Under the umbrella of New Dutch, a curated selection of the most exciting new projects from The Netherlands, encompassing fiction, documentary, animation and interactive/digital storytelling, were presented to the HFM network of international film professionals.
A Hellfighters Odyssey
Director: Yvonne van Ulden
Production company: Il Luster B.V.
Director Yvonne van Ulden pitched her new 80-minute ‘road movie’ project. In essence, it is a multi-screen immersive film experience with live elements in which a proud Afro-American Jazz trumpet player, who suffered hardship fighting in the trenches of WWI, travels with his mates through interbellum Europe. At odds with the ever meddling gods, the wise but self-centered Athena and the warmongering Poseidon, he searches for his own destiny.
The budget on the English-language project is €350,000 of which €22,500 is already garnered. The goals at HFM were to find co-producers “with understanding & connections in the world of theatre, who actively look for partnerships & opportunities out of the box with a 360-degree approach to reach as many people as possible.”
“I come from the world of animation and I'm interested in the boundaries of art disciplines and in working with hybrid productions, so when jazz composer Onias Landveld contacted me with a question, if I wanted to create an animated story to go along with his jazz music, I was thrilled,” commented director van Ulden. “I was very enthusiastic about the idea, but I also knew there were some challenges. So I wanted to bring the best of animation through theatre. So that means a mature, stylish character animation. But I also wanted to keep the best of theatre and to cherish the magical live moment of theatre…I also wanted to prevent creating some kind of forced marriage between two equal and competing media.”
Producer Michiel Snijders added: “Imagine yourself experiencing an intoxicating mixture of different art disciplines. A place where cinema meets theatre, a collage of multiple screens with animated images. A spoken word artist that takes you along on the flow, his words and abstract images that interact with the notes of a lively jazz improvised music. This is an innovative project and we take on this experimental challenge to bridge the differences and create something entirely new.”
Director: Iris van der Meule
Production company: Studio Biarritz
Director Iris van der Meule posted a disclaimer during her highly entertaining pitch for the VR Gay Simulator, an interactive artwork and video game which will immerse the user in the experiences of a lesbian girl. “Gay Simulator is not responsible for actually turning you gay,” she said. On a more serious note, while the VR comprises an artistic ode to sexual preference, sexuality and love, it also deals with a serious issue: the discrimination that lesbians still face today.
“Gay Simulator is a virtual reality artwork and video game in which you, the player, get to experience what it's like to be one of the most majestic and divine creatures alive,” said van der Meule. “It's a playful and colourful and funny experience, but with a very serious undertone. The aim of gay simulator is to create awareness in a creative manner by showing the verbal and physical violence that lesbians still are confronted with today. The story of Gay Simulator is about experiencing the coming out journey of a lesbian, and this journey starts by creating your own lesbian avatar through whose eyes you can experience the story, guided by a godly female voice.”
“Next to these difficult situations, the player will also experience the positive sides of being a lesbian, such as the warm embrace of the queer community and visiting the annual celebratory Pride parade. All these elements are built in a linear structure of game levels that each player has to complete in order to finish the game.”
The VR is produced by Dutch interactive doyenne Corine Meijers of Studio Biarritz, whose goals at HFM were to find co-producers, financial and distribution partners to reach the desired target of €250,000.
Director: Tessa Leuwsha
Production company: Pieter van Huystee Film & TV
Produced by leading Dutch doc producer Pieter van Huystee, the 75-minute doc Moeder Suriname tells the life story of an Afro-Surinamese washerwoman, battling to give her children a better life. It is a film about being rooted and uprooted in which Fansi tells her story, one that plays out against the background of Suriname's development towards an independent state, using unique archive footage. Despite being in pre-production, the €580,608 budget is close to completion with €477,039 so far raised.
“With my grandmother's life as a source of inspiration, my view of reality is reflected in the selection of the moving images and how they are shaped in the editing process,” comments director Tessa Leuwsha. “The fact that I am my grandmother's granddaughter, arising from her circumstances…means that I have my own view of her reality and that I also carry her story with me. With the increased attention for the colonial past, the social relevance of this narrative, the personal story against the background of great history, is evident.”
"Through Ma Fansi I want to show how Surinamese have been radically shaped by the Netherlands, but also how they developed their own strategy within it,” Leuwsha adds. “The past is usually presented as a more or less abstract fact that takes place in a bygone time, while the present arises from the past. In all my work I find it important to make aspects of the zeitgeist personal, so that more identification can take place and events do not just belong to an anonymous whole.”
¡Ni Una Más!
Director: Julia Hollander
Production companies: Riverpark Films and Rauwkost Film
In Julia Hollander’s powerful social documentary ¡Ni Una Más! (Not One Woman More), currently in post-production, seven female musicians from Mexico fight against the failing system that allows the countless abductions and murders of women to place every day. The 80-minute feature doc is Dutch but Spanish-spoken. What’s more the total budget of €52,689 is almost realised. At Utrecht, producers Herman Slagter and Guido F.G. Jeurissen were seeking distributors, sales agents and festival programmers. They were also looking for advice on the clearance of music rights and with marketing and positioning of the film.
“I am an activist by heart, and I chose filmmaking to be my tool to raise awareness for social injustice,” explained director Julia Hollander. The documentary ¡Ni Una Más! which means ‘not one woman more, is about female musicians and activists, Vivir and the all-female band Las Brujas, which means ‘the witches.’ Armed with their music and instruments they sing about the countless femicides and abductions of women that take place every day in Mexico.”
Instead of a voiceover the music of Vivir and Las Brujas will be guiding the story as we dive deeper into their lives. “One of Las Brujas has barely escaped from attempted murder and another one was abducted, but she also escaped. What holds them together is their strong friendship. They talk about everything. They laugh, they cry and they write their music as part of a therapeutic process. I interviewed them. I went to feminist seminars, I went to protests with them. I lived with them. And I cried with them,” ended Hollander.
Director: Alle Jong
Production company: Alle Jong
The 8-hr 20-min Frisian/English-language fantasy project Sketchy Fables is described as a first-person exploration adventure and “a comic book that has broken up over a landscape.” Currently in production, the story begins with the search for a mysterious child who influences Your reality. “Can You still find the child in You,” the director asks.
The synopsis reads how, in the 10,000 drawings Alle Jong made to build this game world, he expressed the tears and wonder of his life, “expressed through drawings you will explore hope, joy, death, love, and above all the child within me.”
“My dream is to make people feel it is ok to create things whatever the quality is, explore, feel good about Yourself,” he adds. Sketchy Fables will sometimes tell the player they are beautiful. Sometimes the stories told in the game might make us think about life itself, the synopsis further underlines.
“What was the last moment You left Your childhood toys to never play with them again? I hope You will play every day [on Sketchy Fables] and create amazing stories! Create drawings, terrible ones is fine and love the energy making them, art and play is for everyone, You are beautiful!” Jong reminds us.
The Best Time
Director: Rebecca Roos
Production company: Rebecca Roos Productions
In her new feature documentary, budgeted at €44,257 (and for which 10% is raised) athletes from the small Caribbean nation state of Aruba give their all to make it to the 2024 Paris Olympics; they weave their way through sacrifices, financial challenges, competing against their friends for the limited spots available and the overall limitations of coming from a small country. No Aruban athlete has even won a Olympic medal, something that each has set their heart on…
“The visual style of the documentary will be ‘dynamic-aesthetic-observational,’ comparable to the documentaries Ballroom Dancer (2011) and Over the Limit (2017),” explains director Roos of her documentary which will be spoken in the four languages of the islands, Papiamento, Dutch, English and Spanish, and of course French, given how their ideal destination is Paris for the Games.
“It is [now] time to visit these athletes at their training locations. This can be here in Aruba or the United States, or wherever else in Europe, the Caribbean, or Latin America that they may be training. This will serve multiple purposes. The first is that we will have a better idea how everybody's story is developing, and this can help us decide if we go into production with all 10 athletes or drop a few. And here I want to add explicitly that not making it to the Olympics does not disqualify you as a subject for this documentary,” underlines Roos.
The director wants to use the material to create a trailer to help us with further financing of the production and the post production phase. “For this last part of the development, I'm looking for 40,000 euros, but I'm also looking for creative co-producers who believe in this story,” she said, adding how one of the vice presidents of the IOC (International Olympic Committee) is from Aruba (Nicole Hoevertsz). “Together with her, we've started the process of obtaining permission to film at the 2024 Olympics.”
Director: Nathan Saucier
Production companies: Institute of Time
The feature doc Walking Fish is described as “a hallucinatory journey through the sci-fi world of contemporary aquaculture, depicting human efforts to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. As fish move onto land, what will fishing look like with no sea and no fishermen?”
Produced by Firat Sezgin of Amsterdam-based Institute of Time, the 70-minute film takes place on both sides of the Atlantic, both in the northeast of the US (Maine) and The Netherlands. The doc is told in three acts. The opening act takes place at sea, in a world largely indistinguishable from traditional fishing. In the second chapter, the filmmakers visit the warehouses and processing facilities where laborers work to pack and prepare each species for market. The third act enters the hatcheries and laboratories that give birth to the organisms, where the work of genetic selection, rearing, and optimization first begins.
Sezgin is looking sales agents who can help with pre-sales and distribution. Partners on the project are Harvard Film Center, MIT, Wageningen University & Research. The budget is €66,450, of which €22,000 has been met.
“Walking Fish is an immersive documentary about contemporary aquaculture and we follow several key species on their sea to table journeys. In the process, our film reveals a futuristic industry that's changing the way that we relate to food forever,” says director Nathan Saucier.
“It is a very exciting project for us, which we believe could have a great impact on the conversation on climate adaptation. Nate and I have already been working together for almost a year and have our Dutch team in place to finish the film. Now we're looking for partners to bring in the funding necessary to finish shooting and to go into post-production,” explained producer Sezgin.
“Our timeline is to finish and premiere the film towards end of next year, at a festival like IDFA, I really think broadcasters and digital platforms will be interested to come onboard this project at this exciting moment in the production…The US part of the production is done. The remainder of our shoot will take place here in The Netherlands.”
Written by Nick Cunningham