Dutch films have been booming in recent years, but public spending cuts are threatening future success. Screen examines the current state of Dutch production, including 10 hot films.
Dutch production is remarkably buoyant, at least for now. With box office booming and local films having a market share of more than 22% in 2011, these appear to be halcyon days for film-making in the Netherlands.
Will Koopman’s Gooische Vrouwen, a comedy drama based on a local TV series, made an impressive $19.7m (€15m) at the box office for distributor Independent Film. Meanwhile, the first Dutch 3D movie, period epic Nova Zembla, was released by Benelux Film Distributors (BFD) and outperformed Cars 2.
Films for young people, among them New Kids: Nitro and New Kids: Turbo also did a roaring trade at the box office.
However, once the cuts in local public spending begin to be felt, it will be very tough, if not impossible, for the industry to match these 2011 figures.
At present, the Dutch government does not offer a soft money scheme. This puts the country at a competitive disadvantage to neighbouring Belgium, where the tax shelter system attracts international production in considerable volume. As a result, the Netherlands’ post-production sector is suffering.
‘Compared to our European colleagues, we are handicapped’
San Fu Maltha, Fu Works
Netherlands Film Fund head Doreen Boonekamp is leading the charge for several proposed measures to help local film-makers, including the establishment of regional film funds, a cash-flow fund to help productions get off the ground and a levy system on distribution and exhibition to generate funds for production.
“It is really strange because they [politicians] tell us to become more entrepreneurial,” says Black Book and Süskind producer San Fu Maltha of Fu Works. “We are! We are the cultural entrepreneurs. Apparently, they want us to keep the same market share, increase the quality, and export, but we can only do that if we have tools. Compared to our European colleagues, we are handicapped.”
In early February, the Netherlands Film Fund unveiled its four-year plan for 2013-16. Faced with a 25% cut in support — from $46.6m to $34.8m (€35.5m to €26.5m) — as well as with added responsibilities, the fund has planned a streamlined approach: New Screen NL, which has a proposed budget of $5.2m (€4m), will be dedicated to new talent and innovation; Screen NL, for feature films, animated features, documentaries and co-productions from experienced directors, has a proposed budget of $15.7m (€12m); and Screen NL Plus, a matching scheme for films targeting a mass audience, has a proposed budget of $10.5m (€8m).
Boonekamp says the challenge is “to keep up the production levels as much as possible” in spite of the cuts. The new policy is also determinedly international in scope. More than $2.6m (€2m) has been set aside for investment in minority co-productions. If Dutch producers attract international financing for their majority co-productions, they will be rewarded with additional backing from the fund.
The Dutch are benefiting from membership in the Council of Europe’s Eurimages fund. At its December 2011 meeting, Eurimages announced it would invest in Dutch auteur Alex van Warmerdam’s Camiel Borgman and in Peter Kuijpers’ Heaven On Earth.
Veteran producers such as Maltha, Frans van Gestel (who recently set up Topkapi Films), Kees Kasander of Kasander Film and Hans de Weers of Eyeworks Film and TV are very experienced in co-production. Kasander, Peter Greenaway’s regular producer, notes: “We don’t have a market so we have to go out.”
Eight Dutch films were chosen for the 2011 Berlinale amid signs a new wave of Dutch film-makers is emerging.
“There is another group of young film-makers oblivious to the past. They have very fresh ideas and new ways of wanting to make movies,” suggests EYE International’s Claudia Landsberger, citing directors such as Sacha Polak (Berlin Forum’s Fipresci prize-winner Hemel) and Ricky Rijneke (Silent Ones) and production companies such as Lev Pictures. Alongside Polak and Rijneke, it is striking how many female auteurs are active in Dutch cinema, such as Urszula Antoniak (shortly to make Nude Area), Nanouk Leopold (currently working on It’s All So Quiet) and Esther Rots.
Meanwhile, among the old guard, Greenaway remains very busy, putting the finishing touches to Goltzius And The Pelican Company (expected to screen in Cannes) and also starting work on Death In Venice adaptation Food For Love by the end of the year.
As Boonekamp puts it: “Dutch film is really strong at the moment, both in box office in the Netherlands and internationally, where we are performing much better… We have to cope with the cuts but we have a strong base.”
Dutch treats - 10 films to watch for in 2012
The Domino Effect
Dir Paula van der Oest
Kasander Film recruited an international cast including James D’Arcy, Harriet Walter and David Hayman for this story about the lives of people around the world suddenly connected by the global economic crash. Van der Oest recently had an international hit with Black Butterflies.
The Girl And Death
Dir Jos Stelling
Tipped as a possible Dutch candidate for Cannes, this is a romantic drama about an old man reminiscing about a love affair that took place 50 years earlier. Sylvia Hoeks (Tirza) heads the cast.
Goltzius And The Pelican Company
Dir Peter Greenaway
The redoubtable Greenaway’s new feature stars F Murray Abraham in the story of Dutch engraver Goltzius and his erotic publications. Greenaway’s longtime collaborator Kees Kasander produced, and Bankside handles international sales for the likely Cannes-bound title.
Dir Antoinette Beumer
Beumer’s new film, due for completion in mid-2012, is a road movie about twin sisters who embark on a trip with their enigmatic American mother. Dutch cinema’s poster girl Carice van Houten (Black Book) stars with Holly Hunter.
Dirs Berend and Roel Boorsma
Fu Works partners with Ireland’s Samson Films (Once) on this coming-of-age story about a 10-year-old boy who grows up in social isolation because he suffers from a condition which causes excessive growth of hair.
Dir Dick Maas
Prolific genre director Maas follows hit Saint (Sint) with this thriller about a TV quiz show host who has to answer questions to save his kidnapped wife and daughter. The cast is led by Barry Atsma (Loft, Stricken).
Dir Threes Anna
Threes Anna follows the acclaimed South Africa-set The Bird Can’t Fly with another international story. This psychological drama is about a young European woman who endures the loneliness of Tokyo in order to master the Japanese art of filleting fish.
Dir Ricky Rijneke
Rijneke makes her feature debut with this dreamlike drama about an Eastern European girl (Orsi Toth) and her younger brother. Should be vying for festival selection in late summer.
Dir Rudolf van den Berg
Tirza director van den Berg returns with this ‘Dutch Schindler’s List,’ about Jewish resistance hero Walter Süskind (Jeroen Spitzenberger). He is credited with saving almost 1,000 Jewish children from deportation and likely death while working for the Jewish Council in Amsterdam during the Second World War. Fu Works and Cadenza Films produce. Beta handles international sales.
Dir Vincent Bal
Bal has adapted Israeli writer David Grossman’s celebrated novel about a mischievous boy who is constantly in trouble. Isabella Rossellini features among the cast. The BosBros production should be ready in time for Cannes. Delphis is selling.