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Reflective Netherlands hails ‘Now’

'Guernsey's' Leopold takes helmer kudos, Kraakman nabs actress

Dutch Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s film about the last 48 hours of a Palestinian suicide bomber’s life, “Paradise Now,” won Holland’s Golden Calf for film at a ceremony Friday, capping the 10-day Netherlands Film Festival.

The film, which had its Dutch premiere in Holland, is the Israeli-sponsored entry for the Palestinian territories for consideration in the Oscar foreign-language category.

Nanouk Leopold won for director for her study of a relationship in “Guernsey”; pic’s star, Maria Kraakman, won for actress. Thijs Romer, who played the lead in the late Theo van Gogh’s pic “06/05: The Sixth of May,” won for actor.

It was an emotional 25th anniversary for the festival. Helmer Willem van de Sande Bakhuyzen died a day before the world premiere of his film “Live,” which opened the event. Van Gogh, one of Holland’s most outspoken and prolific directors, was murdered 11 months earlier.

Both were posthumously awarded Golden Calves for their films in competition this year and their oeuvres. The fest unspoiled a retrospective of van Gogh’s work.

While Abu-Assad began working on “Paradise Now” in 1999, fest director Doreen Boonekamp said the pic “couldn’t be more universal in its theme and global relevance.”

She added that the fest, in its talkshows and dozens of meetings of filmers, also mirrored a concern for depicting universally relevant themes.

But the event also engendered more than a little introspection. Abu-Assad said at “Paradise Now’s” premiere the film could be “difficult to clap for even if you liked it.”

Hungarian lenser Istvan Szabo, who delivered the annual Variety Cinema Militans lecture midfest, told his audience he considered it his job as a filmer to ask questions, not provide answers.

Fest attendance of 107,000 visitors was up by 500 from a year earlier.

A little over E400,000 ($485,000) in prizes were handed out during the event, which kicked off Sept. 28, much of it incentive prizes awarded by the Dutch Film Fund.

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