From an immersive look at female immigrants in 17th century Amsterdam to a forensic analysis of a pre-World War II home movie, approaching history from different angles is a key theme among the Dutch films selected for Venice’s 78th edition.
Running in Venice Days, “Three Minutes — A Lengthening” is a poetic documentary that centers around three minutes of home footage shot by David Kurtz in 1938, featuring the Jewish inhabitants of a Polish town before it was invaded by the Nazis.
From this footage a feature-length film emerges through former journalist and historical researcher Bianca Stigter’s analysis of the home movies’ subjects in a film that’s also bound for Toronto.
Stigter, the Dutch producer and partner of Steve McQueen, makes her directorial debut with this English-language film, narrated by British actress Helena Bonham Carter and produced by Family Affair Films, with McQueen’s Lammas Park coproducing.
Elsewhere “Angels of Amsterdam” – the Netherlands’ first VR film playing in Venice – invites the audience into a recreation of a 17th century Amsterdam café to find out more about the real life stories of four disadvantaged women, who decide to take fate into their own hands. “Angels” was created by Anna Abrahams and Avinash Changa, and produced by WeMakeVR and Rongwrong.
Short “Sad Film” documents history in the making as a filmmaker, who goes under the pseudonym “Vasili,” directs an autobiographical film about fear, resistance and the impossibility of creating art since the coup in Myanmar. The film is produced by ZIN Documentaire, a Dutch company specializing in human rights films, which is run by Corinne van Egeraat and Petr Lom.
The couple have previously made films – including “Burma Storybook” – and taught film production in Myanmar, and agreed to remotely support their former students as they set up a filmmaking collective. It was out of this collective that “Sad Film” emerged, which also receives support from Dutch humanist broadcaster Human.
The company is working with the collective on an omnibus of between eight and 10 short films under the title “Myanmar: State of Emergency.”
“One of these films focuses purely on hands – hands that go places, loving hands or hands knocking at the door. Another female director uses bits of animation… when you see all their stories together it starts working as a dogma – a strong statement about living in country where you cannot show your face,” Van Egeraat says.
There’s a Dutch focus in Venice Production Bridge, which runs supports works in progress. Three Dutch feature projects will present at the Venice Gap Financing market during the program. These include “Floating,” directed by Quirine Racké and Helena Muskens and produced by Family Affair Films, and “The Silent Treatment” by Caroline Strubbe, a Dutch minority coproduction with Volya Films. A third project, “Holly, directed by Fien Troch, is a comedy about a village in which everything goes wrong. Dutch coproducers are Topkapi Films and Tabiki Film.
Many of the titles selected for Venice are supported by the Netherlands Film Fund, which last month announced further measures to ensure the industry is supplied with a fresh crop of Dutch productions and coproductions during the ongoing pandemic.
According to the fund’s chief executive Bero Beyer the newer measures are designed to reach out to less established and underrepresented filmmakers and to bolster international coproduction.
These include the development-led Cypher Cinema, which aims at reaching a “lost generation” of new or self-taught filmmakers, many of whom were not established enough to access support before the pandemic hit.
“We don’t just want to support the status quo during the pandemic. We want to reach individuals, freelancers and those behind and in front of camera, so there’s specific support for each targeted group,” says Beyer.
Beyer adds that the fund has also changed its approach to the way it supports coproductions in light of tighter coronavirus restrictions.
“We’ve raised the amount of funding available and the emphasis is on having more creative involvement – rather than where it’s coming from or where it’s being spent – and that’s a slight shift in policy,” he says.
Together with the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF), for instance, the Netherland’s film fund has temporarily dropped the mutual obligation to spend the selective fund contributions.
For Beyer, joining forces with funders in other territories remains key to the industry moving forward in both supporting coproductions and building up a network of new talent, particularly among under-represented groups.
Separate from the coronavirus measures for example, the film fund joined forces with its Swedish counterparts to launch its New Dawn initiative in Cannes this year. The inclusion and equality production fund, which will launch in spring 2022, is aimed at groups of filmmakers that have traditionally found it hard to receive financing.
According to Beyer, 10 or so public film funders from Europe and beyond have signed up for the new gap-financing fund.
“The scheme aims at increasing inclusivity in the sector and will open us up to more filmmakers that have been underserved in output of financing,” he says.
“We can all support diverse voices internationally by putting money in a pot – and we want more funders to join us. This is a joint effort that will help create a vibrant film sector,” Beyer adds.