The New Dutch Selection at HFM offered a highly promising crop of future festival and box-office pleasers to entice the international guests of HFM. Eye’s Ido Abrams was once again on hand to quiz producers and directors alike.
When producer Sanne Cousijn of Blackframe was approached by Carin Goeijers with the idea of a documentary about legendary Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer, she was thrilled. “I was one of those pony-tailed girls who was mesmerised by this hero, who was beautiful and sexy and amazing on her instrument.”
As the daughter of jazz-saxophonist Hans Dulfer, both Candy’s parents have played a big role in her musical career as a fellow musician and manager. Now that they are aging and her days of performing with superstars like Prince and Pink Floyd have long since passed, she needs to re-invent herself in difficult times, the synopsis reads. She turns 50 this year.
“We’ve been shooting this documentary for a year now and then corona happened which first of course scared us because we thought that the shooting would have to stop, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise, because every thematic line in our documentary got amplified because of Covid-19,” says the producer.
She elaborated on this point with Ido: “We gave Candy a camera of her own and she filmed herself during lockdown, and she filmed 18 hours so far that is unique material from inside the home of an artist during lockdown, and I think that is very valuable for this film.”
Carin further explained to Ido how she got access to the global star. “I just called her and we met and we had our talk to see if we could get along together, and we [got] along perfectly together at our first meeting. Immediately we had talks about her parents, about music – we had a click. That is very important if you want to make a film together.”
“Carin is the best director for this film without a doubt because she has experience with multiple award-winning music documentaries, and she also recently won the IDFA Special Jury Award for Best Dutch Documentary with But Now Is Perfect (2018), which is a social documentary,” says the producer. “She will combine these two parts which will make an even better documentary.”
Blackframe’s Camiel Zwart explains that the film has Dutch broadcaster NTR on board as a co-producer. 88% of the budget in place, so they are looking for the remaining 12%, and for distributors around the world, “We think the film of Candy can reach a large audience because she is an acclaimed musician all across the world, especially in countries like Japan, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the US,” he said.
“Nosferatu Reanimated is the mother of all vampire stories reimagined for a modern audience,” says director and screenwriter Erik van Schaaik of his latest project. “In splendid stop-motion animation it will premiere exactly 100 years after Murnau shocked the world with – labelled by many as the world’s first ever horror movie – the iconic Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauens.”
“Nosferatu Reanimated is going to be very different form the slow solemn original. It will be a fairytale, a dark fairytale with gothic romance, comic relief and food for modern thought, about the depletion of our planet, the vampire as a metaphor for mankind’s greed.”
“Back in the old days Ellen was no more than a damsel in distress,” he added. “Today she is the centrepiece of the story. Ellen is a smart, witty and bold heroine, facing a gruelling task: saving our world from bloodthirst and greed.”
The film is produced by Ate de Jong (Mulholland Pictures) for €5.5 million, of which €1.5 million is secured. In Utrecht he was meeting with specialised animation sales agents and with potential international co-producers, both for production & financing purposes.
During the pitch, the Drop Dead Fred producer expressed to Ido both his admiration for the director and his desire to work with him. “I find Erik a unique talent internationally… he is so talented and he has an important story to tell about society, about nature, about climate change. I want to help make that possible.”
Director Erik rounded off in suitably ghoulish fashion: “Chills, excitement, a profound story, a beautifully animated fairytale world, a classic masterpiece re-imagined, all the ingredients for a memorable movie night.”
Black Pete, or: How I Found My True Self And Accidentally Unleashed A Race War
In their film, Dutch director Gonzalo Fernandez and writer Ashar Medina are taking on the notorious racist tradition of Black Pete and hopefully consigning the Yuletide practice to the cultural wastebin. The pair will produce the €3 million film with Ijswater Films.
When a struggling Surinamese stand-up comedian creates a caricature of Black Pete to ridicule the racist Dutch Sinterklaas tradition, he finally reaches the success he so desperately desires. But his celebrity also makes him a mascot for the far right groups his family battles against in the struggle for equality. When this battle comes to an explosive confrontation, our hero must for once and for all choose which side he is on: the eternal joke, or the inevitable revolution.
“Since the 1980s, the black population in particular has been shouting that [Black Pete] is a racist tradition. With this satirical film we want to make everyone, both white and black, aware of the impact an outdated and racist image can have,” says Gonzalo.
“Black Pete will also be a take on racism and redemption,” says Ashar, one of whose aims at Utrecht is to find experts to transfer this local story worldwide. “It will be entertaining but we also want to shed light on this crazy tradition that keeps continuing every year. We think it’s time to show the world that besides our image of a welcoming multicultural society, racism is still very real in the Netherlands. It’s on TV, it’s in stores and it’s in in our schools. And it needs to stop.”
He adds: “Black Pete is a very Dutch film, but we also believe in its international potential, as the bizarre Sinterklaas tradition is unique in the world. At a time when worldwide awareness of racism is increasing, films can play a major role in the support of this. Take a look at successful recent films like Get Out and Sorry To Bother You, for example. Both are social satires with black main characters, shedding new light on this difficult theme of racism and inequality. Black Pete could have the same impact.”
In Ruben Broekhuis’ low budget feature debut, produced by Monique van Kessel (Make Way Film), the director looks to deploy an intriguing method to tell a terrifying story.
In the film, when Bosnian-born Aisha and cameraman Elias team up to shoot a documentary on the mysterious disappearance of Aisha’s brother, they cross paths with another film crew, who are creating an even more sinister narrative…
In his HFM pitch the director underlined how the concept of his film combines two genres; found footage and one-shot cinema. In addition, it also presents a new concept. “There is no other feature film in the world that has used the idea of a bootleg video – which will make this film stand out and get noticed,” he adds.
He elaborates: “From the beginning of the film the viewer thinks that they are watching the documentary of Aisha and Elias, but after 15 minutes or so we see somebody passing the screen, and the viewer starts to realise that there is something more going on, we are actually watching a bootleg… Exhibit #8 is basically a one-shot film, the movie is projected from the back of a viewing room. Gradually we learn that the people in the viewing room are actually responsible for the disappearance of Aisha’s brother.”
The screenwriter is Sarah Offringa. “We use a very raw and realistic style to tell a horrifying story that we think will excite genre film lovers from everywhere,” she says. “Even though we are telling a fictional story, we are addressing a real issue. Every year, thousands of refugees go missing in Europe, many of them minors and it hardly ever makes the news.”
Much of the documentary aspect of the film is already shot, confirms producer Monique, and the last part of the shoot is slated for November 2020. “We are convinced that the concept and the story will stand out and therefore we are able to present to you a very promising film,” she told Ido, adding, “each of us are huge fans of genre film and we aim to producer more genre film for the European market in the near future.”
And what is the appeal of the horror genre, Ido wanted to know. “What is there not to love? Just to make a great build-up and to toy with the expectations of the viewers. I like to scare people,” answered director Ruben.
The Man from Rome
The notion of truth features large in Jaap van Heusden’s new project, once again produced by Marc Bary of IJswater Films.
In the 95-minute €1.7 million film, the sceptical priest Filippo (37) is sent by the Vatican to investigate and debunk a crying statue of the Virgin Mary in a border community in Limburg, where four years ago a boy shot and killed eleven of his schoolmates. Attracted and unsettled by the mute young woman Térèse (19) who discovered the tears, Filippo gets entangled in the village’s grief and in a series of apparently miraculous events.
“For me this theme of truth and the way that Filippo treats it is something that comes very close,” says director Jaap. “I am also a believer and…I feel very strongly for his passion about going after the truth and fighting for that. But this notion of truth is destroying Filippo. It is devoid of humanity and he doesn’t have an eye for the people and their grief. It is eroding him from the inside out, and [only] by connecting with these people and with their pain and with their loss can he start to transform and start to get different ideas about what is truthful and what is right.”
Producer Marc Bary says he is looking to make a German/Italian/Dutch co-pro in English, Italian and Dutch. The lead will be a star Italian actor, he stressed. He further emphasised to Ido his close professional relationship with the director. “We go back a long way together, but also every step we take will be a much more international step. Not just this one, but also In Alaska (in development). This is going to be another gripping story that will inspire me.”
Director/screenwriter Wout Malestein explains the essence of his project, pitched at Utrecht 2020.” The movie deals with memory, religion and community and how these affect the grieving process. At the core it is a story of a man who loses something, his daughter, finds her in an unexpected way and in this process re-examines his faith in God,” he says.
The project has very personal resonance for Wout, whose brother died 15 years ago. The pair were raised in a very isolated religious community, although neither boys were religious. A few years later his father also died.
“I entered a period of grief and discovered that my memories of them changed in context,” he comments. “Especially with my brother, my fond memories of him turned sour because he died so unexpectedly. My grieving process evolved in how to relate to these memories in a new light. Needless to say, I was living in my head for years and this changed the relationship with my peers. People who lost someone at a young age will recognize this. You don’t only lose a loved one but also your old self and thus how you relate to the people around you.”
The €500,000 90-minute project will go next to Torino Lab, says producer Aydin Dehzad (Kaliber Film), who was looking to secure a sales agent and co-production partners.
Inspired by the ethos of Black Girl Magic, which reminds black girls around the world of the importance of tapping into their natural resources of resilience and strength, Anouschka is an interactive production about a magical black girl’s journey through space and time.
Anouschka, a bright, talented 16-year-old black Dutch girl growing up in Amsterdam’s Bijlmer, is building her own app and artificial intelligence (AI) — which enable her to capture the “songs,” or musical essences, of her neighbourhood and the diverse community living there. But when dark forces threaten to overtake the Bijlmer and silence the voices of its residents, Anouschka, to her surprise, is called to a magical journey of self-discovery.
The work is directed by Tamara Shogaolu and produced by Jamari Perry, Tamara Shogaolu and Marcela Stolzmann for Ado Ato Pictures, an LA and Amsterdam-based studio working mainly in immersive media and animation.
“We really try to create new and innovative ways to communicate important messages. I think every project we make here has a real heart and soul to it. And Anouschka will be one of those for sure,” says the company’s Marcela Stolzmann.
Adds Tamara: “I think one of the things that makes this project unique is not only does it use interaction and a completely new story platform to tell this story, but it also weaves in music and musical elements that pull from different parts of the world. The core message is that everybody has a song in this world and it’s finding your own unique song and pulling from that in order to fight against the forces that silence you.”
Anouschka is supported by the Dutch Creative Industry Fund, the Netherlands Film Fund and a Kickstarter campaign which has raised considerably the project’s profile. Tamara says that the company has been approached with a view to adapting the project for television and a feature.
“It’s a project for the whole family to share and experience together and we hope to bring a lot of joy to people through this as we take them on this adventure that is driven by inter-racial family love. Especially in a year that has been so difficult for people I think it has been a blessing for our team to be able to tell a story that is so fill of love and joy.”
Under the Naked Sky
Lilian Sijbesma’s debut feature is a sensitive study of the complex dynamics within a small family that encompasses three generations.
Elvie (10) lives in a mobile home on a campsite with her intellectually disabled mother. With the support of Elvie’s grandfather, the man who owns the campsite, the three of them have found an unorthodox way to function as a family. But as Elvie starts to outgrow her mother, and as her grandfather loses his grip on life, their carefully constructed world starts to break apart.
“I am really fascinated by the way you are formed by your childhood and in this film I try to put myself in the shoes of a young girl growing up with an intellectually disabled mother,” says Lilian. “I ask myself what would it be like to grow up without someone to explain you the rules of the world around you. For Elvie life is a constant puzzle. Every day things happen that are different from what she was taught.”
The film is produced by Germen Boelens & Kirsi Saivosalmi of Revolver Amsterdam. Kirsi explained that the €1.2 million project is in pre-production. With Film Fund production support secured this summer, the team will be ready to shoot in Summer 2021. She is looking both for a co-pro partner to deliver €250,000 as well as feedback on the project.
Asserts Lilian: “For me cinema is at its strongest when it lifts a story from our everyday reality to a place that is specific for that one story. I grew up in a wooded area in the Netherlands and always had this sense of being surrounded by a primal force when walking by myself in an old forest. That primal force is something I want to transmit into this film.”
Fellow producer Germen comments how, “we are so happy to work together on Lilian’s’ first feature film Under the Naked Sky. Reading the script you can really tell that Lilian carries the story…in her heart and in her bones.”
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Written by: Nick Cunningham