Venice: Netherlands on the Lido
1 September 2020
Three films with strong Dutch involvement are selected for Venice 2020: the minority co-productions Quo Vadis, Aida? and Oasis, and the short Your Beautiful Rubber Brain, selected for the parallel Venice Film Week.
Quo Vadis, Aida?
The feature Quo Vadis, Aida?, directed by Bosnian Jasmila Žbanić and selected for Venice Competition, deals with the massacre of thousands of Muslim men and boys by Serbian forces at Srebrenica in 1995. It is a harrowing episode for which the Netherlands government was found partly responsible after Dutch UN forces evacuated the safe compound instead of protecting it. The guilty ruling was upheld by the Dutch Supreme Court.
This was a core reason that there should be significant Dutch involvement within what became a nine-country co-production, underlines Els Vandevorst of N279 Entertainment.
In the film, Aida is a translator for the UN in Srebrenica. When the Serbian army takes over the town, her family is among thousands of citizens looking for shelter in the UN camp. As an insider to the negotiations Aida has access to crucial information that she needs to interpret. What is at the horizon for her family and people-rescue or death? And which move should she make?
Vandevorst was very impressed by director Žbanić. "The way she researched this film, how she was restructuring in fiction the whole situation that was happening there on this specific day that the Muslim men are taken out of the compound and killed is so perfectly done. It is very gripping and emotional."
But the film needed a higher budget, certainly more than for Žbanić's previous works, Vandevorst maintains, and therefore supported producer Damir Ibrahimović in financing restructure the production. "In the end it was one of the greatest and most challenging involvements I ever had with so many collaborating countries." Dutch elements include the provision of ten actors to play UN soldiers at the compound, a casting director, costume (shared with Poland), the entire sound department and visual effects in post. Quo Vadis, Aida? received Netherlands Film Fund Minority co-production support and was supported by Netherlands Film Production Incentive.
Dutch production house Keplerfilm is minority co-producer on the feature Oasis by Ivan Ikić (Serbia), which world-premieres in Venice Days. The film, which had Netherlands Film Fund Minority co-production support, tells a story about three teenagers who live in an institution for people with special needs who must navigate newfound feelings of desire, as well as envy when an unexpected love triangle forms between them. The film was shot in an actual institution and features its young residents in their first ever attempt at performing.
"A forbidden love story in a mental health institution with non-actors, we immediately felt it was a beautiful, intriguing and edgy project," comments Keplerfilm's Derk-Jan Warrink. "To us, a love story happening in such an arena sounds enticing, unusual and left us very enthusiastic to become part of."
"Knowing that these children were abandoned by their parents because of their defects, then located to an institution in the suburbs, in closed and cruel surroundings with very strict rules, one could easily understand how the emotions of these fragile, troubled souls boil more with each new day," Warrink continues.
"With this in mind, it was clear that Oasis wouldn't be just another love story. It is a turbo-charged romance with the highest possible stakes. Because, to abandoned children, love and acceptance are everything. This film also represents a unique door to the world of the most marginalized youth in the modern society. Even in 2020, and even in more developed countries, like Serbia or the Netherlands, this problem has similar shape and scope; these children are invisible to the public."
Your Beautiful Rubber Brain
Your Beautiful Rubber Brain, screening in Venice Film Week (24-28 August), is a delicious oddity of a film which embraces (or defies) most interpretation. Two men, who could be brothers, friends or lovers, live on a pig farm. The older Boer seems emotionally stable while the younger Dennis is fidgety and nervous. They eat together and eventually sleep in the same room after Dennis sleepwalks there, asking for his mother. The film ends spectacularly as Dennis sits in a pigsty, allowing strings of light to emanate from his head, observed by Boer. We leave him wearing a crown of luminosity, his gaze directed forward and transfixed.
"Maybe an older generation will see an expression of a crazy drugged person," explains director Jelmer Wristers of this haunting image, but a more youthful interpretation may be different, he maintains. "Like a person that is always connected, electrified almost, always overloaded with newer senses of reality, or newly created realities. It is why there is a juxtaposition with the old reality of the pig farm, in the real physical world."
Wristers is not shy of exploring this sense of ‘old and physical' reality. In one scene, piglets are quickly and economically castrated, their tiny testicles whipped away and discarded (although the soup that the men eat in the following scene seems to contain small morsels of suspiciously meaty protein).
"I don't set out to be provocative," underlines director Wristers, who cites cinematic luminaries Carlos Reygadas, Jonathan Glazer and Apichatpong Weerasethakul as influences. "It's about working in and with reality, and part of that for me is to not look away from what reality is, to explicitly show some things that are very common and very normal, but which we all choose not to look at."
"In addition to that I always search for a metaphysical or spiritual layer that evokes the unnamed things that we cannot touch, reach or find, but which intrigues us and which we can feel," he ends.
Your Beautiful Rubber Brain was supported by the NTR, Netherlands Film Fund, NPO and CoBO Fund.
For more information:
Quo Vadis, Aida?
NL Co-prod: N279 Entertainment
Ph: +31 20 422 9199
Sales: Indie Sales
Ph: +33 1 4483 0227
NL Co-prod: Keplerfilm
Ph: +31 20 737 0608
Sales: Heretic Outreach
Ph: +30 210 600 5260
Your Beautiful Rubber Brain
Ph: +31 6 1922 8151