The Global Search for Education: Andy & Kaliope: A Conversation with Director Catriona Rubenis-Stevens

C. M. Rubin
3 min readFeb 8, 2024

This month, audiences can screen Andy and Kaliope on the Planet Classroom Network. This film is curated for the Planet Classroom Network by KIDS FIRST! Film Festival.

Andy & Kaliope is a poignant short film by director Catriona Rubenis-Stevens. It explores the journey of a young, disabled boy navigating the challenges of foster care, finding solace in his love for superheroes. The emotional narrative highlights perseverance, inner strength, and the quest for belonging in a touching and inspiring portrayal.

Catriona Rubenis-Stevens is an award-winning director known for Oscar-nominated Feeling Through, BBC productions, diverse shorts, and acclaimed children’s theater.

The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome Catriona Rubenis-Stevens.

Catriona, what inspired the creation of Andy and Kaliope and its storyline?

The storyline was first inspired by the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge’s 2022 theme of “superhero.” My writer (and female lead, Rachel) wanted to tell a story that touched upon the foster care system and how children with disabilities are far more often left behind or unwanted due to families’ fear of high medical bills and care needs. As Rachel and I started talking about the genre, we started going down research rabbit holes, and when the challenge began, the story flowed out of her!

Where did the superhero and villain aspects of the film originate from? Why was Andy finding solace in this interest?

The idea for the superhero was part of the challenge — and of course, half the fun of a superhero movie is the villain! With Andy, who was battling his deepest fear — the fear of being forgotten and unwanted — we decided the best way to portray this anxiety — his villain, was through special effects. Andy, like many children, finds comfort and solace by disappearing into his imagination. Thus, the idea of his action figures and homemade superhero doll, Kaliope, helped him get through some of his toughest battles.

What was the preparation process for this film like? What challenges did you encounter in conveying the emotional journey of the protagonist and the theme of perseverance?

As we only had 5 days to create this entire film — from writing to shooting and editing — the preparation period was extremely fast. This helped us not overthink anything and just dig right into the work. We only had one and a half days to film everything, and working with a child actor, making his on-screen debut as our lead character, took time and care. It was essential to ensure we served the story well and didn’t overlook the hard issues lying underneath. But, just like Andy, our actor Jai was a true superhero himself and really shone in the part, bringing his empathetic soul and kind heart to the role.

What are you hoping audiences, particularly younger students, take away from Andy about the film’s message?

I think all of us who worked on this film really hope that audiences will take away a little bit of Andy’s courage when faced with their own inner villain. They should stand up to that voice in their head and know that they are strong enough, brave enough, fearless enough, and loved enough.

Thank you Catriona!

C.M. Rubin with Catriona Rubenis-Stevens

Don’t miss, Andy & Kaliope now streaming on the Planet Classroom Network. This film is curated by KIDS FIRST! Film Festival for the Planet Classroom Network.