Arthouse cinemas in the Dutch cities of The Hague, Groningen and Utrecht have pulled Roel van Dalen's feature-length documentary Ajax: Where They Heard Angels Sings off their screens following anonymous threats from football hooligans.
The film, which premiered at this year's International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), follows the internationally-renowned Amsterdam soccer club, Ajax, throughout its 100-year history. The threats have come from the fans of competing clubs who are trying to prevent it from being shown in their home towns. Local authorities in Rotterdam are fearing a major outburst of violence on January 4 when the film is scheduled to open in the city's Lantaren/Venster theatre.
Dirk de Lille, executive vice president of Dutch distributor RCV which is handling the film, said that he understands the theatres' decision to withdraw the film, but warned that it sets a dangerous precedent. Eline Danker, who heads the Dutch Distributors Association, called on theatres to stand up against the intimidation: "Giving in to terror is not acceptable. We cannot tolerate that freedom of speech is curtailed."
Police in Utrecht advised local arthouse Camera/Studio to remove the film's posters to prevent vandalism. But the theatre made a far more drastic move and cancelled all further screenings of the documentary. On Monday (December 4), the Metropole theatre in The Hague also decided to stop screening Ajax, and the Filmcentrum Poelestraat in Groningen announced that it had cancelled its premiere.