The sudden death of producer and sales agent Wouter Barendrecht in Bangkok April 5 shocked and saddened the international film biz. He was 43.
Barendrecht, who died of heart failure, was a much loved regular on the international festival circuit and a passionate advocate of independent cinema.
Barendrecht co-founded Fortissimo Films in 1991, and continued to run the Hong Kong and Amsterdam-based company with co-president Michael J. Werner. At the time of his death, Barendrecht was in Thailand to screen a rough cut of Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s “Nymph,” on which Fortissimo is a co-producer.
“We are all too shocked for words by Wouter’s untimely death,” Werner said. “He was a force of nature, my business partner, and one of the closest friends anyone could ever have. We at Fortissimo are all devastated by this news and we intend to celebrate Wouter’s life and work by proudly carrying on his vision of the company and the business.”
Born in the Netherlands, Barendrecht began his career in 1987 at the Rotterdam Film Festival, where he was instrumental in creating the Cinemart co-production forum.
He was a member of the European Film Academy and a founder of HAF (Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum). He served on many international film festival juries, including the Berlinale in 2005, a fest where Barendrecht had worked as press officer in 1990-91.
Last October he was honored by the Hamptons Film Festival for his work with independent film.
Barendrecht worked closely with cult helmer Wong Kar-wai, who advised him to move to Hong Kong in 1997 to solidify Fortissimo’s position as a key force in new Asian cinema. He was instrumental in bringing Wong’s films, including “Chungking Express,” “Happy Together” and “In the Mood for Love,” to international attention.
Over the past decade, Barendrecht and Werner greatly expanded Fortissimo’s reach to productions from around the globe, serving as producers, exec producers or co-producers on films by U.S. directors including John Cameron Mitchell (“Shortbus”), Patrick Stettner (“The Night Listener”), Gregg Araki (“Mysterious Skin”), Dylan Kidd (“P.S.”) and Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (“Party Monster”).
Other international filmmakers who have made Fortissimo a significant presence at major film festivals include Tsai Ming-liang, Peter Greenaway, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Alex van Warmerdam, Sergei Bodrov, Clara Law, Tony Ayres, Bela Tarr, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Zhang Yang, Wang Xiaoshuai and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
He is survived by his parents and two brothers.
— Clifford Coonan and David Rooney