “Let it Go” and “Do you want to build a snowman?”). You can find the article here. (It’s written in German, though.)
Comics and grapic novels are becoming a major focus of German intermedia research, and children’s media scholars are no exception. I published a small review on the academic anthology Bild ist Text ist Bild. Narration und Ästhetik in der Graphic Novel on KinderundJugendmedien.de. The volume, edited by Susanne Hochreiter and Ursula Klingenböck, collects a number of inspiring articles on various aspects in which narration and aesthetics figure in comics and graphic novels. Some scholars, such as Dietrich Grünewald or Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff, provide theoretical-historical reflections of the matter, while others attempt a more hands-on, analytic approach – some with a gender perspective. Very nice are the meta-comics of a number of comic book artists on the intricacies of thinking about comics academically. Fans of Scott McCloud’s marvelous Understanding Comics will be delighted. (The review is written in German language.)