Slaying divides Dutch film biz

Dutch parliamentarian Ali enters hiding

AMSTERDAM — The murder of Dutch helmer Theo Van Gogh, whose film “06/05” had its world premiere on the Internet Dec. 15, has engendered a climate of fear and, in some quarters, division across the Dutch filmmaking community.

Van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death Nov. 2 as he was bicycling down a street in Amsterdam. Up to and following the broadcast in August of Van Gogh’s “Submission,” a short film critical of the treatment of women in Islamic society, both he and Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who scripted the film, had received numerous death threats.

Ali, a Somali Muslim woman who fled an arranged marriage to the Netherlands and later became a member of parliament, had received police protection for some time, but Van Gogh had refused it. Following Van Gogh’s death, Ali received additional death threats and has been in hiding.

Since then one film has been shelved, scripts are being changed, and some producers are saying they are having a hard time recruiting Moroccan actors and actresses.

Self-censorship

“Some filmmakers are scared, and we are seeing some strong self-censorship in certain quarters,” notes Carolien Croon, director of the Dutch Feature Film Producers Assn.

The sequel to the popular Dutch comedy “Shouf shouf habibi” (Hush Hush Baby) starring Mimoun Oaissa, has been shelved until 2006 after director Albert Ter Heerdt and Oaissa said they felt the comedy was not in keeping with the current mood of the country.

The two are working on a realistic drama instead. Oaissa also admitted in a public forum recently he didn’t want to “end up with a knife in my back.”

Van Gogh had directed and financially backed the pic. Although Ali is in hiding, she’s at work on “Submission II,” part of what was intended as a trilogy.

Gijs Van de Westelaken, a producer at Column Film, Van Gogh’s company, tells Variety his company would not produce “Submission II,” adding, “I doubt we are going to find a lineup of directors at the moment eager to take on the helming of that second project.”

An atmosphere of tightened security blanketed a private showing Dec. 12 at the Cafe Dudok, in the Hague, of “06/05.” The film, which had been in the last stages of post when Van Gogh was slain, is a political thriller whose footage leans heavily on news clips surrounding the murder of politician Pim Fortuyn two years ago and strongly suggests U.S. government complicity in it. Financial backing came from Internet service provider Tiscali.

The screening was packed with “06/05” cast and crew, Van de Westelaken, the Van Gogh family, Tiscali toppers and a select group of Dutch filmers. Several dozen police cordoned the street in front of the cafe, squad cars stood visibly nearby, and everyone entering the cafe had to present identification and were subject to body searches.

Both Croon and director Johan Nijenhuis, whose pic “Floris” was released Dec. 13, say they’d heard of heightened concern over security among Moroccan actors and actresses.

However, Van de Westelaken and Algerian-born Dutch director Karim Traida (“The Polish Bride”) have called reports of such actors refusing roles complete nonsense. And Traida say Van Gogh’s death had become a convenient excuse to accommodate anti-immigrant prejudice.

The idea of self-censorship has gone beyond the Dutch community. At the recent European Film Awards, German helmer Wim Wenders urged his colleagues not to allow the climate of fear around Van Gogh’s death to influence their work.

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