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BERLINALE 2020: For co-pro, see Holland

Geoffrey Macnab checks out the Dutch angle of some of Berlin 2020’s notable titles. Underlining The Netherlands’ rising status as a co-production partner, the Berlinale this year has a number of films in its programme which were made with Dutch backing.

Berlin-bound titles with an orange tint include Afghan-German director Burhan Qurbani’s Berlin Alexanderplatz in main competition, Teboho Edkins’ Lesotho-set Days of Cannibalism and Iranianborn Siamak Etemadi’s Pari, both in Panorama; Uruguyan director Alex Piperno’s magical realist story Window Boy Would Also Like To Have A Submarine in Berlinale Forum and Brazilian director Ana Vaz’s Apiyemiyekî? in Forum Expanded.

In some cases, the Dutch producers have been involved in these projects for many years.

Days of Cannibalism is produced by a dear producer friend, so when the project won the Dutch Post-Production Award, there was suddenly this wonderful opportunity to jump in and join on the ride,” Derk-Jan Warrink of Keplerfilm says of the project. He first became aware of the
film when it was selected for the L’Atelier in Cannes. He has worked several times before with the French co-producer KinoElektron, and relished the chance to do so again.

“It’s an exploration of the barriers that Chinese face in Africa, and Africans in China,” Warrink explains what drew him to the project. He was intrigued by the “genre bending” way director Teboho Edkins used fictional elements in a documentary and by the sharpness of his insights about the experiences of those living in both Lesotho and Guangzhou.

Days Of Cannibalism, he says, has “very universal insights about cultural clashes worldwide. It’s about normal people living in the shadow of a new global economic reality.” Its director “takes us deep into the lives and souls of these Chinese and African characters.”

The Post-production Award, given by The Netherlands Film Fund, the Hubert Bals Fund, and The Netherlands Post Production Alliance, enabled Keplerfilm to come on board. Sound and colour grading were completed in The Netherlands.

Dutch outfit Topkapi was introduced to Siamak Etemadi’s Pari by its Greek producer, Konstantinos Kontovrakis, who together with Giorgos Karnavas runs leading Greek production and sales outfit Heretic (behind such films as Wasted Youth and The Harvesters). The film is supported by the Film Fund and Production Incentive.

“I was intrigued by the fact that the origin of the story is Iranian,” Topkapi’s Frans van Gestel remembers of what drew him to the subject. In the film, an Iranian student in Greece goes missing.

The student’s parents, devout Muslims, search for their son but they are adrift in a western culture entirely alien to them. “That’s a good idea for a film,” the Topkapi boss says of the premise. The fact that there was an established producer like Kontovrakis behind it persuaded the Dutch company to board the project, which had a strong script and an obviously talented director.

As on Berlin Alexanderplatz, the Dutch provided much of the sound expertise (this is a field in which the country currently excels) while also working extensively on the postproduction. “We really built a strong relation with Siamak, the director. We spoke about the sound, we spoke about the music and also about the editing. It is more than just a service or helping with the financial part. It is a sincere co-production,” Van Gestel says.

Writer-director Piperno’s Window Boy Would Also Like To Have A Submarine has one of the most distinctive (and longest) titles of any film in Berlin this year. It also has one of the more intriguing storylines: on board
a cruise ship, a sailor discovers a hallway that leads into an apartment far away in Montevideo. New Dutch sales company Square Eyes picked up the film just before Berlin.

“Director Alex Piperno and I were actually introduced by Laurette Schillings from Topkapi Films,” says Baldr’s Frank Hoeve of the film which had Netherlands Film Fund and Hubert Bals Fund Co-production Scheme (NFF+HBF) support. “She was not able to co-produce the film and suggested to him to contact me. I immediately saw the original approach by Alex. It is a very unique film about human movement and solitude, moving through distinct physical and geographical spaces as seen through the eyes of a young sailor.” Piperno was writing, directing, producing and editing. Hoeve praises the filmmaker as “very professional and very open to his various co-producers.”

On Window Boy, the VFX was done in The Netherlands while the mix was handled by Vincent Sinceretti at Posta Amsterdam. Hoeve describes features like Window Boy as “a great opportunity for us as producers and Dutch talent to work on unique projects.” Brazilian director Ana Vaz’s Apiyemiyekî? is screening in Berlin fresh from its appearance in the Tiger Short Film Competition at International Film Festival Rotterdam. For Dutch producers De Productie, this is a chance to work with a highly regarded artist and filmmaker on a short film that looks bound to get wide festival exposure.

Vaz makes use of an archive of drawings from the Waimiri-Atroari, an indigenous people from the Brazilian Amazon who use their pictures to make sense of their own devastation and suffering during the time of the military dictatorship “We didn’t know anything about the genocide and napalm situation in Brazil. was really touched by this subject,” says De Productie’s Annemiek van Gorp. She came on board as co-producer late on, in the postproduction phase, and talks about the “beautiful and cinematic way” in which Vaz tackled the delicate subject matter. Now, De Productie hope to work with their Brazilian partners again, on one of their own films which they hope to shoot in Brazil.

SEE NL Magazine #38 January 2020 / IFFR, Berlin & Clermont-Ferrand Issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye andd The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.

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