The NFF shows many men’s stories about worrying men

The generation of students that graduated this year from the Dutch FilmAcademy and the film courses at the various art academies and colleges haveone thing in common: they completed their studies during the pandemic andtherefore had to spend a large part of their time behind their desks, a zoomscreen or with small, scaled-down productions learn their trade and determinetheir position in a highly competitive industry. And that while film is asocial medium, making is a group process, a sum.

And then the world opened up again and they could start making their movies.About seventy were submitted to the Netherlands Film Festival (NFF) this year,thirty of which were selected and nine nominated for the four student prizesawarded on Monday at the NFF in Utrecht. As usual, they tell many personalstories. But it is also striking that all those nominees look from the smallto something bigger. While there was quite a lot of nagging in Dutchgraduation films in the past decade, especially in comparison with othercountries, this year a more settled impression dominates. Could it be becausethe creators had more time to think? To watch other films and thus build alarger frame of reference? Are you learning to make movies not only with yourhands, on set, but also with your eyes, in front of a screen?

Alienation and Disconnection

The EY Talent Award went to the film poem Void Between Us and the NFF TalentAward was presented to the light magic-realist About a pastor on rain boots.Both films respectively seek a visual and a scenario-technical form to expressa sense of alienation and disconnection.

The KNF prize of Dutch film journalism went to the HKU graduation film_frantic attempts_ who found a satirical form for the questions of life thatarise from that same feeling of not being able to make contact with the world(anymore). A mudfucker -like eternal adolescent is sent to a sense-makingcourse by his pregnant girlfriend and quickly turns into a fraudulent self-help guru. Until he meets someone who is just really lost.

Rosa Ruth Boesten, who graduated from the Film Academy in 2013, was alsoawarded on Monday. She won the Film Prize of the City of Utrecht for bestdebut for Master of Light , a portrait of painter George Morton for whom hisart is a way to rehabilitate after his imprisonment. Her film also receivedthe Grand Jury Prize at the Texas South by Southwest festival this spring.

Also read: Well-acted grief drama yields a heavy opening NFF

Observing images

Growing up is a theme in all these films. Sometimes it doesn’t work, as in_frantic attempts_ and in the short documentary Boy from Wood by EvaOosterveld (Film Academy, three nominations). Fourteen-year-old Stijn isexpelled from school because of aggression and substance use. He has to workin a wood workshop. Calm observational images show the hopelessness of hissituation. Finding hope in half an hour of film may also be asking too much.

A portrait of ‘better late than never’ coming of age shows the beautifulmelancholic stop-motion animation rotten. Anej Golcar of the Willem deKooning Academy received two nominations for the story about sixty-year-oldHarry, who finds his own voice after the death of his mother in a house whereevery object is an echo pit for her grumbling – thanks to a mouthpiece.

Also It Will Rain is about a coming-of-age, but on a larger scale. DirectorAmir Zaza, who came to the Netherlands as a refugee from Syria, processedsemi-autobiographical memories about two brothers who are arrested andtortured after peaceful protests in Damascus. The flashback structure of thefilm constantly links life-threatening situations to a painful present. Inthis it becomes clear that fleeing is not only about preserving life, but alsoabout shame and regret. The film received awards thanks to the Fentener vanVlissingen Fund Award for best artistic achievement for production designerMuhammed Berber, but as a whole is one of the most thoughtful and maturefilms.

The student films tell Void Between Us after still a lot of stories from menabout worrying men. That says just as much about the juries as it does aboutthe programs and the students. Throughout the weekend, the NFF discussed howthe Dutch film industry should be more inclusive. A lot is already happening.But the training courses must also play an active role in this. Especially nowthat there has been so much time for reflection.