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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 09:40 GMT
Disabled actors take centre stage
By Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website disability affairs reporter

Photo of Kroko
If looks could kill - Kroko gives the world the evil eye
A hard-hitting German film featuring real-life disabled actors and teenage tearaways will receive its debut screening in London this weekend.

Kroko, to be shown at the Festival of German Film, tells the story of a teenage girl who is sentenced to community service and ends up working with people with learning disabilities.

The debut film from director Sylke Enders shows how an apparently out-of-control delinquent can be made to express humanity and compassion after she strikes up relationships with disabled people.

"Someone told me about girl gangs and their extreme violence and I was very shocked," Enders says.

Her sister used to work with disabled people and often told funny stories about them.

"So I wanted to put these two things together," Enders adds.

Foul language

Photo of Kroko and Thomas
Thrillseekers - Kroko and Thomas enjoy the fun of the fair
In the opening scenes of Kroko - the teenage girl's "street" name - is seen striding through an urban ghetto.

Her language is foul, she steals, and metes out violence to her victims.

She is soon in trouble, having knocked down a cyclist while driving someone else's car at break-neck speed.

"I just made up the idea of her having to work with disabled people as part of her community service, but then I did some research and found it was actually true," Enders explains.

Many of the actors were complete beginners, including Franziska Juenger who plays Kroko.

The disabled characters are all played by disabled actors with stage experience but who had never worked in front of the camera.

'Full of surprises'

Enders says it never occurred to her to ask non-disabled actors to perform these roles.

"It wasn't as difficult as people think to work with them - they were full of surprises."

What Enders needed from her performers was honesty - which is exactly what she got from the disabled actors, as well as from the teenagers.

The movie was shot on a budget of just over 250,000 using small, portable cameras, one light and often set in the actors' own homes.

After being shown at a film festival last year, Kroko was bought by a distributor and went on general release in Germany early this year.


As the film progresses, Kroko finds herself increasingly drawn into the lives of the disabled people whom she initially despises.

Photo of Kroko and girl
Kroko takes some time to come to terms with learning disabilities
But back on the street with her friends she is teased about having to spend time with the "retards" and "spazzies".

It becomes clear that her new friends have more time for her than her fellow gang mates, her boyfriend who beats her up, or her mother who is more interested in her new man.

Her desire to help her new friend, Thomas, to live a little almost ends in disaster and draws from Kroko an unfamiliar expression of remorse.

"By the end, she's only made a small step forward," says Enders.

"Unfortunately, the reality is much harder than in the movie - it would be difficult for her to find a job or get a good education.

"But she might find some self-respect, which is a start."

Kroko will be shown as part of the seventh Festival of German Film on Saturday at the Soho Curzon in London.

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