The Future is Dutch… HFM 2021 New Dutch Report

The New Dutch Selection at HFM comprised four highly entertaining, informative and enticing future audience pleasers, whether designed for festival, home screen, headset or tablet.

Descending the Mountain by Maartje Nevejan (Global Inside)

Maartje’s 78-minute documentary about meditation and magic mushroom-induced mystical experiences, and how they can be integrated into everyday experience, will be released in Dutch cinemas in November 2021. She was therefore at HFM to drum up international interest on a subject which is “hot” and for which “there's potentially a huge audience.”

The film is based upon a legal ground-breaking psychedelics experiment conducted on top of a mountain in Switzerland by a psychiatrist and a zen abbot as a response to four decades of the ‘War on Drugs’. Maartje visualises with the help of A.I. artists, ‘how to descend from the mountain of bliss, and integrate mysticism into regular life.’

“Psychedelics have been around in human culture since before recorded human history. What does this mushroom know that we don't? What does it do that we can't. Psychedelics are all about connections. Indigenous communities have known that for centuries,” she told the HFM online audience.

The fully financed English/German-language feature doc is produced by Global Inside. The budget is €330,000. “For 15 years, I've traveled the globe documenting life in the outside world,” says Maartje. “The last six years, however, I have turned my gaze inward and I'm very interested in filming the inner world. I worked before for the Dutch NPO and Al-Jazeera but now I'm really interested to work together with scientists and artists to find this new language for the inner world.”

“In Descending The Mountain I worked with artificial intelligence, artists, animators and sound engineers in order to find this language for, as they say, an ineffable mystical experience,” she added. “That was very challenging and very interesting for us because we wanted to leave the iconic visuals of the sixties, because then psychedelics stood for parties and freedom. Now in the psychedelic Renaissance, it is more about science and healing, not only [for] ourselves, but also the planet.”

Femi by Dwight Fagbamila (Ruba Studio)

In the Dutch/English/Yoruba-language fiction feature Femi, when the birth of his first child is approaching, the young, unstable Dennis must face the loss of his Nigerian father in order to come to terms with himself. Producer Maarten van der Ven was online at HFM to generate international interest on a fully budgeted film that he says is 95% towards completion.

“How can Dennis become a good father if he played such a big role in the death of his own father?” asks director Dwight. “And because of this, Dennis decides to take a deep dive into his own identity to see what's really bothering him. This results in meeting an old friend of his father, a Nigerian voodoo priest.” Dennis hits rock bottom and asks the priest to put him under a spell. After an intense ritual “he then has only five days to come to terms with himself with his loved ones and to say his final goodbyes.”

“While developing the film, I felt the urge to combine social realism with magical realism. After Dennis is cursed he is confronted with visions of an ice lake, and in these visions he sees his father drowning and after that being trapped underneath. With these visions we try to depict and also imagine Dennis is in a world which is totally cold and frozen and filled with no warm feelings or emotions. It's my wish that the audience can relate to him in this way, and what it's like to battle your inner demons.”

“Dwight has a unique way of storytelling, and I was really happy to have found him years ago, seeing his exam film, where he already showed this very sensitive tool that can really address audiences in another way,” says producer Van der Ven. “We are finishing music and some sound and a little bit of grading and so I’m really open to share Femi with sales and festivals to start talking [about] this lovely, challenging film, and work together with us to give it the podium it deserves.”

SWIPE by Mieke Gerritzen (Next Nature)

The 8-minute SWIPE is described as “a typographic smartphone film about our relationship with technology.” The €100,000 budget film is supported by the Netherlands Film Fund, with €40,000 needed to complete the package.

“Today you hear many stories about the negative influence of technology on our lives. However, SWIPE also highlights the positives and celebrates the changes in our information society,” director Mieke said during HFM, adding how, “SWIPE is a slightly interactive film…and it's telling different stories. That means because it's interactive you can choose the stories yourself. SWIPE is analyzing and testing your online behavior and habits but also the social impact of technology and the richness of new visual languages on the internet.”

Mieke has devised a unique way of deriving further revenues on the project. While SWIPE is free to download, if you accept an incoming message, notification or phone call while watching it, you will lose the film and only get it back by paying one Euro.

“We need help with distribution,” Mieke said during her pitch. “This means our films should be distributed at festivals and educational institutes like schools and universities, but also museums and special events. The biggest audience will be online, ideally through the experimental content platforms of Netflix and Apple. The movie will be made in English and will make you feel at home in your digital device. SWIPE helps you making moral decisions and, at the same time, embrace new possibilities.”

“The film offers a new interpretation of the mixture of the public and private, and the amalgamation of the economic and emotional,” the director writes in her artistic statement. “The film is a response to the massive addiction to the smartphone and my surprise that such an information addiction is widely accepted. Or will we soon have a daily limit on internet access per person? And will the internet be restricted, just like cigarettes and alcohol? Nothing is impossible.”

The Miracle Basket by Abner Preis (Institute of Time)

“What we're doing is creating a story about the global warming environment, ecological issues, with a happy ending,” says director by Abner Preis of his fully funded VR The Miracle Basket. “My stories are always with a happy ending, but they contain and hold very important subjects.” The logline describes it as “a VR journey that gives a glimpse into humankind’s recent past told through an intimate childhood story in which mistakes bring change and hope for the future of the planet.”

Producer Firat Sezgin pointed out that the VR will world-premiere at Cinekid later in October. “We've worked with their educational people to create this beautiful and extensive tool kit that will help educators, participation managers in museums, or anyone to talk to kids about climate change. They will be able to do this using our VR experience in portable form.” He adds that the associated tool kit turns the 12-minute VR experience into “an hour full of events.”

Firat adds of the director: “I should say I'm very happy working with Abner because he is one of the few voices in VR that's authentic… He's done so many works in VR that have been in festivals, won awards and bought by museums to [add to] their own collection. This is his first non-commissioned work. So this really comes from our hearts. This is another climate story that we're tackling in our storytelling careers and we're looking for partners and friends to come join us in this journey, help us reach wider, more international audiences. Our toolkit is not Netherlands-based, it is worldwide based.”

Partners on the VR project are Netherlands Film Fund, Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie, Cinekid and Valk Productionste.

Written by Nick Cunningham

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