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James (Jon) Castle - 7 December 1950 to 12 January 2018

Over four decades Captain Jon Castle navigated Greenpeace ships by the twin stars of ‘right and wrong’, defending the environment and promoting peace. Greenpeace chronicler, Rex Weyler, recounts a few of the stories that made up an extraordinary life.

Captain Jon Castle onboard the MV Sirius, 1 May 1996

James (Jon) Castle first opened his eyes virtually at sea. He was born 7 December 1950 in Cobo Bay on the Channel Island of Guernsey, UK. He grew up in a house known locally as Casa del Mare, the closest house on the island to the sea, the second son of Robert Breedlove Castle and Mary Constance Castle. 

Young Jon Castle loved the sea and boats. He worked on De Ile de Serk, a cargo boat that supplied nearby Sark island, and he studied at the University of Southampton to become an officer in the Merchant Navy. 

Jon became a beloved skipper of Greenpeace ships. He sailed on many campaigns and famously skippered two ships during Greenpeace’s action against Shell’s North Sea oil platform, Brent Spar. During his activist career, Jon spelt his name as "Castel" to avoid unwanted attention on his family.

Right and wrong

Jon had two personal obsessions: he loved books and world knowledge and was extremely well-read.  He also loved sacred sites and spent personal holidays walking to stone circles, standing stones, and holy wells.  

As a young man, Jon became acquainted with the Quaker tradition, drawn by their dedication to peace, civil rights, and direct social action. In 1977, when Greenpeace purchased their first ship - the Aberdeen trawler renamed, the Rainbow Warrior - Jon signed on as first mate, working with skipper Peter Bouquet and activists Susi Newborn, Denise Bell and Pete Wilkinson.

In 1978, Wilkinson and Castle learned of the British government dumping radioactive waste at sea in the deep ocean trench off the coast of Spain in the Sea of Biscay. In July, the Rainbow Warrior followed the British ship, Gem, south from the English coast, carrying a load of toxic, radioactive waste barrels. The now-famous confrontation during which the Gem crew dropped barrels onto a Greenpeace inflatable boat, ultimately changed maritime law and initiated a ban on toxic dumping at sea.

After being arrested by Spanish authorities, Castle and Bouquet staged a dramatic escape from La Coru?a harbour at night, without running lights, and returned the Greenpeace ship to action. Crew member Simone Hollander recalls, as the ship entered Dublin harbour in 1978, Jon cheerfully insisting that the entire crew help clean the ship's bilges before going ashore, an action that not only built camaraderie among the crew, but showed a mariner's respect for the ship itself. In 1979, they brought the ship to Amsterdam and participated in the first Greenpeace International meeting.

In 1980 Castle and the Rainbow Warrior crew confronted Norwegian and Spanish whaling ships, were again arrested by Spanish authorities, and brought into custody in the El Ferrol naval base.

The Rainbow Warrior remained in custody for five months, as the Spanish government demanded 10 million pesetas to compensate the whaling company. On the night of November 8, 1980, the Rainbow Warrior, with Castle at the helm, quietly escaped the naval base, through the North Atlantic, and into port in Jersey.

In 1995, Castle skippered the MV Greenpeace during the campaign against French nuclear testing in the Pacific and led a flotilla into New Zealand to replace the original Rainbow Warrior that French agents bombed in Auckland in 1985.

Over the years, Castle became legendary for his maritime skills, courage, compassion, commitment, and for his incorruptible integrity. "Environmentalism: That does not mean a lot to me," he once said, "I am here because of what is right and wrong. Those words are good enough for me."

Brent Spar   Action at Brent Spar Oil Rig in the North Sea, 16 June 1995

One of the most successful Greenpeace campaigns of all time began in the summer of 1995 when Shell Oil announced a plan to dump a floating oil storage tank, containing toxic petroleum residue, into the North Atlantic. Castle signed on as skipper of the Greenpeace vessel Moby Dick, out of Lerwick, Scotland. A month later, on 30 April 1995, Castle and other activists occupied the Brent Spar and called for a boycott of Shell service stations.

When Shell security and British police sprayed the protesters with water cannons, images flooded across world media, demonstrations broke out across Europe, and on May 15, at the G7 summit, German chancellor Helmut Kohl publicly protested to British Prime Minister John Major. In June, 11 nations, at the Oslo and Paris Commission meetings, called for a moratorium on sea disposal of offshore installations.

After three weeks, British police managed to evict Castle and the other occupiers and held them briefly in an Aberdeen jail. When Shell and the British government defied public sentiment and began towing the Spar to the disposal site, consumers boycotted Shell stations across Europe. Once released, Castle took charge of the chartered Greenpeace vessel Altair and continued to pursue the Brent Spar towards the dumping ground. Castle called on the master of another Greenpeace ship, fitted with a helideck, to alter course and rendezvous with him. Using a helicopter, protesters re-occupied the Spar and cut the wires to the detonators of scuppering charges.

One of the occupiers, young recruit Eric Heijselaar, recalls: "One of the first people I met as I climbed on board was a red-haired giant of a man grinning broadly at us. My first thought was that he was a deckhand, or maybe the bosun. So I asked if he knew whether a cabin had been assigned to me yet. He gave me a lovely warm smile, and reassured me that, yes, a cabin had been arranged. At dinner I found out that he was Jon Castle, not a deckhand, not the bosun, but the captain. And what a captain!"

With activists occupying the Spar once again, Castle and the crew kept up their pursuit when suddenly the Spar altered course, heading towards Norway. Shell had given up. The company announced that Brent Spar would be cleaned out and used as a foundation for a new ferry terminal. Three years later, in 1998, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) passed a ban on dumping oil installations into the North Sea.

"There was no question among the crew who had made this possible, who had caused this to happen," Heijselaar recalls. "It was Jon Castle. His quiet enthusiasm and the trust he put into people made this crew one of the best I ever saw. He always knew exactly what he wanted out of a campaign, how to gain momentum, and he always found the right words to explain his philosophies. He was that rare combination, both a mechanic and a mystic. And above all he was a very loving, kind human being."


After the Brent Spar campaign, Castle returned to the South Pacific on the Rainbow Warrior II, to obstruct a proposed French nuclear test in the Moruroa atoll. Expecting the French to occupy their ship, Castle and engineer, Luis Manuel Pinto da Costa, rigged the steering mechanism to be controlled from the crow's-nest. When French commandos boarded the ship, Castle stationed himself in the crow's-nest, cut away the access ladder and greased the mast so that the raiders would have difficulty arresting him.

Eventually, the commandos cut a hole into the engine-room and severed cables controlling the engine, radio, and steering mechanism, making Castle's remote control system worthless. They towed the Rainbow Warrior II to the island of Hao, as three other protest vessels arrived. 

Three thousand demonstrators gathered in the French port of Papeete, demanding that France abandon the tests. Oscar Temaru - leader of Tavini Huiraatira, an anti-nuclear, pro-independence party - who had been aboard the Rainbow Warrior II when it was raided, welcomed anti-testing supporters from Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Philippines, and American Samoa. Eventually, France ended their tests, and atmospheric nuclear testing in the world's oceans stopped once and for all.

“Moral courage”

Through these extraordinary missions, Jon Castle advocated "self-reflection" not only for individual activists, but for the organisation that he loved. Activists, Castle maintained, required "moral courage." He cautioned, "Don't seek approval. Someone has to be way out in front... illuminating territory in advance of the main body of thought."

He opposed "corporatism" in activist organisations and urged Greenpeace to avoid becoming "over-centralised or compartmentalised."  He felt that activist decisions should emerge from the actions themselves, not in an office. We can't fight industrialism with "money, numbers, and high-tech alone," he once wrote in a personal manifesto. Organisations have to avoid traps of "self-perpetuation" and focus on the job "upsetting powerful forces, taking on multinationals and the military-industrial complex."

He recalled that Greenpeace had become popular "because a gut message came through to the thirsty hearts of poor suffering people ... feeling the destruction around them."  Activists, Castle felt, required "freedom of expression, spontaneity [and] an integrated lifestyle."  An activist organisation should foster a "feeling of community" and exhibit "moral courage." Castle felt that social change activists had to "question the materialistic, consumerist lifestyle that drives energy overuse, the increasingly inequitable world economic tyranny that creates poverty and drives environmental degradation," and must maintain "honour, courage and the creative edge."

Well loved hero

Susi Newborn, who was there to welcome Jon aboard the Rainbow Warrior way back in 1977, and who gave the ship its name, wrote about her friend with whom she felt "welded at the heart: He was a Buddhist and a vegetarian and had an earring in his ear. He liked poetry and classical music and could be very dark, but also very funny. Once, I cut his hair as he downed a bottle or two of rum reciting The Second Coming by Yeats."

Newborn recalls Castle insisting that women steer the ships in and out of port because, "they got it right, were naturals." She recalls a night at sea, Castle "lashed to the wheel facing one of the biggest storms of last century head on. I was flung about my cabin like a rag doll until I passed out. We never talked about the storm, as if too scared to summon up the behemoth we had encountered. A small handwritten note pinned somewhere in the mess, the sole acknowledgment of a skipper to his six-person crew: ‘Thank You.’” Others remember Castle as the Greenpeace captain that could regularly be found in the galley doing kitchen duty.

In 2008, with the small yacht Musichana, Castle and Pete Bouquet staged a two-man invasion of Diego Garcia island to protest the American bomber base there and the UK's refusal to allow evicted Chagos Islanders to return to their homes. They anchored in the lagoon and radioed the British Indian Ocean Territories officials on the island to tell them they and the US Air Force were acting in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions. When arrested, Castle politely lectured his captors on their immoral and illegal conduct.

In one of his final actions, as he battled with his failing health, Castle helped friends in Scotland operate a soup kitchen, quietly prepping food and washing up behind the scenes.  

Upon hearing of his passing, Greenpeace ships around the world - the Arctic Sunrise, the Esperanza, and the Rainbow Warrior - flew their flags at half mast.

Jon is fondly remembered by his brother David, ex-wife Caroline, their son, Morgan Castle, born in 1982, and their daughter, Eowyn Castle, born in 1984. Morgan has a daughter of eight months Flora, and and Eowyn has a daughter, Rose, who is 2.   

The German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB), one of Germany’s most prestigious film schools, has sacked its British director, Ben Gibson, following an incident during the Berlin Film Festival in which he exposed his backside to a female student during a heated argument. The academy’s board of trustees on Friday voted to dismiss Gibson, […] | 3/10/20

Eugene Hernandez was just announced as the new director of the New York Film Festival Wednesday morning, but he’ll hit the ground running this week as he heads to Germany for the Berlinale Film Festival. And he’s already got his eye on a few titles he’d like see playing at Lincoln Center later this fall.

Hernandez’s goal in taking over for Kent Jones, who left after 2019’s NYFF to become a full time filmmaker, is to really keep in mind audience and how the festival strives to be inviting year round. While the festival’s program is smaller than what you might see at TIFF or Sundance, its strength is that audiences continue to return to Film at Lincoln Center after the festival has ended.

“This festival is such an important celebration of the work that we do year round. There are many different types of film organizations in this country and this world. Some are very specifically built around an individual festival, and others have a year round impact with an audience that comes back the minute the festival ends. They’re coming back the next week,” Hernandez told TheWrap. “Our programming is international, and we need to be as open to the international audiences that live in this city and inviting them, so that’s why we’ll continue to have more opportunities and ways to engage an audience.”

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Hernandez is taking on the role of director of the festival in addition to his existing duties as part of Film at Lincoln Center, where he’s been the deputy director since 2016. He’ll pile on the responsibilities of the festival in addition to leading FLC’s Artist, Industry, and Education initiatives and serving as publisher of Film Comment.

He’s got a lot on his plate. But Hernandez says as he heads off to Berlin that this transition and added responsibility feels a lot more natural than when he moved from founding Indiewire to his work with Film at Lincoln Center.

“I’ll probably have to juggle my calendar a little more carefully this week to make sure I get to watch movies at the same that I’m getting the opportunity to sit down and have meetings with people. But it’s a natural extension of the work,” he said. “The bigger change was 10 years ago, was being a journalist and running an editorial publication to working at a year round cultural institution. That might’ve been a bigger disruption or change in my life.”

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Hernandez will report to Lesli Klainberg, FLC’s executive director, who told TheWrap that hiring in-house made sense, not just in terms of Hernandez’s reputation both inside and out of the organization, but also the holistic mindset of tying in NYFF with the larger goals of the film center.

“We knew we had a wonderful person in terms of the public face of the organization and the festival and a lot of good will toward Eugene. People like him. That’s a unique person in the industry right there, a person whose liked by most people,” Klainberg said. “It just felt like a very natural and obvious fit.”

The departure of Jones specifically made Klainberg rethink what the process should be for putting together a festival and how it can carve out a place in the culture “writ large.”

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“We were looking at where we are in the film culture and where we are in the culture writ large, really considering what we need,” Klainberg said. “It was very clear that we needed to move in a different direction and have a person whose responsibility included all those different things that we considered as part of the building blocks of the festival. Once we did that, it was very clear that Eugene was the right person for that job.”

Hernandez’s other challenge coming into this year is continuing to make the festival relevant in an era when the awards calendar is getting increasingly cluttered. That doesn’t even mention the fact that the festival kicks off right around the time the opera, philharmonic and ballet all decide to launch their seasons.

“There’s so much cultural renewal that happens in New York in the fall,” Hernandez says. “Our festival really continues to look at the art of cinema and the art of film from a bunch of different perspectives, and that’s the foundation we’re working to build on.”

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He adds that he’ll still rely in part on his predecessor Jones as a resource, whether in working as a consultant or moderating panels. But Hernandez wants to make a bigger priority of spreading the conversations that are hosted at the festival more widely.

“Every conversation that we have at our festival, the longer Q&As, the conversations we have on our stages, we’re recording and capturing those so we can share them on our YouTube channel, we can share them on our growing podcast,” he said. “I think a lot about audience, because I think of how I got invited to be a part of this festival experience as an audience member, so I think a lot about what it means to just be open to an audience and signal that we’re a festival that audiences can engage with in a bunch of different ways.”

The 58th edition of the NYFF runs Sept. 25-Oct. 11, 2020.

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(Spoiler alert: Stop reading right now if you do not want to know who won Season 17 of “The Voice.” But also, why did you click on this story?)

NBC’s “The Voice” crowned a Season 17 winner on Tuesday — congrats to Jake Hoot of Team Kelly!

Ricky Duran was runner up. Katie Kaden finished in third, while Rose Short finished in fourth.

For the first time in seven seasons, all four coaches had a shot at this one.

Watch Jake’s winning moment above and coach Kelly Clarkson’s reaction.

Below are bios for each of the Final Four singers.

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Jake Hoot (Team Kelly)
Age: 30
Hometown: Corpus Christi, Texas / Dominican Republic
Resident: Cookeville, Tenn.

Jake was born in Texas, but his parents are missionaries and relocated the family to the Dominican Republic when he was 9. While living there he began singing and playing guitar while also becoming fluent in Spanish. At 20, he moved to Tennessee where he began gigging and attended Tennessee Tech University as a walk-on football player. Jake later got married and now has a 4-year-old daughter. After getting divorced, Jake is a newly single dad and hopes to start anew by making his daughter proud on “The Voice.”

Katie Kadan (Team Legend)
Age: 38
Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
Resident: Chicago, Ill.

Katie was surrounded by music from a young age and joined Chicago’s All God’s Children’s Choir when she was 10. She spent the next decade singing in church and choirs, but never had the confidence to perform on her own. Katie taught music on the side, but always felt something was missing. At 30, she did an open mic and was floored by the positive response, so she started booking gigs and slowly began to accept herself. For the past seven years, Katie has been more spirited than ever while singing professionally in Chicago’s blues community and hopes to spread her message of body positivity.

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Rose Short (Team Gwen)
Age: 34
Hometown: Killeen, Texas
Resident: Killeen, Texas

Rose started singing when she was 5 years old in Germany, where her father was stationed with the military. Growing up, she often performed at community events on the base. Her family eventually moved to Texas where she became involved in choir and theater. She always loved music, but after school she needed a job that paid the bills so she took a position at a male maximum-security prison. Rose worked as a corrections officer for eight years, but ultimately quit to focus on music again. Rose is currently a full-time musician, writing and performing her own music.

Ricky Duran (Team Blake)
Age: 29
Hometown: Worcester, Mass.
Resident: Austin, Texas

Ricky inherited his love of music from his father, who was a musician with another full-time job to support the family. At 6 years old, Ricky’s father taught him guitar and they played in a band together throughout Ricky’s high school years. Ricky went on to attend Berklee College of Music and form his own band while his father acted as their manager. Shortly after graduation, Ricky’s father tragically took his own life, but encouraged him to keep doing what he loved. Earlier this year, Ricky lost his mother to breast cancer. Ricky has dedicated his life to music to carry on his father’s legacy and comes to “The Voice” to make his parents proud.

More to come…

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The 2019 UN IGF is right now being held in Berlin and entering the last day. There has been a wide range of exciting discussions. It is a huge step forward that this year's IGF has been able to bring a plethora of topics together under a framework of thinking after the efforts done by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres' High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation (The Age of Digital Interdependence) and by German scholars' engagement with all the stakeholders (Towards a Global Framework for Cyber Peace and Digital Cooperation: An Agenda for the 2020s).

A central underlying topic of this year's IGF is about the conceptions about digital sovereignty. It is totally predictable that Chancellor Merkel would use Berlin Wall metaphor to enshrine the value of free speech. It is rare, however, to hear that she emphasizes digital sovereignty, which is said to be neither censorship nor protectionism, but a way through which individuals are capable of determining their own digital development.

Sovereignty in cyberspace has long been labeled by Western mainstream literature as a "monopoly" by China. But this is no longer the case, perhaps has never been. This column piece wants to share a different narrative: Washington DC is, in reality, the strongest supporter of the notion of cyber sovereignty in the military domain; China pays more attention to the content category; EU is more concerned about big tech giants.

Or, an easier way to put it might be this. All nations and every individual like nice words and they all support freedom and free flow. The important thing is how they make exceptions. China has social stability exceptions. U.S. has national security exceptions. Germany has privacy exceptions. All the three nations, however, attach great importance to political stability, who is the core for a society to function.

I shared my ideas in the IGF 2019 Digital Sovereignty & Internet Fragmentation session. ( Below is a rewriting of what I said about how national sovereignty has made its extensions into cyberspace — with different degrees, in different categories, by different stakeholders — which shapes the complexities and contradictions in the articulation of digital sovereignty by different nations and stakeholders. There are five contexts.

Category No. 1 Military or legitimacy of cyberspace as military domain and the rules for it if it is legitimate. We see in this category the most hardcore extension of traditional national sovereignty into cyberspace by some nation-states. You will be given a Nobel Peace prize if you can find a multi-stakeholder solution to this unilateral or multilateral issue. If we can reduce the tensions in this category, all the rest of the challenges will become irrelevant and evaporate. China remains reluctant to admit that cyberspace has become a military zone but still eagerly promotes national sovereignty for defensive purpose against the possibility that the same two words — national sovereignty — might be used for offensive purposes by some other countries. That is a rather paradoxical situation.

Category No. 2 Crime or cybercrime governance. This is also a sovereignty story, but there are some transnational initiatives and mechanisms installed. EU has the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. Russia has submitted a UN Convention on the Fight against Information Crimes. U.S. and UK have signed the first bilateral data-sharing agreement under CLOUD. China follows a practical approach and is busy taking back suspects committing telecommunication fraud from abroad. Cybercrime is now No.1 type of crime in China, which is also good news because the crimes in the streets have significantly reduced.

Category No. 3 Trade or digital economy and digital trade rules. The most recent update is Osaka Track. It is another challenging field that brings together a lot of elements that call for multi-ministry and multi-stakeholder coordination. This is where free flow is upheld and may lead to the removal of many practices of data localization. The word trust in the principle of "data free flow with trust" is problematic and subjective. A plain use of free flow is much clearer.

Category No. 4 Code or technical communities and management of core Internet resources. This is where institutional innovation really happens and should be more widely exported to inform other categories. China is happy about the current situation. Multi-stakeholder is firmly supported. The words have been spread and repeated by Chinese President for quite some years at the World Internet Conference WuZhen Summit. All the WuZhen gatherings have carried a theme of "Digital Commons." The values nurtured by the technical communities are highly appreciated and resonate with some universal values deeply rooted in Chinese culture. The Chinese philosopher Zhao Ting-yang captures this Chinese worldview in his books about global governance. He concluded his dialogue with his French counterpart Régis Debray that the Internet changed the world more than revolutionaries like Marx, Lenin, and Mao Zedong.

Category No. 5 Content or social media governance. China so far prefers a sovereignty approach in this category. But domestically, It is important to pay attention to the diversity of media ownerships in China. There are state media like People's Daily. There are commercial media such as Tick-Tok. There are grassroots media like half a billion users' Microblog or WeChat accounts. The rise of private media ownership is quite reassuring.

Therefore, there are different extensions and projections of national sovereignty in different cyber contexts. A U.S. military version of hardcore cyber sovereignty assumes certain enemies, bases itself basically purely on imaginations, and makes China and perhaps many other developing parts of the world feel extremely uneasy. However, the Chinese way of protecting cyber sovereignty in the content domain makes the U.S. cry foul over human rights principles.

German Chancellor Merkel and her more outspoken French counterpart President Macron share the same U.S. worries about Chinese domestic practices in the content domain, but are more urgently concerned about the big U.S. Internet platforms, and this is perhaps the direction of a European version of digital sovereignty is pointing to. All of these are further enhanced by the uncertainties and competition for huge opportunities brought by emerging technologies.

Solution: return to the insights and values of the Founding Fathers of the Internet and flexibly combine multistakeholderism and multilateralism in global digital policy-making.

Written by Peixi (Patrick) Xu, Professor, Communication University of China | 12/1/19

“System Crasher” star Helena Zengel was only nine years old when cast as wild and energetic Benni in Nora Fingscheidt’s film. And the young actress said the script, especially the heavy use of swear words, drew her to the difficult role.

“First of all, I normally can’t do those things, like say those words, so yeah, that was one reason. The other reason was I had very nice people around me,” Zengel told TheWrap at the Landmark screening of the film. “I was happy [Nora] trusted me that I can do this role and I liked the script very much. I read it every day with my mom and we talked about, okay, ‘do you think you can be you after that again?’ And we decided, yes.”

You’d think it’d be difficult for Fingscheidt to find her leading lady for a role that would be extremely daunting and exhausting for anyone, especially a nine-year-old. And she was worried that once she found her actress, her parents would never let her do it. But Zengel was the seventh girl that auditioned, and every other young actress that came after her couldn’t compare.

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“I was writing the script, [it] took me five years to write this. I was doing a lot of research and then writing, research, writing. And during those five years, I thought, I’m never gonna find a girl who can play that role,” Fingscheidt explained. “If I find the girl, probably the parents will never allow it. So I was pretty pessimistic. And I asked our producer to please start one year before shooting and they were saying, ‘Nora, that doesn’t make any sense because children change — the kid you’re going to cast now is going to change until you start shooting.’ We did a first round of casting and Helena was girl number seven. It was immediately clear. First of all, she’s extremely talented, but also she enjoyed to, as she said, behave badly… And still, after meeting her, I cast 150 more girls, because I thought, it cannot be that easy. But that became ridiculous because I compared every kid to Helena in my head because she has this great ability to play the aggression, always with a layer of vulnerability.”

But Zengel did change in one aspect: “When you really watch the movie, because we didn’t shoot it chronologically, you will notice that she sometimes has a tooth, sometimes she doesn’t, sometimes it’s half-grown, but in the end, it doesn’t matter.

“System Crasher” is Germany’s foreign-language entry at the 2019 Academy Awards and follows Benni (Zengel), who gets shuttled from one care home to another due to her outbursts of violence and rage. But all she wants is unconditional love. Albrecht Schuch, Gabriela Maria Schmeide and Lisa Hagmeister also star.

“Since I started filmmaking, I always wanted to make a film about a wild, little girl. Because I mean… when I was a kid — today we would probably put the diagnosis ADHD — I was hyperactive, and I remember how it feels when you get on the nerves of adults all the time. But I never had the story for it. I tried to write some scripts but they felt meaningless. So I put it aside, and I didn’t think about it. And then some years later, I did a documentary about a shelter home for homeless women in Stuttgart. And someday, and it was a very sad place, a very depressing state institution for homeless people, like 70 women of all ages and one day, a 14 year old girl moved in this institution. I was shocked. I thought, what is a teenager doing in this kind of place? And the social worker said, ‘Oh, it’s the system crashers, we can always take them in on their 14th birthday, because no institution in the whole country dares to take them in anymore.’ And I thought, there it is!’ Like it hit me from behind. And I thought I now I had the story and the title all at once, because I have never heard that term before.”

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The character of Benni required a lot of rage and screaming, but Zengel, who is now 11, didn’t feel like there was one scene that was especially challenging, because to her, it was “instinct.” She did tell the audience, however, that the crew had to take a two-week break once because she got sick from the weather conditions they filmed in. Fingscheidt added that Zengel lost her voice during the scene in which Benni is locked in a closet, because the shot of that particular scene was extremely logistical.

“What was also hard was that the other kids didn’t really understand that you were an actress, like in the beginning when you have 20 kids bullying Benny, when the cameras stopped rolling they would continue to bully her,” Fingscheidt explained. “That’s when you got really mad. Those kids were not professional actors, most of the kids in those scenes are kids that we found in schools. So for them, it was really hard to understand the difference.”

Fingscheidt and Zengel began to prepare for the film six months before shooting began: “Sometimes we would just go shopping in thrift stores, selecting clothes for her and then make lists, how Benni would react and how Helena would react to really emphasize the difference between the two — I never wanted her to confuse between those two personalities.”

And Zengel’s acting chops rubbed off on her costars.

“The other actors learned from her. She’s playing the most intense scene kind of, you know, screaming or being tied up, and then it’s like, ‘five minutes break!’ And she’s like, running down the hallway. Albrecht, who plays Micha, is a method actor who wants to stay in character at all times, but after a few weeks he started to relax during the breaks, and after the shooting, I met him for dinner, and he said, ‘you know what I learned from that shooting? I don’t need to stay in character during the break.'”

A small German indie has now led to Zengel just having wrapped Paul Greengrass’ “News of the World,” alongside Tom Hanks, and Fingscheidt is now making a Netflix movie with Sandra Bullock.

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Eric Pleskow, a long-time Hollywood executive who served as the head of Orion Pictures and United Artists and oversaw the production of 14 different Oscar winners for Best Pictures, has died. He was 95.

Pleskow’s death was announced Tuesday by the Vienna Film Festival; the Austrian-born executive and film producer had served as the festival’s president since 1998.

“His death is a great loss for all of us. Eric had a fulfilled and long life and we appreciated him as a longtime friend and companion of our festival. As president and patron of the Viennale, he has always carried us with his humor and foresight,” the Viennale said in a statement. He will be missed deeply. We express our sincere condolences and heartfelt sympathy to his family.

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As president of United Artists between 1973 to 1978 Pleskow — the first European to lead the company since co-founder Charlie Chaplin — oversaw a three-year span in which the films “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Rocky” and “Annie Hall” all won Best Picture at the Oscars.

Pleskow then formed Orion Pictures following the takeover of United Artists by Transamerica, leading the company until 1992 and developing other classics such as “Amadeus,” “Dances With Wolves” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Born in Vienna in April 1924, Pleskow’s family emigrated to the United States after the Nazi Germany takeover of Austria. He was drafted by the U.S. army in 1943 and after the war served as a translator for interrogations during the denazification of Germany and Austria. Having received a brief education in film editing, he became a film officer for the U.S. war department and was assigned the task of rebuilding Munich’s Bavaria Film Studios. Shortly thereafter he joined United Artists as a European sales manager and would work his way up to president.

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In 2007, he was made an honorary citizen Vienna and had a cinema hall in the Metro Kinokulturhaus named after him.

“Turning 95 doesn’t leave me cold! That sounds really old. In any case much older than I feel,” Pleskow said earlier this year at a ceremony commemorating his birthday.

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Three weeks from now, a bunch of these people will be in the thick of the 2019 Oscar race: Joaquin Phoenix, Meryl Streep, Jamie Foxx, Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy, Renée Zellweger, Cynthia Erivo, Adam Driver, Matt Damon, Kristen Stewart, Steven Soderbergh, Noah Baumbach and Taika Waititi.

And at least a few of them will probably have been quietly ushered out of the Oscar race.

As always, the fall film festivals will bring the first big moment of truth for dozens of awards contenders and wannabes, this year including “Joker,” “The Laundromat,” “Just Mercy,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “Dolemite Is My Name,” “Judy,” “Harriet,” “Marriage Story,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “Seberg,” “Jojo Rabbit” and many more.

The festivals in Venice, Telluride and Toronto annually turn into a launching pad for some awards movies and a junkyard for others. Last year, for instance, “Roma,” “A Star Is Born,” “The Favourite” and the sleeper “Green Book” came out of the early festivals looking like the true awards contenders they were; “First Man” played well at the festivals before fading during the rest of the season; and “Widows,” “Outlaw King,” “Suspiria,” “22 July,” “The Front Runner” and “The Old Man & the Gun” never really got off the ground.

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It’s safe to say that the majority of this year’s Best Picture nominees will premiere either at the Venice International Film Festival, which begins on Wednesday and runs until Sept. 7; the Telluride Film Festival, which will screen a couple dozen carefully curated contenders over three days beginning on Friday; the Toronto International Film Festival, which will showcase hundreds of films over 11 days beginning on Sept. 5; and the New York Film Festival, which arrives in late September as the last of the major fall festivals that shape the face of awards season.

The oldest of these festivals, Venice, also comes first. At points in its history you could have added “and the classiest,” though that festival’s decision to feature only two female directors in its main competition, and to premiere new films from problematic auteurs Roman Polanski and Nate Parker, has taken away a considerable amount of its luster.

But Venice will provide the world premiere for Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” which stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple going through a divorce, and which will be the only film to be booked in Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York. (Netflix, which is releasing the film and looks to be a major awards player for the second year in a row, used the same strategy last year for “Roma.”)

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The festival will also launch Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” which has Joaquin Phoenix in the title role and will test the ability of another comic-book movie to become a true awards contender the way “Black Panther” did last year. (It looks dirtier and darker.)

Other Venice titles will include Steven Soderbergh’s Panama Papers drama “The Laundromat,” with Meryl Streep; James Gray’s sci-fi film with Brad Pitt, “Ad Astra”; Armando Iannucci’s no-doubt twisted take on Charles Dickens, “The Personal History of David Copperfield”; Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda’s French-language debut, “The Truth,” with Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche; and Benedict Andrews’ “Seberg,” starring Kristen Stewart as troubled actress Jean Seberg.

Throw in new films from Pablo Larrain (“Ema”), Olivier Assayas (“Wasp Network”), David Michod (“The King”) and Paolo Sorrentino (“The New Pope”), a handful of documentaries — including Alex Gibney’s “Citizen K” and Lauren Greenfield’s Imelda Marcos doc “The Kingmaker,” the only nonfiction film playing Venice, Telluride and Toronto — and the Lido should be jumping. And that’s before you factor in the no-doubt divisive debuts of Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy” and Parker’s politically charged “American Skin.”

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Two days after Venice begins, though, Oscar-watchers will also have to begin simultaneously keeping track of what’s happening in the mountains of Colorado. Telluride won’t announce its full lineup until the day before the festival begins, but it’s not hard to figure out that it will include the world premieres of James Mangold’s hotly-touted auto-racing drama “Ford v Ferrari”; Rupert Goold’s “Judy,” with Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in the twilight of her career; Edward Norton’s “Motherless Children,” in which the actor-director co-stars with Willem Dafoe and Alec Baldwin; Tom Harper’s “The Aeronauts,” a period piece reuniting the “Theory of Everything” team of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones; and a pair of films from indie icons Kelly Reichardt (“First Cow”) and the Safdie brothers (“Uncut Gems,” with Adam Sandler).

Telluride will likely also play host to several films from Venice, and to a handful that premiered earlier in the year in Cannes, Berlin and Sundance, including the serious awards contenders “Pain and Glory” from Pedro Almodóvar and “Parasite” from Bong Joon Ho.

Toronto, which launches a few days after Telluride ends but while Venice is still going on, has room for almost all of the big films from Venice and Telluride and Cannes, plus dozens more. By far the biggest and most expansive of the fall festivals, it also has room for a hefty group of world premieres, including “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” director Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which stars Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers and will try to break that actor’s surprising streak of 19 years without an Oscar nomination.

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Also debuting at TIFF: John Crowley’s adaptation of “The Goldfinch,” with Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman and Sarah Paulson; Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet,” starring Cynthia Erivo as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman; Destin Daniel Cretton’s “Just Mercy,” with Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx in the story of an attorney trying to free a man falsely convicted of murder; and Taika Waititi’s dark, satiric and transgressive comedy “Jojo Rabbit,” about a young boy in World War II Germany whose imaginary friend is no less than Adolf Hitler.

Other potential contenders include Cory Finley’s “Bad Education,” Craig Brewer’s “Dolemite Is My Name,” Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out,” Noah Hawley’s “Lucy in the Sky” … and, well, dozens of others that will be unveiled over one very crowded week and a half.

Plus Cannes films like “The Laundromat” and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” will get a chance to see if they have staying power in the awards conversation, and Sundance debuts like Scott Z. Burns’ “The Report” and Chinoye Chukwu’s “Clemency” will try to remind viewers (and voters) that they’re still around.

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After the one-two-three punch of Venice, Telluride and Toronto, the New York Film Festival begins Sept. 27 after a 12-day break in festival-going. NYFF has three prime slots that often go to world premieres, though this year its opening-night film is the only one that’s a true premiere — the centerpiece gala is “Marriage Story” and closing night is “Motherless Brookyln.”

But the festival’s one world premiere is a big one: Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” perhaps the single most eagerly awaited film of the season. With an iconic director, a cast of heavyweights (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci) and a subject (organized crime) that often brings out the best in Scorsese, it’s Netflix’s chance to win the big one without the baggage of having to do it with a black-and-white foreign-language film like last year’s “Roma.” (Of course, Netflix itself remains a divisive presence to some awards voters, though they’re likely far outnumbered by people in Hollywood who want to work for the company.)

When NYFF ends in mid October, awards season will have a batch of front-runners and another group of also-rans — but that doesn’t mean that a few post-festival premieres can’t still crash this year’s truncated Oscar season. Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” Sam Mendes’ “1917” and Jay Roach’s “Bombshell” are among the films likely to surface after the fall fests — as is, gulp, Tom Hooper’s “Cats,” whose trailer didn’t exactly make a case for its best-pic credentials but did suggest makeup and VFX clout.

Sight unseen, the biggest contenders at this point might seem to be “The Irishman,” “Just Mercy,” “Marriage Story,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “Ford v Ferrari” and “Jojo Rabbit” to go along with Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and maybe “The Farewell” — but sight unseen is a dangerous phrase to use in late August.

So let’s check back in September, when we can survey the messy festival aftermath with a touch more clarity.

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There are no zombies on the red carpet of the Croisette, a reporter told Bill Murray after the world premiere of his latest film “The Dead Don’t Die,” which opened the Cannes Film Festival Tuesday.

“Says you,” Murray (un)dead-pans in response.

During the press conference following Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy, Murray said he finds Cannes “frightening,” and it’s hard not to come away with that assessment when “The Dead Don’t Die” managed to bring together an unusual assemblage of art-house darlings and global pop stars for the occasion.

Jarmusch donned his trademark sunglasses on the red carpet and received a (expected) standing ovation as the screening was began, and he was joined by the film’s diverse crop of stars, including Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny and even Selena Gomez, who were all in attendance.

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And the film itself is a nonchalant, hipster commentary on people sleepwalking through the modern age as well as the Trump era. A red hat worn by Steve Buscemi’s character in the film that read “Make America White Again” was a popular talking point among critics after the first screenings in the Grand Theatre Lumiere and the Sally Debussy theater next door. And it’s not unusual for this generally tough Cannes crowd to be fairly mixed on the splashy opening night film, even for someone as respected as Jarmsuch.

“It’s the self-awareness that really hurts it,” TheWrap’s critic Ben Croll wrote in his review. “Jarmusch knows that his audience wants to see Murray and Driver riff in deadpan and that the image of Swinton strutting down the street wielding a katana will set the internet ablaze, so he offers them as much, without ever feeling the imperative to go a step beyond.”

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Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Cannes Jury Press Conference Touches on Diversity, Netflix and the Border Wall

Elle Fanning, filmmakers Kelly Reichardt and Alice Rohrwacher, and Senegalese actress Maimouna N’Diaye are among the women serving on this year’s Cannes main competition jury led by Alejandro González Iñárritu. The group represents one of the most diverse juries the festival has ever had, with 21-year-old Fanning the youngest jury member the festival has ever had.

And while the festival has been committed to striving toward 50/50 gender parity, the women on the jury would very much like to move past the same questions about being a “woman” filmmaker.

“I look forward to a time that will come when we don’t have to say ‘women directors’ or ‘as a woman,'” Reichardt said at the press conference Tuesday.

“But it’s odd when we’re asked this question,” Rohrwacher added. “It’s sort of like asking someone who survived a shipwreck why he’s still alive. Everyone is on the beach — ‘Why are you still alive?’ Why are you asking us? Well, ask the person who built the boat, who sold the tickets, the schools. People have said there haven’t been enough women, but it’s not enough to talk about at the end [of the chain]. We have to look at the beginning of the chain.”

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Splashy International Deals

The Cannes marketplace is also just kicking off at the festival, but select international deals are already in place for some of the competition films.

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions nabbed select territories to Sally Hawkins’s “Eternal Beauty,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, excluding the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the U.K., China, Japan, South Korea and the Middle East. And Focus Features acquired the international rights to Robert Eggers’s film “The Lighthouse,” which A24 already has domestic rights to distribute.

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A radioactive isotope one billion times older than the Universe! An international team of researchers, including six scientists from the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC), was able to measure for the first time the longest average lifetime of a radioactive isotope recorded by a device of measurement. This extraordinary fact is published (April 25), as the main piece on the cover, in Nature, the most prestigious of all scientific journals. The isotope in question is Xe 124 and its average lifetime is approximately one billion times older than the Universe. The Universe is about 14 billion years old, a period of time inconceivable when compared to the scale of human life. As if that alone did not cause enough amazement, there are radioactive isotopes (unstable elements that change over time emitting radiation) whose average life happens on scales much greater than the existence of the Universe itself. "The fact that we can directly measure such a rare process as this demonstrates the extraordinary scope of our measurement system, even when it was not made to measure these events, but rather dark matter," stresses José Matias, coordinator of the Portuguese team in this effort international and researcher of the Laboratory of Instrumentation, Biomedical Engineering and Radiation Physics (LIBPhys) of FCTUC. In fact, this measurement was only possible thanks to the XENON1T system, the most sensitive instrument ever produced by mankind for the detection of dark matter. It is installed in the National Laboratory of Gran Sasso (Italy), the largest underground laboratory in the world, under 1300 meters of rock to shield the system from cosmic rays existing on the surface. The study published by Nature shows that, after all, "XENON1T was also able to measure other rare physical phenomena, such as double electronic capture. In this case, the nucleus captures two of the electrons that orbit it in the atom, transforming two of the protons that constituted it into neutrons and emitting radiation in the form of two neutrinos. The energy released in this process forms the signal that the system registers, despite the extreme difficulty in being detected by its rarity, and can be generally masked by the omnipresent "normal" radiation ", affirms the also vice president of the Higher Institute of Engineering of Coimbra (ISEC). The average life span of Xe 124 Only with the detailed knowledge of the sources of radiation recorded by the detector was it possible to observe 126 events of double electron capture of the isotope Xe 124 and thus to determine for the first time its average life time of 2.5 x 1022 years (25 thousand millions of billions of years). This is the longest physical process ever measured directly by mankind. In fact, there is a register of phenomena with a longer average life (isotope Te 128) in the Universe, but that was inferred indirectly from another process. For the time being, it is not possible to predict the implications of this discovery that opens new horizons in human knowledge. The XENON consortium consists of 160 scientists from 27 research groups from the US, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, Israel and Abu Dhabi. Portugal has been a partner in this collaboration since its inception in 2005 through the LIBPhys team. Cristina Pinto University of Coimbra • Faculty of Science and Technology Translated from the Portuguese version Ekaterina Santos

The responsibility for the German education system lies primarily with the states (Bundesländer) while the federal government plays only a minor role. Optional Kindergarten education is provided for all children between three and six years of age, after which school attendance is compulsory, in most cases for 11 to 12 years. The system varies throughout Germany because each state (Land) decides its own educational policies. Most children, however, first attend Grundschule from the age of six to ten or 12. German secondary education includes five types of school. The Gymnasium is designed to prepare pupils for university education and finishes with the final examination Abitur, after grade 12 or 13. The Realschule has a broader range of emphasis for intermediate pupils and finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife, after grade 10; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education and finishes with the final examination Hauptschulabschluss, after grade 9 or 10 and the Realschulabschluss after grade 10. There are two types of grade 10: one is the higher level called type 10b and the lower level is called type 10a; only the higher level type 10b can lead to the Realschule and this finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife after grade 10b. This new path of achieving the Realschulabschluss at a vocationally-oriented secondary school was changed by the statutory school regulations in 1981 - with a one-year qualifying period. During the one-year qualifying period of the change to the new regulations, pupils could continue with class 10 to fulfil the statutory period of education. After 1982, the new path was compulsory, as explained above. Other than this, there is the Gesamtschule, which combines the approaches. There are also Förderschulen/Sonderschulen. One in 21 pupils attends a Förderschule. Nevertheless the Förderschulen/Sonderschulen can also lead, in special circumstances, to a Hauptschulabschluss of both type 10a or type 10b, the latter of which is the Realschulabschluss. German children only attend school in the morning. There is no provision for serving lunch. There is a lot more homework, heavy emphasis on the "three R's" and very few extracurricular activities. A very low-cost or free higher education could lie beyond a German Abitur. Many of Germany's hundred or so institutions charge little or no tuition. But, students must prove through examinations that they are qualified. In order to enter university, students are, as a rule, required to have passed the Abitur examination; since 2009, however, those with a Meisterbrief (master craftman's diploma) have also been able to apply. Those wishing to attend a "university of applied sciences" must, as a rule, have Abitur, Fachhochschulreife or a Meisterbrief. Lacking those qualifications, pupils are eligible to enter a university or university of applied sciences if they can present additional proof that they will be able to keep up with their fellow students A special system of apprenticeship called Duale Ausbildung allows pupils on vocational courses to do in-service training in a company as well as at a state school. Recent PISA student assessments demonstrated serious weaknesses in German pupils' performance. In the test of 43 countries in the year 2000, Germany ranked 21st in reading and 20th in both mathematics and the natural sciences, prompting calls for reform. In 2006, German schoolchildren improved their position compared to previous years, being ranked (statistically) significantly above average (rank 13) in science skills and statistically not significantly above or below average in mathematical skills (rank 20) and reading skills (rank 18). The PISA Examination also found big differences in achievement between students attending different types of German schools. According to Jan-Martin-Wiadra: Conservatives prized the success of the Gymnasium, for them the finest school form in the world – indeed, it is by far the number one in the PISA league table. But what they prefer to forget is that this success came at the cost of a catastrophe in the Hauptschulen. Some German teachers' representatives and a number of scientists disputed the PISA findings. Claiming among other things that the questions have been ill-translated, that the samples drawn in some countries were not representative, that Germans (most of whom had never done a multiple choice tests in their lives before) were discriminated against by the multiple choice questions, that the PISA-questions had no curricular validity and that the PISA was "in fact an IQ-test", which according to them showed that dysgenic fertility was taking place in Germany. A 2008 statistic from Nordrhein-Westfalen shows that 6.4 percent of all students did not earn even the Hauptschulabschluss, however not all of them were high school dropouts, as many of them were children with special needs, who received special school leaving certificates. Only 3.3 percent dropped out of school without earning any kind of diploma.

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