BoostNL is a joint initiative between the Netherlands Film Festival (NFF) and International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), supported by the Netherlands Film Fund, which offers projects in script development stage an entirely tailor-made trajectory designed to ‘boost’ their creative and business impact. The programme starts each year at NFF in August/September and culminates the following year at IFFR in January. Six projects were mentored prior to, and presented at, the 2023 Holland Film Meeting. The mentoring and development now continues through to IFFR 2024.
BoostNL 2023 report
A Tied Woman by Olivia Manrufo, Miguel Angel Moulet (Production company: EL NAVEGANTE FILMS)
The logline of the 90-minute feature reads how, “in an Andean community in Peru in 1999, a nurse (Hilaria) dutifully complies with her superiors' instructions in order to attain her long-awaited transfer to the capital, ignoring the consequences of the mass sterilization campaign carried out by the government.”
Director Olivia Manrufo further stresses: “Invited into the story of Hilaria, into a daily existence in which at times even she doesn’t stand out, we are witnesses to one of the most sinister chapters in the history of Peru.”
In what is a tragic and disturbing tale, Hilaria registers peasant women and promotes the benefits of Voluntary Surgical Contraception (VSC), the method used by the government to sterilize women across the country. But on the day planned for the surgeries, the women of the community flee and hide in the neighboring quinoa fields. Consequently, Hilaria must take responsibility for not reaching the quota imposed on the medical staff.
Hilaria feels compelled to support the chain of command and colleagues who are determined to seize the women that registered and fled days before. Ana, a young girl close to Hilaria, dies out of medical negligence during her surgery. The institution not only disregards Ana’s death but also forces Hilaria to undergo the same procedure as a consequence of her inability to meet the sterilization quota. On the same day that this forceful procedure takes place, she receives confirmation of her long-awaited transfer to the capital…
The Spanish and Quechua-language film, produced by Katitza Kisic of El Navegante Films and budgeted at €528,000, is at early script stage. The project has won a feature film development award from the Peruvian Minister of Culture, as well as Hubert Bals Fund development funding.
“We want to make the film we conceive, which means we want our production design to be based on the creative proposal and not the other way around, with a team of professionals who [will] contribute creatively and align with the project's artistic and sociopolitical vision,” director Olivia Manrufo underlined to the HFM audience. “We are also seeking potential co-production [partners] and distributors from the [European] region to join us, guide us in the search for financing and enable us to establish a presence in the international market, making our project more viable.”
Awa - The Sea Between Us by Shamira Raphaëla (Production company: Caribbean Filmcom)
Awa - The Sea Between Us marks Shamira Raphaëla’s fiction feature debut, and follows her highly acclaimed documentary Shabu, which continues to wow audiences since its premiere at IDFA 2021.
In her new film, the dreamy Joshua, moved by the death of his grandfather, hindered by the discomforts of puberty and confused by the attentions of the incisive Paulina, makes a huge sacrifice for the future of a desperate Venezuelan refugee and his sister incarcerated within a Curacao brothel.
The 90-minute drama/adventure film is Papiamento/Dutch/Spanish-spoken, with €52,325 of its €2,185,000 budget already raised. “Many of [writer] Roelof Jan Minneboo’s stories revolve around how life is affected by war and other forms of injustice; the displacement of people in a world marked by colonialism, suffocating patriarchal dynamics, and the fear of the other,” explains producer Michel Drenthe of Caribbean Filmcom. “Those themes are conveyed through the eyes of a boy who, on his heroic journey, learns about love and compassion and discovers his own form of masculinity. A film with young main characters for a global adult audience that leaves room for accompanying younger viewers. A film that amazes and moves, telling the world a Caribbean story that breaks with the stereotypes of pearly, white beaches and ever cheerful people.”
Clockwork Universe by Cindy Jansen (Production company: Witfilm)
Described as an arthouse psychological drama, Cindy Jansen’s Clockwork Universe revolves around the increasingly oppressive relationship between Michael Kopland, a middle-aged narcissist, his 8-year old son Tommy and Michael’s new girlfriend who is running her own business together with the Dutch-Surinamese Asha.
Jansen’s project notes underline her premise that a person with narcissistic personality disorder is not solely responsible for this as an individual. It is a complex combination of factors that causes a child to grow up into a pathologically narcissistic adult. “[I want] to make a film about the tragedy of such a person, about a character struggling with an illness he doesn’t recognize as such, because denial of his own deficiencies is an inherent symptom of the disorder he has,” the notes continue.
What’s more, narcissism is at the root of the very society presented in the film. It is a society driven by “a hedonistic instant-culture, where children make money through video blogs, where people are digitally judged with points and stars and postpone ageing through plastic surgery, and where even leisure time has become a compulsory daytime activity. A society in which neoliberal policies have laid the foundation for the collective belief that every person has the fundamental right to anything they desire.”
The 90-minute work, at advanced script stage and whose budget is €2,157,297.00 (with €61,047 already raised), is produced by Witfilm.
Director Jansen left HFM participants in no doubt as to what is the best medium to tell this story. “Film is amazing. You can do anything on that level. It's the brilliant, manipulative medium to show a manipulative protagonist in a highly narcissistic society,” she enthused.
Cold Ashes Can Cause Forest Fires by Ashmita Guha Neogi (Production company: Salt for Sugar Films)
Ashmita Guha Neogi’s new film promises to tell a subtle tale of taboo adult behaviour as observed by curious children. In the film, Uma (13) lives in a quiet mountainous town with her father. During the winter vacation, old family friends pay them a visit, accompanied by their daughter Kali (12). During their stay, some carefully hidden secrets of the adults are discovered which puts the tender friendship between the girls at peril, and which set in motion tragic events…
The English/Hindi-language film will have a duration of 105 minutes. At advanced script stage, the film’s budget is €435,000, of which €57,500 is raised. Ashmita Guha Neogi is writer/director of the project.
“When a child grows into an adult, a new set of rules are handed down to them in order to recalibrate their understanding of a known world,” she said to the HFM professional audience. “Now, these rules can seem to be in contradiction with the values and principles taught to them as children. It is this confusion, and the curiosity of adolescence that I want to employ in this film. I grew up a single child and very often I felt deeply lonely, but it was in literature and through films, and sometimes even through music, that I was able to articulate my own feelings or even feel connected. It is this loneliness that is at the core of my film, along with the theme of middle-class morality. I think as a society, we very often neglect the loneliness of children.”
Salt for Sugar Films was launched this year by Avantika Singh Desbouvries with its debut feature selected for Berlinale (After by Anthony Lapia, Panorama). The company’s first feature documentary, Casablanca, on which it took a co-producer credit, world-premiered in Venice Days 2023. Ashmita Guha Neogi’s short film Sīlan, also produced by Salt for Sugar Films, world-premiered in San Sebastian Zabaltegi-Tabakalera 2023.
“We hope that you would like to discover more about our project and would like to join us on the cinematic journey somewhere in the Himalayas of Northern India,” Singh Desbouvries signed off her HFM presentation to potential partners.
Jasmine by Mischa Kamp (Production company: Room for Film)
Dutch filmmaker Mischa Kamp presented her latest project, Jasmine, together with producer Loes Komen of Room for Film and screenwriter Kate Brown. The project’s logline reads how the titular Jasmine's life is turned upside down when she discovers she is pregnant again. Already a mother of two, and having had a post-natal depression after the birth of her last son, deep down she knows she cannot have a third child. Both Jasmine and her partner Johan are holding down low-income jobs and are finding it hard to make ends meet.
Kate Brown explained the background to the project. “A couple of years ago, Misha and I decided we wanted to make a film about abortion. During our research, we discovered something that surprised us. It's women who already have children who have abortions most frequently. We decided to give voice to this silent majority. This is a story that could be about your neighbor, your colleague, or the woman who works in the corner shop, but also it is a story that could be about you.”
The 90-minute Dutch language project has a budget of €2 million, with €36,000 currently in place, courtesy of the Netherlands Film Fund. Producer Komen commented how “we are particularly interested in producing partners from either Germany or Belgium to be able to make it a bilateral co-production.”
Mischa Kamp added in her pitch: “There are such strong visual scenes and Jasmine really comes alive in a very subtle way. Her family is very well drawn too. The story shows how Jasmine takes control of her life and makes her own decision. In my previous work, my focus is, and always has been, on character-based stories. I find it important to portray realistic and sensitive characters. For Jasmine, I want to create a female character study in which we see Jasmine in her daily life in a natural and observational way. This tone and rhythm are also shown, for example, in the film Sorry We Missed You by Ken Loach…This film [Jasmine] slowly reveals her inner struggle step-by-step. I love directing actors. I want to make a realistic film, but above all, a compassionate and intimate film in which we recognize Jasmine's emotions.”
“It’s important to write truthful, realistic roles for women, ones in which we can recognise our own feelings and thoughts. Abortion has been a part of women’s lives forever and the fact that a lot of people don’t know that it’s women with children who seek terminations most frequently says a lot about the subject still being a taboo,” the team add in the notes for the project.
Mi papá el camión by María Cristina Pérez (Production company: Pez Dorado Animaciones)
Writer/director María Cristina Pérez explained how her feature animation project Mi papá el camion is very personal, and derives from the relationship she had with her father when a small girl.
“I'm the third daughter in my family, so when I was born, my dad was expecting a boy,” she said during her video pitch. “Of course, as you can see, my dad used to dress me up like a boy. [She showed a photograph of herself in trousers to the professional audience]. Two years later, my younger brother was born and everything was okay. However, this inspired me to create a story about the distant and awkward relationship between a father and daughter and how they build their relationship while looking for their place in the world, in a world where not everyone has found their true place in life.”
In the film, after losing everything, Bonifacio, a clumsy countryman, travels to the city with his daughter Hilda to chase his dream of being a truck driver. “This story is an invitation to transit a road: a road that will appear literally in the film —a trip from the countryside to the city—but will end up being a father’s journey to find his daughter, always expressed with sensitivity and a sense of humour,” Perez says in her notes.
On the way the pair meet an array of unusual characters, such as the train store keeper who never leaves her stall for fear of losing her job, or the construction workers who build everything wrong because of their crooked eyes, or the woman who breaks into the bakeries at night to make bread to feed stray dogs, or the cleaning lady who one day after forgetting the keys to her workplace decides to take the day off forever.
When they arrive in the city, Hilda is curious about what this new world offers her. She meets friendship, but also deception and ends up losing her pet pig Tulipa. As a result, Hilda gets lost, at which point Bonifacio finally makes sense of his quest and realizes that his true calling is being a father. Thus, he forgets everything to search for his daughter…
The 80-minute animation feature has a budget of €1 million, of which €40,000 is raised. The script is at advanced stage. During the HFM the team was looking for investors, co-producers and talents to work especially within the design department.
“I am moved by the idea of exploring different subjects about dealing with our human quests and emotions through subtext,” Pérez adds. “Therefore, it is also a film about becoming someone, succeeding and failing, finding a profession, leaving everything behind in order to find oneself, and becoming what you want, whatever fate throws at us.”