Silver Screen Festival

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Main actors

City Government, NGO / Philanthropy, Community / Citizen Group, Research Institutes / Universities

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2010

Active aging – going to the movies

Staff at the public health agency of the City of Frankfurt and the University of Heidelberg have collaborated to launch the Silver Screen Festival. The Festival promotes the idea of healthy ageing and improving quality of life for older people. The main activity is based around showing films to intergenerational audiences in community groups, schools and cinemas. The films screened portray positive images of older people, and interaction through a mixture of activities, e.g. having a Silver Screen Lounge with tea and coffee, film discussions with directors, actors, film experts or other interested local partners working in the field of health promotion for older people. This project creates new opportunities for social exchange between older and younger people and implements cultural activities that invite all generations to meet, get to know, and learn from each other.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Eurocities Awards

This project was shortlisted for the 'Eurocities Awards' in 2018 in the following category: Participation.

Frankfurt, Germany

Size and population development
The city of Frankfurt has a total population of 731, 000, while its metropolitan area has a population of 2.3 million. The city has a population density of approximately 3,000 people per square kilometre. (world population review 2018)

Population composition
The city of Frankfurt is culturally and ethnically diverse with 51.2% of population having an immigrant background. It has immigrant populations from over 200 countries, including large communities from Turkey, Italy, Croatia, Poland, Serbia, Russia, Afghanistan, China, the United States of American, Lebanon, Pakistan and India. In 2015, 22.7% of the population identified as Roman Catholic, 19.4% as Protestants, 12.6% as Muslims and 1% as Jewish and the remainder is no/other/unknown religion.

Main functions
Frankfurt (officially Frankfurt am Main) is the largest city of the German federal state of Hesse and the fifth largest city in Germany. Frankfurt is located on both sides of the Main River south-east of the Tanus mountain range. The southern part of the city contains the Frankfurt City Forest, Germany's largest city forest. The city area is 248.31 km2 and extends over 23.4 km east to west and 23.3 km north to south.

Main industries / business
Frankfurt is a global hub for commerce, culture, education, tourism and transportation and is the location of many global and European corporate headquarters. Frankfurt Airport is one of the world's busiest. Frankfurt is the major financial center of Europe, with the headquarters of the European Central Bank, Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt Stock exchange, several large fintech and cloud technology companies and many others. Automotive, technology and research, services, consulting, media and creative industries make up the economic base. Frankfurt's DE-CIX is the world's largest internet exchange point. Frankfurt is home to influential educational institutions, including the Goethe University and the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

Sources for city budget
The City of Frankfurt draws its budget for public expenditure largely from taxes, fees, fines and operating revenues.

Political structure
The Mayor of Frankfurt-am-Main is the highest-ranking member of city government. Since 1995, the position has been directly elected. Prior to this, the mayor was elected by the city council. The Mayor of Frankfurt is elected by the two-round system: if no candidate receives over 50% in the first round, a run-off is held between the top two candidates. The election is open to German and EU citizens over 18 years old who have lived in the city for at least three years. The mayor's term is 6 years – elections are brought forward if the mayor resigns or is otherwise removed from office. The mayor leads the city cabinet (Magistrat), and acts as the cabinet's spokesperson. The mayor is also responsible for the policies of local government departments and oversees the city's administration.

Administrative structure
The city is divided into 46 city districts (Stadtteile), which are in turn divided into 121 city boroughs (Stadtbezirke) and 448 electoral districts (Wahlbezirke). The 46 city districts combine into 16 area districts (Ortsbezirke) which each have a district committee and chairperson.

In 2010 Matthias Roos, a psychologist from Frankfurt’s public health department, and Dr Michael Doh, a University of Heidelberg gerontologist, were discussing health and wellbeing of the elderly. During their discussions, their shared love of cinema came up. As a popular feature of elderly people’s culture and heritage, could the cinema play a part in enhancing their lives now? The duo decided it could: by activating fond memories of the cinema from their youth and providing examples of dealing with the challenges, choices and opportunities of ageing. They also discussed cinema as a platform for bringing older and younger generations together and strengthen community bonds.

They developed their idea for the ‘Silver Screen Festival’ and took their proposal to Frankfurt’s public health authority. The festival found favour with both the authority and key politicians.

Project Objectives:

  • To create new opportunities for an exchange between old and young.
  • To further cinema visits and social exchange for the 50+ target group.
  • make more screenings free of charge in support social inclusion and accessibility.
  • To establish an annual event in European partner cities.
  • To be part of a European network and to look at pro ageing with a European perspective.

Promoting healthier and happier ageing, and solidarity and support among communities is increasingly seen as the cornerstones of improved quality of life.

The Silver Screen Festival creates new opportunities for social exchange between old and young and implements cultural activities that invite all generations to participate. It is important to show that ageing does not have to be seen merely as being connected to limitations and restrictions, but can also involve new outlooks, curiosity, and opportunities.

People over 50 and youngsters are invited to their local cinema for a welcome coffee and conversation followed by screenings of films selected for their portrayal of inspiring new images of active and healthy ageing. After this, question and answer sessions give the audience a chance to hear from special guests ranging from directors and actors to film experts and local health promotion specialists. Tickets cost €6, less than usual cinema prices, with the first and final festival screenings being free.

The Silver Screen Festival archive focuses on films and documentaries with older people at the heart of the plot. Its 80 films range in subject matter from coping with illness to falling in love in later life, discovering new horizons by travelling and learning and becoming more involved in society, politics and local issues. Above all, the films, sourced, are chosen for their ability to inspire, touch and prompt new outlooks and the sharing of experiences.

The festival also holds a special annual screening of winning entries from the German Generations film awards, which sponsors short films made by teams of old and young people.

The Silver Screen Festival was founded by the public health authority of Frankfurt and the University of Heidelberg, which together contributed €10,000.

The association for demographic change of the Rhine-Neckar region contributed funds of €50,000 and promoted the festival to its 200-strong membership of towns and villages and produced customisable templates for leaflets and posters that can be downloaded from the festival website.

Winning the ‘German senior citizens’ award’ from the Robert Bosch foundation in 2013 gave the festival another valuable boost to both its funding and profile.

Citizens in over 70 cities and villages across Germany are being encouraged to leave their homes and socialise at festival screenings, helping the fight against social exclusion and loneliness. The number of venues has dramatically increased following the decision to hold screenings not only in cinemas, which can be expensive, but also in village halls, schools and churches. This greater accessibility is enabled by local organisers from neighbourhood groups, carers’ organisations, charities and social enterprises. Spin-off events have emerged too. These include storytelling afternoons where someone whose own experience mirrors the topic of a screened film shares their life story

Ageing is routinely portrayed as a difficult, dreary time of life, beset by restrictions and struggles - if it is acknowledged at all. With Germany’s population of over-60s set to grow significantly in the coming decades, finding new ways to overturn this negative image and reduce the country’s healthcare burden is vital. A forecast dramatic increase in the number of people with dementia in the same timeframe adds another layer of complexity to the problem.

The Silver Screen Festival concept has spread following a 2015 workshop in Frankfurt, CINAGE, European Cinema for Active Ageing, to which senior citizens and decision makers from all over Europe were invited. It has been adopted in the Netherlands and Portugal and is due to make its debut in the United Kingdom soon.

Cities in action: Frankfurt's silver screen festival, active ageing going to the movies, EUROCITIES, November 2018:

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