Sun 29 Sep 2019

HFM Selection 2019: I Don’t Wanna Dance

“We think this is the first Dutch drama film with a majority black cast,” stresses Dutch director Flynn von Kleist of his HFM 2019 project I Don’t Wanna Dance, produced by Netherlands production company The Rogues. Shooting on the debut feature is just about finished (there is one final short studio segment to go) and is currently at “pre-edit assembly” stage. The film’s language is Dutch and Surinam street slang which, Von Kleist argues, ups the ante in terms of its international appeal, especially in the US market.

The story is fascinating, as is the history of the project to date. It is a coming of age story about 13-year-old Joey who lives with his aunt because his mother can no longer take of him. But she eventually wins back custody of him and his brother, at which point Joey must decide what is the best course of action to underpin his future emotional well-being. “The main arc of the film concerns his return to her and their attempts to build a new level of trust,” Von Kleist comments.

“The story focusses on the question of whether he will do anything it takes to live with her or abandon her to save himself. He loves her and she loves him but the main problem is that she is a broken person, and because she is so broken inside she can’t give him the love that he needs and he therefore has to make a very hard choice.”

Von Kleist has followed the adolescent Yfendo van Praag (who plays Joey in the film, and on whom the character is based) for over three years. He made a documentary about the relationship between the boy and his real life mother, and then a short fiction as a “proof of concept” ahead of the feature film. Other than Yfendo, no other family members are employed in the film, which is cast with non-professional actors and whose characters are based on real-life individuals. One exception is the role of Joey’s mother, which is played by Romana Vrede, an acclaimed theatre actor who won a prestigious Theo D’Or in 2017.

The screenplay is written by talented Dutch screenwriter Jeroen Scholten van Aschat (Nocturne, 2019) who followed a detailed brief from Von Kleist. “He is really the writer but my main role was to deliver him a lot of really important research material.”

The director can see the wide demographic appeal of the film to younger and older audiences alike. “Yes, I think it could be very relevant for younger people. We all, in some way or another, have made decisions that are related to this theme and this story, and to how we must separate ourselves from our parents at some stage. Some people have a lot of luck with that and others have a really hard time at it.”

At HFM, Von Kleist and The Rogues are looking to secure a sales agent and international distribution interest and are working out a festival strategy ahead of a Summer 2020 delivery. “There is a big target audience for this in the US and other international countries. It is a very universal film.”

Written by Nick Cunningham