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With A New Generation At Work, The Netherlands Look To Claim A Spot In The Firmament Of European Cinema

The Dutch film industry has blossomed over the past several years, driven by a new generation of filmmakers and producers, its rich tradition for family pics and documentaries and bolstered by its cash rebate.

In Cannes, the Netherlands will be repped by Dutch master Paul Verhoeven’s first French-language film, the Isabelle Huppert starrer “Elle”; and Dutch helmer Michael Dudok de Wit’s animated feature “The Red Turtle,” set for Un Certain Regard. On the talent side, Dutch actor Hadewych Minis plays the lead role in Maren Ade’s German film “Toni Erdmann.” Meanwhile, over at Directors’ Fortnight, Bosnian-Dutch director Ena Sendijarevićhas her short film, “Import,” playing in competition.

“We’re a rather small country, but thanks to our international collaborations we’re growing, either with Dutch majority films with foreign financing or as minority producers on international movies,” says Doreen Boonekamp, CEO of Netherlands Film Fund.

The launch of a 30% cash rebate in 2014 has pushed the Dutch film business to expand its scope at home and abroad. The incentive, a cash rebate on local expenses, has so far funded 133 projects, 89 of which are international co-productions, says Bas van der Ree, film commissioner at the the Netherlands Film Fund.

“Getting to work on international productions has allowed our industry to increase our expertise in production, train crews to international standards and cultivate a local creative talent pool,” van der Ree says.

The incentive has also raised local production levels by 42% to ¤135.9 million ($155.5 million) since 2014. Meanwhile, the number of Dutch features with foreign financing nearly doubled, to 27 pics between 2014 and 2015.

The market share of Dutch movies has also gone up. The 46 Dutch features released in 2015 reached an 18.7% market share with 122,626 tickets sold. While the figure seems small compared with a market like France, it marks a giant leap forward versus 1994, “when the market share was 0.8%,” per Boonekamp, who added that family films and documentaries are the highest-grossing local titles.

Indeed, Dutch producer Janneke Doolaard at KeyDocs has been named the org’s Producer on the Move. Due to the presence of Amsterdam’s IDFA, one of the world’s top documentary film festivals, the Netherlands has become a hub for docu filmmaking, Boonekamp says. Last year’s iteration of the fest opened with Dutch documaker Tom Fassaert’s “A Family Affair,” which won high marks from international critics.

Doolaard, whose most recent docu played at Rotterdam, concurs with Boonekamp. “The Netherlands has been more successful at making documentaries than (fiction) movies. We have a very long tradition of making documentaries that have a particular narrative style, which usually tells small stories in a cinematic way,” says Doolaard, whose “Alice Cares,” directed by Sander Burger, centered around researchers testing the use of an emotionally intelligent “care-bot” named Alice with the elderly.
As examples of documentaries reflecting the “Dutch touch,” Doolaard cited Ramon Gieling’s “En un Momento Dado” about the life of recently deceased Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff.

In Cannes, Doolaard will be pitching Marc Schmidt’s “In the Arms of Morpheus,” a documentary delivering an intimate portrayal of a young woman suffering from narcolepsy.

On the feature film side, the Dutch industry is being energized by a group of ambitious young directors. At Cannes, Dutch-Iraqi helmer Koutaiba Al-Janabi’s “Daoud’s Winter” will be presented at the Cinefondation’s Atelier, while Joris Weerts and Eelko Ferwerda’s virtual reality short “Amani” will play as part of the Next program hosted by Cannes Film Market. The short is produced by up-and-coming outfit Revolver Amsterdam.

Elsewhere in the Dutch film industry, helmers such as Sacha Polak, Sam de Jong and Jim Taihuttu are part of a new generation of young directors with international ambitions.

Polak won Berlin’s Fipresci nod in 2012 with “Hemel,” while her latest film, “Zürich,” played at Berlinale Forum last year and nabbed the Cicae Art Cinema award. Polak is working on his English-language debut, “Jade,” about a young mother from London returning to her old life after suffering severe burns from an acid attack.

Since presenting his graduate film “Magnesium” at Sundance and AFI in 2012, and seeing his second short “Marc Jacob” compete at Berlin, de Jong made his feature debut “Prins,” which was co-produced by Vice Media and world premiered at Berlin’s Generation 14Plus. De Jong is now developing his sophomore outing with Vice New York.

Taihuttu made his debut with road-trip-drama “Rabat” and followed up with the black-and-white crime thriller “Wolf,” which competed at San Sebastian and won the youth jury award. The helmer is now developing his third film “De Oost,” which tells the story of a young soldier fighting in the Indonesian independence war in 1946.

Looking at last year’s Dutch box office, English-language films took the top spots, but homegrown pics made an impact: Roel Reine’s historical drama “Michiel de Ruyter” came in eighth, with $6.3 million, while comedy “Bon Bini Holland” earned $4.9 million, just missing the top 10.

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