Archive for the ‘Holland’ Category

The Dubai Internatonal Film Festival begins on the 7th of December, running through to the 14th. This year features a lineup of 155 films (features and shorts), and the programme includes a VR selection, beach screenings and an extensive Cinema of the World category hosting a wide range of international hits from the year’s festival circuit. There is much to be excited about this year, particularly the World Premieres featured in the Muhr Feature and Muhr Emirati categories, as well as intriguing titles having their regional premiers such as unique Afghan film Wolf & Sheep in Cinema of the World, urgent Iraqi drama Reseba (The Dark Wind) in Muhr Feature and intimate Syrian documentary The War Show in Arabian Nights. Read on for the films we’re most excited about.

Click the photos for trailers and clips:

Muhr Emirati, World Premiere
Genre: Drama
After the Iraq-Iran war ended in 1988, a blind mother welcomes her estranged daughters to tell them a secret. Unfortunately, she accidentally dies while sharing it. During the funeral, the daughters try to deal with their mother’s sudden death and also work together to unveil her secret by looking for clues from visitors. Throughout the funeral, their own lives continue to unravel, giving room for buried family tensions to gradually surface, while struggling to deal with their own secrets and deep-rooted guilt. The daughters start to question everything about their mother’s life after a peculiar encounter…

Muhr Feature, World Premire
Genre: Drama
Sheikh Hatem (Amr Saad) stands out in a society influenced by fundamentalist views. From leading the prayers at a government mosque to becoming a popular TV celebrity issuing fatwas that deviate from the traditional religious rhetoric, he has amassed millions of fans. His responses on TV reveal a witty and eloquent person against a backdrop of darkness, where power struggles rage. Hatem finds himself caught within a complex web of conflict – his personal life unravels and he tries to stay above the politics of institutions. When he is entangled in a delicate matter, he has to find a way to make a dent in the climate of hypocrisy and fear.

Muhr Emirati, World Premiere
Genre: Documentary
Aisha, Fatima and Ghareeb are amongst the best known honey specialists in the northern parts of the UAE. Ghareeb is also considered a beekeeper because he established a sanctuary at the top of the mountains, where he can be in control of the surrounding environment and protect his honeybees. Fatima and Aisha prefer to roam the mountains freely to find the highest natural honey. Meanwhile, the bees are coping with climate change, survival challenges and the production of honey. Involuntarily, the bees have become integral to the lives of Aisha, Fatima and Ghareeb. But, for how long and to what extent can the bees keep providing?

Cinema of the World, Middle East Premiere
Genre: Drama
Writer/director Shahrbanoo Sadat’s acclaimed film, which won a prize at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, shrewdly strikes a tonal balance between documentary and drama as it dwells on life in a small Afghan village, where little has changed over the years. Sadat’s camera and story focuses largely on the children of the village, weaving together a story that subtly tackles the importance of tradition and rituals in a community, where life is tough but also supportive, and where storytelling takes its place alongside life’s lessons. It may be simple in structure and tone, but its insight and sincerity shine through.

Muhr Emirati, MENA Premiere
Genre: Thriller
In a dystopian future, when the water supply has been poisoned, a group of unlikely survivors has taken refuge in an abandoned hangar. They struggle to stay alive and protect one of the last remaining sources of uncontaminated water. After a near-deadly altercation with bandits, who want to seize the water, two strangers appear to help fight off the bandits. The survivors’ leader agrees to host the strangers, as long as they conform to the camp’s rules. When one of the strangers betrays the group, the compound descends into madness, leaving only one question: who is worthy to live and to lead?

Muhr Feature, World Premiere
Genre: Drama
André, a Lebanese filmmaker, living and working in France unexpectedly meets Walid, a dear friend from his youth. During the Civil War, when they were in Beirut together, André and Walid were both driven by the same artistic vocation: cinema, and also by the same woman, Amira. Will their reunion – an all-nighter – revive repressed demons from their past?

Cinema of the World, MENA Premiere
Genre: Documentary
Photographer Seifollah Samadian (also a friend and collaborator of Abbas Kiarostami) put together this affectionate and insightful documentary after the death in Paris of the influential Iranian director and artist, utilising footage that takes in many phases of his busy artistic career. There are no interviews, which allows the footage to reflect Kiarostami’s own simplicity as a technical filmmaker and shows his sense of playfulness and embrace for the world around him, while the title reflects not only the running time but also that he died aged 76 and 15 days old.

Muhr Feature, World Premiere
Genre: Drama
Ali falls in love with a goat, whom he names Nada. Ibrahim works at a recording studio and starts to hear voices that frighten him. Ali yields to his mother’s wish that he visit a healer, even though he doesn’t believe he is psychologically unstable. At the healer’s clinic, Ali meets Ibrahim. The healer diagnoses Ali and Ibrahim as “cursed” and prescribes a solution to break the spell; they must throw three “magic” stones in Egypt’s three water bodies. Ali, Ibrahim and Nada set off on an adventure that takes them to the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Nile in this touching tale of friendship, reconciliation, self-discovery and self-acceptance.

Cinema of the World, Middle East Premiere
Genre: Drama / Thriller
A slick West African crime drama that follows Ladji (the impressive Ibrahim Koma), an ambitious 20-year-old bus driver in Mali, struggling to make the money he needs to prevent his older sister (singer Inna Modja) from prostituting herself. He decides to switch careers and becomes a drug runner and impresses the operation’s boss (Olivier Rabourdin) with his ingenuity. The film marks the feature debut of French-Malian director Daouda Coulibaly, who hits the right genre notes as Ladji’s life of crime heads into increasingly dark territory. The story is set alongside the run-up to the 2012 Mali Civil War, adding an extra intriguing political dimension.

Arabian Nights, MENA Premiere
Genre: Documentary
In March 2011, radio host Obaidah Zytoon and her friends joined the street protests against the oppressive regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Knowing the Arab Spring would forever change their country, they began filming their lives and the events around them. However, as the regime’s violent response drove the country into a bloody civil war, their hopes for a better future are tested by violence, imprisonment and death. Obaidah leaves Damascus and journeys around the country. An intensely personal journey, THE WAR SHOW captures recent events in Syria through the intimate lens of a small group of friends.

Muhr Feature, MENA Premiere
Genre: Drama
Reko (33) and Pero (23) are a Yazidi couple preparing for their wedding, when ISIS fighters attack their village. Young Yazidi girls, including Pero, are sold as slaves and are tortured and raped. Reko, who escapes the attack as he was at work as a security guard at an American oil firm, is devastated by the attack. While searching for his family and Pero, he witnesses the tragic consequences of the attacks on the Yazidis. Eventually, he finds his family and Pero, who has been liberated and in a refugee camp. A sweeping narrative of love and courage against the backdrop of one of the most horrific war crimes of our time.

Muhr Feature, MENA Premiere
Genre: Documentary
OFF FRAME AKA REVOLUTION UNTIL VICTORY deals with the history and development of militant cinema in the Middle East. The film researches the motives and circumstances behind this genre and questions its dramatic end in 1982. In resurrecting a forgotten memory of struggle, OFF FRAME reanimates what is within the frame, but also weaves a critical reflection by looking for what is outside of it.

Arabian Nights, Middle East Premiere
Genre: Drama
Eighteen-year-old Layla, who was born and raised in Amsterdam, is smart, stubborn and of Moroccan origin. As she struggles with the increasing suspicion towards girls with headscarves and boys with beards, her faith intensifies. She joins a group of extremists who fight for their practice of Islam. She opts to marry a fellow extremist, Abdel, and together they travel and raise money for their causes. When they are involved in a shootout, they are forced to flee to the Middle East, where Layla encounters a world that initially nurtures her ideas, but finally confronts her with an impossible choice.

Cinema of the World, UAE Premiere
Genre: Documentary
A young Mongolian girl fights against tradition in this delightful and absorbing documentary (narrated by Daisy Ridley) that delves into the rarely filmed nomad Mongolian Kazakh community and in particular their tradition of building a working relationship with golden eagles. The elders insist it is a male domain (apparently ‘women get cold’), but 13-year-old Aisholpan is the daughter of an eagle hunter and is determined to follow in her father’s footsteps. The film makes the most of spectacular backdrops, as she trains her eagle, eventually entering the community’s annual Golden Eagle competition.

Arabian Nights, MENA Premiere
Genre: Documentary
Gaza – a strip of land with 1.7 million citizens – has 26 miles of coastline, with a harbour that no longer services ships. Wedged between Israel and Egypt and isolated from the rest of the world, very little enters Gaza and even less leaves it. Trapped in “the world’s largest open-air prison” and ruled by war, a new generation is drawn to the beaches. Sick of occupation and political gridlock, they find their own personal freedom in the waves of the Mediterranean – they are the surfers of Gaza.

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After winning a special mention at Locarno’s 2014 Film Festival with Ventos de Agosto, Brazilian director Gabriel Mascaro arrives at Cartagena’s 56th Film Festival with Boi Neon (Neon Bull), a little cinematic gem whose 101 minutes have been, thus far, the most applauded of this year’s official competition.

A group of cowboys drives across the rugged North-East of Brazil carrying a pack of bulls to the Vaquejadas, the traditional rodeos where two cowboys on horseback must pit the bull between the horses before pulling its tail and knocking it down. The nomadic troupe travels from one rodeo to another, featuring amongst its members preadolescent Cacá (a girl who knows just as many swearwords as her older colleagues), her young mother Galega (wife to a husband who’s been gone for years), Zé (an overweight cowboy with an addiction for porn), and finally Iremar, the drama’s protagonist, a buffed and tough-looking cowboy with an unusual passion for fashion design.

Mascaro paints his rural Brazil as a wasteland filled with abandoned industrial buildings and open-air landfills, populated with characters who dream to be someone they are not, and will probably never be. Cacá dreams of owning a horse (but must get her hands dirty with bull manure on a daily basis), Galega wants to become a dancer (but can only perform some explicit burlesque before dozens of jubilant cowboys), and Iremar spends his free time collecting broken mannequins and designing his clothes on top of Zed’s porn pictures.

Given the premises, it is easy to see how Boi Neon could have easily turned into a melodramatic portrait of rural Brazil, ridden with pity and sorrow. But it does not, because notwithstanding his young directing career, Mascaro’s skills behind the camera and as a storyteller are extraordinary.

Iremar’s tale is bound to elicit a certain sense of sadness, but Mascaro chooses to deconstruct it in a way that is, at once, mellow and ironic. He does not ask us to we feel sorry for Iremar’s condition, for Iremar is not trapped within a body he does not accept, nor does he feel particularly uncomfortable performing a role society has assigned him. There’s a memorable scene in which Iremar snatches one of Zé’s porn magazines and begins to draw over a lady’s naked body. The camera shows Iremar sketching what appears to be some sober underwear on top of the woman’s genitalia, and the viewer is led to believe he’s trying to prudishly cover them. But a few seconds later, when the lens is back on the page, Iremar’s drawing has turned into an overly promiscuous outfit that leaves very little room for imagination. Iremar’s two sides, as well as those of the other crew members, simply coexist. And this is probably the film’s ultimate message and what makes it stand out as a remarkable work: to accept one’s diversity is to ultimately appreciate the syncretism that is inherent in human nature.

There are plenty of films about people trapped within hostile surroundings from which they try (and fail) to escape; there are plenty which add to these constraints a gender dimension, but only a few which manage to do the above with the mixture of irony and tenderness with which Mascaro paints his Boi Neon. His name is a beautiful and much-welcomed discovery for Latin America and world cinema at large.

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This is the full version of an interview that originally appeared on the Berlinale Talent Press website. Paul Verhoeven (director of RobocopStarship TroopersTotal RecallBasic Instinct, Black BookTurkish DelightSoldier of Orange) appeared at the Berlinale Talent Campus speaking on the theme of Some Like It Hot: Filmmakers as Entertainers. In my interview following the talk, we discussed the importance of the theme in more detail, and looked at some of the interesting but lesser known moments of Verhoeven’s filmmaking career:

What exemplifies filmmaking as entertainment?

Well I think filmmaking in general… if it’s not entertainment, then basically there will be no film industry anymore. People won’t go there [to the cinema], money won’t come in and they won’t make the movies any more.

I think film is the form of art that is mostly, more than any of the other arts, connected to money. A film is not the only piece of art where this can be (and often is not of course), but it is also an economic product. You cannot make movies that don’t work: you can do this once, perhaps twice, and then basically people won’t finance you anymore because they lose their money.

The investment, if its half a million, if it’s a hundred million, or three hundred million, of course people would like to get their money back… understandably. The people that spend money, even if its banks or whatever, they expect something back and in principle they would like to have their money back and more.

So if you make movies that don’t work and that is meaning movies that are not entertaining enough, then your career is very short. But of course you can make movies, although they are rarely made nowadays, that are entertainment in some way, but are extremely important and artistic: I think for example Lawrence of Arabia is in my opinion and there are many others. But, I don’t think people will make movies like Lawrence of Arabia any more, it’s too personal a story, there’s not enough BANG BANG.

What did you make of The Master?

Yeah, I saw half an hour. I couldn’t stand it! I didn’t care. It didn’t interest me at all.

Is creating entertainment your most important job as a filmmaker?

No. No, I consider making movies a form of art, but I’m very much aware that if you make too much art, they won’t come any more to the theatre and your career is finished. So you have to compromise, you have to play a little bit in the middle. I’m a mathematician, but after my studies I moved to painting, then I did both painting and film and then at a certain moment film won (and I forgot the mathematics totally.) Its different you know, if you paint you don’t need money really, if you write you don’t even need money. You only need money to eat, but you don’t need money to do your work. You have to pay for canvases, you need a computer, or whatever, but that’s limited you know and you don’t have to borrow that and gather that money.

With movies investment is so much pressure and there is so much talk about if the budget is this or if its five percent more or five percent less; that becomes a thing that is inherent in filmmaking. If you look at a movie for example like La Dolce Vita, which was in fact a big success, but the next movie was Eight ½ (Fellini’s movie), and it didn’t work, although it was a very interesting movie and probably one of the few movies of the last century that was a piece of art. So it made his career much more difficult.

Was he working under bigger budgetary constraints on La Dolce Vita?

No, I think he had the money he needed. It was shot in Italy and it was not Matt Damon you know. Marcello Mastroianni was not well known at that moment, he was not expensive and I think they made it for a price but he got everything he wanted for a price. The movie is big you know, he got what he wanted for sure. I have the feeling he got exactly what he wanted, so it was more expensive than La Strada or something, but still he got the money.

I’m interested in what you learned working in the military making propaganda films? What can any filmmakers learn from propaganda films about making entertaining films?

At a certain moment where you start to do movies of long kind of minutes then you have to start thinking about structure. For the marines they were documentaries between ten, fifteen or twenty minutes, then the time structure is not so important, people will sit it out you know. In a movie, if you don’t have something in the middle at forty, fifty minutes that interests you, then you’re lost.

So I think I didn’t learn anything and the most important movie I made when working with the marines was a long documentary, well not long, twenty minute documentary. I made that very much like an action movie. Yeah, I looked at James Bond and I copied basically the way of shooting of the first two James Bond movies: Dr No & From Russia With Love.

How did they feel about that approach?

They thought it was great! Because it made the Marines look really good and of course that’s the propaganda! That’s the hidden propaganda because you make them look like they can do everything and they do it all well. Oh course that’s propaganda, not the truth. But it learned me, basically to do action stuff you know, it was landings, smaller versions of Normandy landings and there was frogmen and helicopters and this and that. I got everything, if I wanted a ship or whatever I got it you know. So I could do whatever I wanted in twenty minutes.

It sounds like the biggest twenty minute film I’ve ever heard of…

Well it was a lot happening in twenty minutes yeah. And the whole navy was at my disposal and this was because the general of the marines wanted this for the 300thanniversary of the Marines. They were basically created in 1665 and so 300 years later I was drafted and by coincidence it was the same year that they wanted to have a movie about celebrating this, so they had the money to… they wanted this really!

They wanted it to be spectacular! But of course it is as much propaganda of Triumph of the Will, in some way. I mean less of course because its not an ideology that I’m presenting…

It’s more of a showcase.

It’s more of a showcase, a very good commercial of a car you know, but the marines are like that you know. But they weren’t really tough anyhow I thought. I thought I couldn’t do it but I did.

It’s interesting that you moved from there into what would generally be considered art films…

Yes, but not in Holland you see, because they were all commercial. Very much so.

In Britain I would have put them as art films…

Well they were seen as art films outside the country, but in Holland they were not. They were very mainstream, and one of them (Turkish Delight) had the largest amount of spectators ever in a Dutch movie. Even now it’s not been repeated, so they were extremely… it was based on a very well-known novel, love novel where the girl dies and it worked very well. For the Dutch audience it was seen as total entertainment, it was not entertainment because she dies… it was not that entertaining in some ways.

Its tragedy…

It was tragedy yeah. But it’s interesting because in the United States, when I went to festivals there and they showed the movie and it was nominated for Best Foreign Film and whatever, everyone saw it as art stuff and I think its artsy enough you know. I mean, if you ever see these movies they’re not clearly commercial and they are audacious and there is a lot of things that people were shocked by.

How much should any filmmaker, including you, be concerned with what the audience wants? What did you learn from making Tricked? What should you think your audience wants or should you just not care?

No I don’t think about what the audience wants, I think about what I want. I said here at the meeting, you have to live in the hope that your taste is not so different from the audience. I make the movie for myself and then I hope that I’m different, or not too different from the audience.

But of course I think about structure, I think about tension, I think about… But that’s technique, isn’t it? Its like what a composer or a painter would do, you basically balance, balance, balance, but that’s because it’s a thing in time you know… its not like a painting you see in a split second, so you need to follow the rules of drama and basically if there’s nothing to care about or theres nothing that intrigues you or that then basically the movie, people won’t go there. So that’s why it is easier to do a thriller, or something like that, like everyone is doing now because of whats happened in Denmark and Sweden of course. These are all written by, be they Henning Mankell (Wallander) or Stieg Larsson (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) or the others… All these countries in the north they write good thrillers. I don’t think it will hold, because they are not so hard boiled as the American detectives, Chandler and McDonald, all that stuff. I read all that stuff and I love thrillers you know, but they have a structure and that helps you to tell other things.

So if you have La Dolce Vita for example there is no thriller, and there is no plot, its this and that… that is really difficult for the audience there because its dark.. you only have this. There is no tea, no coffee, and you sit there and if its not interesting  its horrible because you cannot walk out to the kitchen or whatever or have a coffee or a cigarette or whatever, you are locked in this chair in the middle of a theatre and you don’t like it… you’re bored, you’re bored, you’re bored! You think yes, great, wonderful, but it doesn’t interest me really, so you have to be “is that audience or is that myself?” I think if its boring, or if I’m working on something that’s boring, or that bores me already because there is no question mark or there’s nothing that I’m interested in that is going to happen… if the character is interesting that can all be done you know.

But in an automatic way you are entertaining anyhow because you have to keep the audience by the rules of drama, you have to keep the audience at a lesson and say keep looking! As a painting you don’t have that you know, you can look at this painting BOOM in one second! But even people like Beethoven or Stravinski basically were well aware that it is an event in time and that’s why there is a fast part, then a slow part and a half fast part and an adagio and allegretto or whatever. That is all fighting time so people don’t get bored. How many changes in the melody can you allow? So all these things in time need some let’s say dramatic structure, to keep the audience there.

But you can also say what you want, in terms of themes…

…yeah its art, but it’s also fighting time and fighting time is entertaining! You are well aware that if you’re not entertaining, if its boring… there is nothing to care about. So you are automatically doing entertainment in your head already, because you are locked into that time thing. That’s why in retrospect I would have preferred to be a painter! My daughter is that now!

Did you give her that advice maybe?

No I did not, but she came to that conclusion herself.

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Inspired by a recent viewing of Peter Watkin’s biopic Edvard Munch, I will be looking briefly at a number of films about artists. There have been countless films concerning famous painters over the years, but I have narrowed my selection down to a few favourites, an eclectic bunch of films.  I will be focusing my attention on Andrei Rublev, Basquiat, Nightwatching, Love is the Devil, Caravaggio and Life Lessons from New York Stories.


Andrei Rublev is perhaps the most ambitious film about an artist alongside Edvard Munch. For me Andrei Tarkovsky’s best film, combining dazzling visuals and unforgettable set pieces (the balloon escape, the pagans by the river), with philosophical and religious themes. Anatoli Solonitsyn plays the 15th century painter, struggling in a turbulent period of Russian history. This is painting as a religious experience, mirrored by Tarkovsky’s transcendental cinematic vision.


Directed by Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Basquiat stars Jeffrey Wright as the New York painter.  A penniless street artist, he is discovered by some fashionable art insiders and lauded as the next big thing. Basquiat shows the artist’s fertile imagination and creativity, while strongly evoking hip 1980’s New York. An all star cast including Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken add to the glamour.


This is essentially a Dutch film about an iconic Dutch painter. Peter Greenaway, a British exile working in Holland, is a huge admirer of Rembrandt’s work. Martin Freeman plays the title character with both dry humour and a hint of resignation. The film is one of Greenaway’s most moving, but what is most impressive is the way that the mise-en-scene and cinematography conspire to ape Rembrandt’s own paintings. The striking use of light and sparse sets almost seem at one with the subject.


Derek Jacobi turns in an excellent performance as Francis Bacon in this bleak biopic. The film focuses on his relationship with George Dyer (Daniel Craig), a gangster-like younger man who steals (literally) into his life. Their volatile love affair entwines with Bacon’s ugly/beautiful paintings, filled with distorted bodies. Director Maybury signals how Bacon’s masochistic impulses in life filtered into his artwork.


The tumultuous life of the Italian painter is brought to screen by Derek Jarman. Actually, Nigel Terry’s portrayal of the artist is fairly tame when you consider the stories of him as a hellraiser. Sure, there are infidelities, assaults and even murder, but Jarman portrays this almost as a natural progression for Caravaggio. The film looks beautiful and stark, similar to Nightwatching. A striking depiction of a life lived on the edge.


New York Stories is a little seen trilogy of mini films directed by the finest New York directors of the 70’s. Woody Allen’s comedy is a joy, but Francis Ford Coppola’s segment (co-written by a pre-pubescent Sofia Coppola) is a fluffy, misguided kids film. My favourite is Martin Scorsese’s Life Stories, starring Nick Nolte as a middle aged professional painter. This is the only non-biopic in this piece, but I thought it was worth including because of it’s depiction of the actual practice. Tormented by impatient dealers and temperamental lovers, Nolte’s character throws himself into violent bursts of painting. Scorsese’s camera lingers over the vigorous brushstrokes as the Rolling Stones’ boom out of the record player.

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