IDFA 2019: All Against All
When he was researching his new documentary All Against All , which he describes as "an archaeology of fascism in The Netherlands," Luuk Bouwman was startled to discover that there were around 100 Dutch fascist parties in the 1920s and 1930s. Some were tiny, others were somewhat larger.
Bouwman describes his film as uncovering an "unknown history." The Dutch like to think the Germans were the Nazis, not them. They all know the country was occupied by Hitler's forces during WW2 but they are less aware of the growth of right-wing fascism in their own backyard. "I was mostly driven by curiosity - about the rise of fascism in The Netherlands. Who were these many small Dutch führers? Also, psychologically, what kind of person thinks he should rule The Netherlands as a dictator, and what happened to them after their failed attempts?" he reflects.
In his trial after the war, Anton Mussert (leader of the National Socialist Movement in The Netherlands, NSB) tried to argue he was doing what he thought best for the country. Meanwhile, followers of the NSB would claim that they had only been interested in the party's economic programme, not its noxious ideology. "The general impression I had (when growing up) was that the Germans were evil and the Dutch were collaborators without backbone," says Bouwman.
However, in his research for the documentary, the director discovered "native Dutch fascism" had taken root long before Mussert threw in his lot with the Third Reich. "Although the fascist party presented itself as ultra-nationalistic, there were many international contacts between fascist movements early on. Mussert met with Mussolini, Hitler and Oswald Mosley in the 1930s. There were fascist movements in all European countries. Leaders also met at congresses to discuss a definition of fascism - something they didn't succeed in by the way."
In the film, Bouwman steers clear of making glib comparisons with present day fascists in The Netherlands. He intended his film to present a historical overview. "My subject is really about the 1920s and 1930s." Even so, the parallels with contemporary society are self-evident. The director suggests that a lot of slogans used by the Dutch fascists in the 20s and 30s will sound very familiar today. Then, as now, populist politicians were railing against immigrants, big capital and the liberal elite.
"I first became interested because I saw some newspapers from the 1930s. They were talking about the city I grew up in, Oss in the south of The Netherlands. There was a crime wave in the 1930s and the fascist parties made a big deal out of it," he remembers of the origins of the project. He points out that the fascists presented a romantic vision of The Netherlands (all "landscapes and windmills") but at the same time they were fomenting political and racial hatred.
All Against All is supported by the Netherlands Film Fund and will be released in Holland by Cinema Delicatessen in April 2020.
At art school, where Bouwman studied film, he became part of underground techno-punk band Aux Raus. "It was just about having fun at first but we got a record deal. We recorded our first album in Mexico and for a couple of years were able to play all over the world." Success came easily, but after a decade or so in the music business, Bouwman had had enough. He was already a prolific vlogger and had begun to work in documentary.
Now he is an established director with several new documentaries in the pipeline. One, Gerlach, which he is co-directing with Aliona van der Horst, is about an arable farmer trying to stay afloat in changing times. Another is about psychosis. After fascism, the director jokes, that's a natural subject to turn to next.
SEE NL Magazine #37 November 2019 / 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.