The Asian film industry was in shock on Monday at the news of the death of Fortissimo Films founder and co-chairman Wouter Barendrecht.
During the 12 years he hadlived in Hong Kong, and before when based in Europe, Barendrecht had worked with and built up close friendships with many of the leading producers, distributors and filmmakers across the region. He was a highly respected figure who had championed Asian cinema on a global stage and his unexpected death plunged the industryinto mourning.
His close friend producer Nansun Shi, who worked with him on films such as Seven Swords and The Era Of Vampires, said: ‘Of course we know the sun will rise tomorrow, but this world will never be the same again. The inimitable Wouter, whose passion for films, his friends and life itself, has touched and changed the lives of each person who has come into contactwith him. We will no longer see his cheerful self at every film-related event in the many corners of the world. But we must carry on his wishes and his work by making each film a good film. That is how he will be remembered, as though he has not left us.’
Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai said: ‘I am deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Wouter Barendrecht. His life was filled with passion for cinema. He was my comrade-in-arms for many years, a friend to Asian cinema, and a great champion for independent filmmakers everywhere. His laughter and his achievements will be cherished forever.’
Hong Kong filmmaker Stanley Kwan said: ‘On a professional level, I really appreciate what Wouter has done for Chinese movies in the international market, and know that he would have continued to do even more. On a personal level, I’m just very sad to have lost a good friend.’
Ivy Ho, director of co-production market HAF which Barendrecht helped to establish, said: ‘Mentor, big brother, passion, wisdom, generosity, sense of humor, kindness, acceptanceand good taste. The love for cinema, devoting your heart and soul, keep fighting and keep going, no regrets, never look back. This is Wouter in my heart. There would have been no HAF as it is without him. He called Asia his home. Through the mourning clouds, the sky of Hong Kong wept this morning for the loss of its much beloved family member. His spirits live on, in the works and projects he had created, in all of us whom he had so tenderly touched and inspired.’
Winnie Tsang, managing director of Hong Kong distributor Golden Scene, said: ‘It’s hard to imagine that I have known Wouter for almost 20 years. As he said there was a lot of shared history, shared films, great stories and great memories between us in all that time. I am so proud to have known such a unique and true friend.His professionalism and enthusiasm for films, his love, care and passion for friends has enlightened me and will always be in my mind. I will never never forget him.’
Applause Pictures’distribution chiefKatherine Lee said: ‘Everyone who knew Wouter was ignited by his passion for films, especially his vision and love for Asian cinema. We promise we will walk through the road ahead of us, remembering that feeling in our hearts.’
Thai filmmaker Pen-ek Ratanaruang, on whose film Barendrecht had been working at the time of his death, was too grief-stricken to comment on Monday. However, Five Star Production, the company that is co-producing Pen-ek’s NYMPH with Fortissimo, said: ‘We can’t really think of words to describe our feelings right now. Wouter has been a pioneer in the success story of taking Thai cinema to the world. He believed in our directors and Thai cinema. He’s a good friend and a very long-time partner.’
Kim Dong-ho, director of the Pusan International Film Festival, said:’I don’t know how to express my grief about his death. He was a great leader of film industry in the world and my true friend. It is a great loss for all of us, and he will be missed. I just can’t believe that he is no longer with us. My prayer to his family during this distressing time.’
Japanese producer Yukie Kito of Entertainment Farm, who co-produced Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s award-winning Tokyo Sonata with Fortissimo, said: ‘At Venice 2006 I was having coffee with Wouter in the afternoon to discuss a Japanese film that Fortissimo was considering co-producing. Kiyoshi Kurosawa happened to walk by us and Wouter said, ‘What about Kurosawa’ He is now famous for his genre films but is a superb filmmaker to begin with’. That was the beginning of Tokyo Sonata. Thank you, Wouter, for this amazing experience and wonderful film.’
Kurosawa said: ‘I attended my first overseas film festival about 10 years ago, and from around that time I began to run into Wouter many times in different parts of the world. A man of action with a remarkable aesthetic sense, he mixed together European, Asian and American cinemas, took away barriers, and always endeavored to discern the best so that he could establish a brand new system of film. There is no doubt that he was at the centre of world cinema during the past ten years. He was resplendent. Wouter had also approached me and suggested we make a film together someday. Our dream was finally realised in Tokyo Sonata, and Wouter was there to support me in every way from the very first steps of the film all the way to the finish line.
‘Wouter has left us too suddenly, but the films he has created, and the groundbreaking path he established remains as magnificent as ever. I know that hundreds of filmmakers will continue to walk on the road he has paved for years to come. I am one of them. And with every step I take, I will remember my days with Wouter.’