Web conglom finances biopic

Van Gogh to helm controversial film about Fortuyn

AMSTERDAM — In a film financing first, European Web conglom Tiscali is dipping its toe into the movie business.

While its rivals are cutting back their spending on online content, the Dutch arm of the Pan-European Internet service provider will shortly announce plans to commission a movie about the assassination of the controversial Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. It will premiere on the Web before going on theatrical release.

Pic, with the working title “May 6th,” will be directed by Theo Van Gogh, enfant terrible of the Dutch film industry and a close friend of Fortuyn. Tiscali has struck the deal with producer Gijs van de Westelaken’s Column Prods.

Van Gogh alleges that the murder of this flamboyant demagogue, which took place on May 6th 2002, was the result of a conspiracy which goes to the top of Dutch politics. The drama is all about the failures of the Dutch secret service to protect Fortuyn, who received hate mail and threats on a daily basis.

“The government didn’t order the assassination, but they knew it was going to happen and they never made any attempts to stop it from happening,” Van Gogh says.

Industry insiders estimate that Tiscali is committing 2 million Euros to the production of “May 6th” and its subsequent promotion. It is in talks with Dutch pubcaster AVRO to co-produce the movie and take the TV rights. No theatrical deal is yet in place.

For Tiscali, the project is an ideal way to explore the potential of broadband services.

“Whether it is watching a film online or on web-based video-on-demand, it will all be part of a daily lives soon,” says Patricia Spuijbroek, board member for Tiscali Benelux and Scandinavia. “This project stands out because this is an Internet first, and of course because of the historic value. The Fortuyn assassination has had the same impact on Dutch society as the JFK murder had on the American.”

What she doesn’t mention is that Fortuyn, unlike Kennedy, was a highly divisive figure in his society. A newcomer in Dutch national politics, his populist right-wing ideas raised a lot of votes, not only amongst the working class but also among top corporate execs. Eloquent, sharply dressed and openly gay, he impressed fellow political leaders as well as voters. But many of his political statements, particularly about immigration, antagonized liberals. He was shot by an animal rights activist when coming out of a radio studio.

Nonetheless, the controversy surrounding Fortuyn, and the incendiary nature of Van Gogh’s conspiracy theories, does not seem to concern Tiscali.

“As one of Europe’s leading internet companies, we need to have our pick from as wide a variety of projects as possible,” Spuijbroek says. “The building up of a media library will eventually help us stand out in the market. ”

The project will shoot this summer in Holland, with the Web premiere probably taking place in November. It’s unclear how soon afterwards the theatrical release will follow — but referring to its controversial content, Spuijbroek comments, “It won’t be a Christmas release!”

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