A whole week completely devoted to Dutch film productions: the Dutch Film Festival starts tonight in Utrecht. We celebrate what the Netherlands has to offer in the field of film with premieres, masterclasses and, finally, the presentation of the Golden Calves. But a Dutch film that wins an international prize or a top ten full of Dutch films still seems a long way off.By Esther Villerius
Even before the film was officially released in theaters, Soof 3 already 100,000 visitors. And Everything on the table by Linda de Mol scored no lower than three stars last year.
Dutch films can therefore score well, but there is no question of dominance in art houses and cinemas. In recent years, often no more than two homegrown productions were in the top ten of the most viewed films in the Netherlands. In 2019, the year in which cinemas did not yet suffer from corona, not even a single Dutch film was in the top ten.
And when we go, we often go to the more famous titles, such as the Bon Binicmovies and The Battle of the Scheldt. The Netherlands Film Festival (NFF) is not just about those big blockbusters. Because the small filmmaker deserves more visitors, according to the organizers. The festival therefore tries to emphasize the variety of Dutch films, says NFF director Silvia van der Heiden in conversation with NU.nl.
Done with rom-coms
According to freelance film journalist Ab Zagt, the Dutch film does not exist, because we make everything. Yet there is clearly a preference among cinemagoers, and therefore among makers. “A rom-com is the most typical. That genre has not been so popular in other countries for a long time. Hollywood is done with it – and so am I.” But in the Netherlands, romantic comedies have made up the bulk of the offer for four years now, says Van der Heiden.
Zagt argues that the Dutch film industry is more driven by commerce than by depth. “In the Netherlands there are just a lot of women who drag their boyfriend to such a film.”
24 years without an Oscar
Despite the commercial successes, Dutch films have not won major awards at international film festivals for years. The NFF also hardly attracts foreign journalists, says Zagt. “We’re doing something wrong.”
“We can no longer rely on a Paul Verhoeven, because his last two films were French. Alex van Warmerdam is past his peak. Dick Maas has been Prey didn’t get to work anymore.” And Will Koopman, the director of, among other things, Gooische Women, who was honored this year with a Golden Calf for Film culture? “That Golden Calf was justified, but internationally they are nothing.”
Successes outside the Netherlands cannot be achieved with a beautiful film alone. It also requires a lot of promotion. It has been 24 years since the Netherlands won an Oscar; a nomination was last made in 2003 (The Twins). And a Golden Palm has never gone to a Dutch filmmaker. Zagt: “The chance that the Netherlands will still go home with a Golden Palm is about as great as that Feyenoord wins the Champions League.”
A pity, says Van der Heiden, because according to her, our country has so much to offer on the canvas. Whether it is nevertheless going well with the Dutch film? “It can always be better. So please also take a look at the Dutch Oscar entry narcosisthe tragedy femior our opening film Sea of time. That shows how Dutch film can also be.”