BERLINALE 2019: DUTCH CO-PRODUCTIONS
This year's Berlinale is full of features from filmmakers all around that world that have Dutch producers on board. Some are documentaries, some are dramas, but each one has a Dutch imprint. Geoffrey Macnab reports.
Monos, directed by Alejandro Landes and Alexis Dos Santos, is screening both in Sundance and Berlin. This is a kidnap drama involving child soldiers set deep in the Colombian jungle. Amsterdambased Lemming Film discovered the project at CineMart in 2016. "We were immediately drawn by the premise of the project and of course by directors Alejandro Landes and Alexis Dos Santos, whose work so far has been really impressive," says Lemming's CEO Leontine Petit.
There are several other co-producers on board, among them La Franja from Colombia itself, Campo Cine from Argentina, Mutante Cine in Uruguay, and Pandora from Germany. Petit knew it was going to be a challenging project but was determined to make it work.
DOP Jasper Wolf and focus puller Pansci Puts were both from the Netherlands. "As a producer, we tried to find the right crew for this strong project. We are extremely happy that Dutch DOP Jasper Wolf did such an amazing job on this very relevant and important film," is how Petit reflects on a rewarding experience.
Amsterdam-based production company BALDR film has two separate documentaries in Berlin. In Panorama is Omar Shargawi's Western Arabs, an intimate portrait of a Danish-Arab family, shot over 12 years and reflecting the experiences of three generations. Lead producer is Snowglobe in Denmark. "I have been following Snowglobe since their establishment; they are a young, ambitious company with similar tastes to our own. They are very open and we have a creative, transparent and constructive collaboration," Frank Hoeve (who co-founded BALDR with Katja Draaijer) says of their relationship. The upcoming suspense drama Mitra by Kaweh Modiri (winner Eurimages Co-production Development Award) is a Dutch minority production also to be co-produced with Snowglobe.
The Netherlands Film Fund supported Western Arabs. Technical work, including scanning, was overseen at the Dutch lab Haghe Film and the sound editing was handled by the highly respected Amsterdam-based Ranko Paukovic. Cinema Delicatessen is already on board to handle Dutch distribution.
BALDR's By The Name Of Tania (Generation 14plus) is a story about the sexual exploitation of underaged girls in the region of the gold mines of Peru. Belgian producer Hanne Phlypo from Clin d'Oeil brought the project to BALDR. "We got involved at an early stage and had some creative input in the script before applying at the NL Film Fund," Hoeve remembers. Dutch creative talent includes sound designer/mixer Peter Warnier, art work specialist Sander Brouwer and post-prod house Fever Film.
Petra Goedings' Phanta Vision is the minority co-production partner on Belgian director Bas Devos' Panorama entry Hellhole, a moody new art house drama about various characters adrift in Brussels in 2016. The film was made through Minds Meet, the Brussels-based company launched by Tomas Leyers in 2006. ""We co-produced Devos' first feature film which was very successful, and we were delighted to be a part of his second," Goedings says of the natural progression towards working on Hellhole. Phanta was keen to introduce Dutch elements into the production from the beginning. The production designer, costume designer and several members of the camera, sound and make-up department were Dutch. However, Goedings acknowledges that the main creative thrust inevitably comes from the director and lead producer.
Like most other Dutch producers, Goedings credits the Netherlands Film Production Incentive as an "essential" tool when it comes to co-production. This cash rebate of 35% of eligible production costs greatly enhances the attractiveness of the Dutch as potential co-production partners. Goedings also points to the selective support available from the NL Film Fund. "With Hellhole, we had both. That makes us a much more serious partner. There are many more possibilities for co-production."
Annemiek van der Hell of production/distribution outfit Windmill Film is the Dutch co-producer on Stupid Young Heart , which screens in Berlin's youthoriented sidebar Generation 14plus (having premiered in Toronto last autumn). This is a Finnish-set drama about a 15 year old girl who becomes pregnant. The main producer is Helsinki-based Tuffi Films while Swedish outfit Hob Ab is also on board. Van der Hell met her Finnish collaborators through EAVE, the EU-backed training and networking organisation for producers.
The Dutch contribution to Stupid Young Heart came in some surprising forms. For example, Amsterdam-based Rob's Prop Shop was responsible for getting the lead actress pregnant - or at least for designing the synthetic belly she wore in the film. Sound postproduction was undertaken by WarnierPosta while colour grading was also completed in the Netherlands (by Rachel Stone), as were the VFX (at Planet X) and most of the music and stuntwork.
One obvious knock on effect of the rise in available co-production funding is that the post-production sector has continued to grow. Almost all the new wave of minority co-production titles have had postproduction work undertaken in the Netherlands.
Ellen Havenith's company PRPL, set up in 2012, is the Dutch partner on The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea, the new film from Greek director Syllas Tzoumerkas, which premieres in Berlinale Panorama. A thrillerdrama about two women stuck in a dead-end town, this is the second of Tzoumerkas' films which she has co-produced, following on from A Blast in 2014. Its sound design (by Marco Vermaas) and some of its VFX (including a startling scene of small tiny men escaping from one of the main character's belly at STORM) were done in the Netherlands.
There are some obvious attractions to co-producing a Greek movie, not least the chance of spending some time in Greece. The Dutch production designer Jorien Sont liked being in the country so much she bought a house there.
Havenith is soon to begin work on a new majority Dutch production Quicksand. She has successfully attached Greek and Estonian partners. "There is reciprocity not only in financing but in creativity," she says, pointing out that PRPL has worked with both before as a minority co-producer. When PRPL is the minority partner, she will always look to have a creative voice, not just to be as a financier.
Stienette Bosklopper of Circe Films is one of the most experienced co-producers in the Netherlands. She will be back in Berlin this year with competition entry A Tale Of Three Sisters from Turkish director Emin Alper (Beyond the Hill, Frenzy). Again, this is a case of the Dutch partner building on a preexisting relationship. Circe worked with Turkish producer Nadir Öperli on the late Seyfi Teoman's Our Grand Despair. The Turkish producers struggled to finance A Tale Of Three Sisters in the Turkish market and were keen to find western European partners. The film was shot in Turkey in the winter of 2017 but post-production was done in the Netherlands, and the on-set sound department was also Dutch). The Match Factory is handling sales.
"The attitude of the NL Film Fund in the past was very pragmatic," says Bosklopper, remembering the difficult old days before the cash rebate system was in place. Dutch producers could only co-produce with foreign partners with whom the Dutch had strict reciprocal arrangements. Financing was tight. "If you couldn't guarantee up front that the minority partner would return the favour next time, you wouldn't get the money." Now, the Circe boss suggests, the Fund's attitude is more "relaxed" and talent-orientated. "You immediately see the fruit that comes from this," she says of a strategy which is already seeing record numbers of Dutch-backed projects selected for the world's most prestigious festivals.
SEE NL Magazine #34 November 2019 / Sundance, IFFR, Berlin and Clermont Ferrand issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.