Rabarts Off to New Zealand
In October 2019 Marten Rabarts will be leaving Eye, where he has run the International department for the past four years, to become Artistic Director of the New Zealand International Film Festival. He talks to Nick Cunningham.
When Marten Rabarts took over the running of Eye International in 2015 the Dutch film industry had returned to (welcome) good health. The previous year had seen the successful and popular introduction of both the Production Incentive and the Netherlands Film Commission, and two years prior to that a Dutch film was selected for Cannes competition for the first time in almost 40 years (Borgman). What's more, judicious selective funding and wise coproduction investments meant that Dutch productions were well represented at A-festivals in both majority and minority capacities.
But in terms of promotion, there was a lot to do to keep up with developments in finance and production. Rabarts decided therefore to up the ante in terms of branding and to place Dutch cinema within the country's wider artistic tradition in key markets like Cannes and Berlin. For example In 2017 the Dutch pavilion in Cannes (renamed the See NL pavilion in order to ensure brand continuity across all promotion) was transformed by rising design star Sabine Marcelis into a 3D homage to the 100th anniversary of the birth of De Stijl, the radical art movement led by Piet Mondriaan and Theo van Doesburg. Likewise in 2019, to acknowledge 350 years since the passing of Rembrandt, Dutch professionals could meet and greet beneath splendid reproductions of the Dutch master's works. "We made some really big steps, made possible by the collaboration of the Film Fund, but also support from Rotterdam's Het Nieuwe Instituut - Architecture, Design & Digital Culture, and further afield we enlisted our Dutch embassies and consulates as key partners for these new ventures."
Rabarts worked closely with both established and emerging talent during his 4-year tenure. "Continuing to throw the spotlight on established Dutch talent such as Alex van Warmerdam, Heddy Honigmann, David Verbeek, Nanouk Leopold, Esther Rots, and Sacha Polak among others. Dealing with them individually and tailoring platforms for their new works was a pleasure and an honour to be part of," he stresses. He reserves special comment for the Dutch Academy Award submission Layla M. by Mijke de Jong (2016). "That particular film fed right into an urgent and current discourse on radicalisation. I was very proud to present it to the Academy as our Dutch Oscar submission that year but then it was also screened for members of the UN Security Council in Washington DC who were deeply interested in the content, and gained a unique insight into how and why kids can be radicalised."
In terms of a strong flow of great new Dutch talents, Rabarts cites Ena Sendijarevic´ (Take Me Somewhere Nice, Cannes ACID 2019), Aboozar Amini (Kabul, City in the Wind, IDFA 2018) Sam de Jong (Prince & Goldie, Berlin Generation 2015/2019), Morgan Knibbe (Those Who Feel the Fire Burning, IDFA 2014), Steven Wouterlood (My Extraordinary Summer with Tess, Berlin Generation 2019) and most recently Halina Reijn whose debut Instinct won the Variety Grande Piazza award at Locarno 2019. "I was proud to help position a film like Instinct with the kind of festival roll-out it deserves; Locarno, Toronto and London, with still more to come; taking content which is challenging and controversial and placing it in a high-profile, serious artistic framework."
A core desire of Rabarts was to deliver increasing numbers of global cinema's most important programmers to The Netherlands. Festival Directors and programmers from Sundance, Cannes, Locarno, San Sebastian, London, Toronto, Shanghai, Mumbai and MoMA have all added The Netherlands to their travel calendar. "It is more than just screening a thoughtful curation of films for them in a comfortable cinema, but having them spend time with Dutch filmmakers within their communities and getting to know this country. It is essential that the works are not presented in isolation just as a piece of cinema, but that international programmers understand the context for the stories that our filmmakers are telling and start tracking new talent from their short films onwards."
So how will Rabarts be looking to dovetail the Dutch and New Zealand film communities when he takes up his new role? "I expect to see a stronger industry presence at the film festival in the coming years, and being such brilliant co-producers I'd hope to soon see Dutch producers in New Zealand exploring the opportunities to make films there just as they do in Brazil, Argentina or South Africa."
"And of course every year I will be looking very closely at new films from the Dutch film community which I will be looking to programme - without question."
SEE NL Magazine #36 September 2019 / Locarno - Venice - Toronto - Netherlands Film Festival Issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.