Organisers have been striking a defiant note about future prospects for the Netherlands Film Festival, the main festival showcase for Dutch cinema.
“I think they made a mistake,” festival director Willemien van Aalst commented of the recommendations from the Council of Culture this summer that public support for the festival should be axed.
This proposal was rejected by Deputy Culture Minister Halbe Zjilstra, who is due in Utrecht later this week for the festival’s Golden Calf awards.
“It is nice that he comes. It gives a good signal that he loves the film sector in the Netherlands,” van Aalst said.
The Festival runs on a budget of around €3.7 million, of which €800,000 comes directly from the Government.
Festival boss van Aalst hailed what she called “a really rich year” in Dutch production in both film and television. She also added that the intention this year wasn’t to use the festival as a focus for continuing protest against planned Government cuts. “At this moment, it is better not to scream but to show how strong and vital the Dutch film sector is.”
Utrecht isn’t just a local festival, as it also showcases Dutch cinema international audiences and industry delegates. This happens at the Holland Film Meeting which includes screenings, workshops and a coproduction event - the Netherlands Production Platform (NPP). Following the departure of Ellis Driessen, this is now run by Signe Zeilich-Jensen.
The Scandinavians were in Utrecht in force for a “Holland Meets Scandinavia” sidebar organised by Zeilich-Jensen to foster cooperation and coproduction between Dutch filmmakers and their Nordic neighbours.
“We have noticed a growing interest in coproducing with Scandinavia,” Zeilich-Jensen noted of the Dutch production sector.
Several Scandinavians had projects in the NPP. (This follows on from several Dutch projects being presented at the Nordic Coproduction Forum in Haugesund.)
The Scandinavian selection included such high budget films as the €8.1m Holocaust-themed Theresienstadt Requiem from Norwegian production company Filmkameratene (Trollhunter) and Zentropa RamBUk’s €2.1m animated film, Our House. Other projects of note included Cool Water, a comedy road movie about attempts to bury a dead body in Ramallah. Produced by Frank Geiger of Hamburg-based Brave New Work, this is now to be directed by Green Wave helmer Ali Samadi Ahadi. (Emir Kusturica was originally linked to the project.)
Over the weekend, the prizes were announced for the NPP.
The Kodak NPP Development Prize, with a value of €5,000, aimed at a Benelux producer, went to Whispering Clouds by Meikeminne Clinckspoor and producer Sabine Veenendaal of Flinck Film.
The Cineco Digital Post Production Award, also worth €5,000, went to Thomas And The Book Of Everything by Ineke Houtman and producers Judith Hees, Hans de Weers of Eyeworks Film and TV Drama.
Meanwhile, the Binger award, which goes to the most promising Dutch project and gives the winner entry to a training programme at the Binger Institute, was won by Metro by Marcel Visbeen and producer Trent of NFI Productions
Finally, The Filmmore Innovation Cinema Prize, a development prize aimed at an international project and offering €5,000 in post-production, went to Korso by Akseli Tuomivaara and producers Mark Lwoff, Misha Jaari, Elli Toivoniemi of Bufo.
The Netherlands Film Festival ends on Sept 30.