“Feast,” the directorial debut of visual artist, photographer and filmmaker Tim Leyendekker, centers on a case that rocked Holland in the mid 2000s, when three men were accused of drugging others and injecting them with HIV-infected blood.
The film/documentary/essay hybrid unfolds over 84-minutes in seven vignettes, offering the audience different points of view from the victims, perpetrators, police and even, via a microbiologist, the virus itself.
A national buzz about the film, running in International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Tiger competition, is such that the director claims to be block-booked with newspaper, TV and radio interviews in his native Holland.
The IFFR meanwhile has guaranteed “Feast” a second play at its planned physical festival in June, ahead of the film’s local release, regardless of whether it wins in its category.
Woute Jansen’s new sales outfit Square Eyes is handling worldwide sales while the Dutch distributor is Windmill Film.
Variety caught up with Leyendekke – who’s currently working on two medium-length essay films (the first on Susan Sontag, the second on how the dead are remembered through objects) – to learn how he managed to onboard funders as well as those involved in the original case.
The film’s seven-part structure avoids the obvious reenactment route but what else did you hope it would achieve?
At the time one of the tabloids labeled the perpetrators as “HIV monsters,” yet later it became clear some of the plaintiffs had been returning to the parties despite feeling there was something wrong. I wanted to examine what the men were accused of doing, but also, what motivated those victims to go back to a place where they’d been harmed.
The film’s stark and powerful 10-minute opener literally lays everything bare on the table during a police press conference – how did this scene help you secure funding?
It wasn’t super easy to find the money to make this film and we tried several different incarnations. I filmed that object sequence in 2017 with development money and thought, ‘Well, the whole film is in this, so if I have this, then I can persuade others to come on board,’ and that seemed to work. There were also some very courageous people working at [Dutch national funder] FilmFond, who supported it as a low-budget experimental piece of fiction.
Why did you decide to use different cinematographers for each scene?
I liked the idea of seven different sets of eyes and that diversity of male and female, and also in terms of age and experience. On one hand you have DPs like Reinier van Brummelen, who lights Peter Greenway’s sets, and on the other you have new graduates such as Aafke Beernink – she filmed the scene with the microbiologist – I liked the way she is able to get so close to her subjects so I gave her carte blanche on that scene – and it adds another perspective.
The biologist is one of several real-life people to feature in “Feast,” as does a voice interview with of one of the perpetrators. What do you hope these elements bring to the film?
The microbiologist Katerina is a friend of a friend, and I thought it was interesting to look at things from the perspective of the virus itself, which she demonstrates in the film using tulips. Although the film wrapped before the coronavirus pandemic, I hope the film sheds a light on new ways we can talk about viruses.
It was quite a long process to get Hans [one of those accused] to come onboard but I really wanted him in the film, or at least to talk to him. Eventually he agreed to have his voice recorded but not to actually appear in the scene itself. I’m reluctant to talk about it too much because I want the audience to keep on questioning what is real and what is not. I’m keen on getting these different realities and mixing them, making the viewer consider who is a real person, and who is the actor playing the role.