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THE CROW IS BEAUTIFUL by Frank Scheffer & Jia Zhao

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Dutch Masters at IDFA 2017

Top Dutch talent features prominently in the IDFA 2017 Masters and Panorama sections. Nick Cunningham reports.

In The Crow is Beautiful directors Frank Scheffer and Jia Zhao take a visual journey through the work of the Chinese artist He Duoling. Approaching the artworks without preconceptions, they take an open-minded view of the artist’s creative process, as he draws inspiration from Western classical music, the "mournfulness" of Russian literature and the simplicity of Japanese architecture.

“I realized during my research with He Duoling that his pursuit for inner ‘renewal’ is not a linear process,” explains Scheffer. “Like many things in Eastern philosophy, he re-visits the old techniques used in earlier times and combines it with new thoughts to create something new, for example making a relief of his old oil paint work. I also feel that his creation is based on what nature brings him and what he encounters, instead of running after something in particular. This interests me and inspires me.”

The 55-minute film, produced by Rene and Mira Mendel for Dutch production company Interakt, and co-produced by Zhao’s Muyi Film, is selected for Masters. “Duoling is not reacting or paying any attention to the camera, not even unconsciously,” continues Scheffer. “Maybe because, like a qin player, he is creating a world for his own spirituality above all. This gives me a hint of how to visualize his way of being… to come closer to the essence of his world.”

Dutch wunderkind Morgan Knippe, whose feature debut Those Who Feel the Fire Burning set IDFA alight in 2014, takes the DOP credit on Danish director Mikala Krogh’s A Year of Hope, also in Masters. The film is a coming-of-age story about a group of boys from the streets of Manila who get a chance to change their lives.

Krogh invited Knippe to join her after she saw Those Who Feel… “I was quite surprised and flattered by the proposal, as I had never studied to do cinematography at all,” explains Knippe. “I thought their idea was very interesting and saw it as an amazing opportunity to work with experienced filmmakers, to gain experience and to travel to a place in the world I had never visited before, The Philippines. They trusted me, despite my little experience, and I was very happy for that.”

Knippe points out that, from a technical perspective, the approach and workflow were very different on his and Krogh’s films. “For Those Who Feel the Fire Burning, I developed a very strict audiovisual concept, but Mikala was looking for a style that would allow us to capture reality in a more improvising manner, allowing for the crew to be surprised by the unpredictable. The overall arc of the story was set around the development of the boys during one year of rehabilitation, whereas TWFTFB was a mosaic about many different characters, told from the perspective of a ghost.”

In IDFA Panorama selection is Greenaway’s Alphabet, Saskia Boddeke’s portrait of avant-garde filmmaker Peter Greenaway and his fascinations, arranged alphabetically, starting with A (for Amsterdam). A multimedia artist and director for film and stage, Boddeke is partner to, and artistic collaborator with, Greenaway. The films also features Greenaway’s highly perceptive teenage daughter Zoe who provides spontaneous, poignant and heart-breaking observations on her father.

Nick Cunningham
SEE NL Magazine #29 November 2017 / IDFA Issue

SEE NL is published four times per year by EYE International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.

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